We are doing a series of interviews with interesting people making a difference in animal welfare. They may be staff, volunteers, or regular citizens.
First up is Tom Colvin, executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. He was recently named to the Companion Animals Advisory Council for Humane Society of the United States. Other responsibilities include Iowa Federation of Humane Societies (president), Iowa State University External Advisors Committee, Iowa Wildlife Center (board), Iowa Farm Animal Coalition, Society of Animal Welfare Administrators, Better Business Bureau (board)
Do you remember the first animal you saved? I was nine. I was walking through my neighborhood, like kids do, and I saw another kid with a puppy trapped in the corner of his garage. He was whipping it. I stopped him, and his parents rehomed the dog.
How did you get into animal rescue? The house I grew up in was at the edge of town, and the veterinary office was right across the street. This vet was cool. He would allow us to watch surgeries, as long as we promised not to get sick or pass out.
How many animals (and humans) do you live with? I live with 15 two-legged companions (one wife, Carol, and 14 chickens), three horses, six cats and four dogs.
What’s the most expensive thing your pet has ever ruined? I had a yellow lab named Rusty. I made the mistake of leaving him unattended in the car for five minutes, and when I came out, he’d destroyed the interior.
Best perks of having furry family members? Cuddling with them, especially on colder nights like we’ve had lately! My wife and I have at least three dogs and four cats rotating in and out of the bed overnight. I’m also fortunate that I get to bring my dogs to work every day. Their companionship is a definite bonus!
If you could come back as the pet of any celebrity (living or dead), who would it be? Betty White!
Has there been any rescue situation that completely caught you off guard (either happily or negatively)? When we found Duke, the dog that had been shot and left to die in the river, that caught me off guard. Not that we found him, or put our resources into helping him, but the public support. It was amazing the way our community rallied around this dog. And then we found the absolute perfect person to adopt him. It couldn’t have been a better fit, although it was a little unexpected; we weren’t really thinking a young, single woman who already had two small dogs and lived in a townhouse would be “the one.”
What person or event do you think has been most influential in animal welfare? The biggest impact on the animal welfare industry was made when the public decided adopting is cool and the right thing to do.
Is there a group doing work you think others should know about? Innovative projects like IowaPetAlert.com, the Fence Project Des Moines, and BOGOBowl.com are important because they think outside the box to improve the lives of animals.
What’s the key to the success you’ve brought to Iowa animal welfare? Focus on the animals. Never give up. Never take no for an absolute answer. Do what’s right, in its right time.
If one of your pets could speak, which one would it be and what would he/she ask you? Our terrier mix Gurdy would ask, “Why can’t we have popcorn every night?”