Why did you become a Harley’s Hero?
Years ago, I remember going to a pet store at a mall with my sister. We looked at all of the adorable puppies and wished we could buy one. At that time, I had no idea what a puppy mill was. In fact, I didn’t learn about puppy mills until I “met” Harley on Facebook. Harley’s story impacted me very deeply and opened my eyes to the cruel reality of the commercial breeding industry. I was incredibly fortunate to visit with Harley in person several times. Each time I saw him, I was completely struck by his loving heart and his willingness to trust. On a personal level, his resilience made me realize that we can overcome the adversities we face. I felt compelled to give back to Harley by sharing his story and speaking out about puppy mills. I became a Harley’s Hero to be an advocate for all puppy mill dogs and to help educate the members of my community.
Which city/state are you working in as a Harley’s Hero? Which Team are you a member of?
I am the team captain for Harley’s Heroes of Orlando, Florida.
What difference do you feel you are making as a Harley’s Hero?
I truly believe that our team makes a difference every time we attend a pet store protest or an educational event. These activities allow us to interact with hundreds of people at a time, which is incredible! We are able to educate so many people, both verbally and with the educational materials, we are able to provide. We also have the opportunity to speak with people who are aware of puppy mills and to encourage them to continue to educate their friends and families. I believe sharing Harley’s story, in itself, makes a difference and touches people profoundly. I also think participating in pet store protests makes the plight of puppy mill dogs very real and visible. People are curious by nature, and even if people aren’t sure why/what we are protesting, my hope is that they will Google it when they get home.
What motivates, inspires you in the fight against puppy mills?
My dog Zoie is a huge inspiration! She was rescued from a puppy mill by ‘Harley to the Rescue’ in 2013. Zoie was extremely fearful when she first came to live with us. Over time, she learned to trust us and has blossomed into a happy dog. Seeing Zoie wiggle her adorable butt is a daily reminder of how important her freedom is. While I am beyond grateful that Zoie was rescued, I know that many breeder dogs will never leave the mill during their lifetime. No dog deserves this life – and I know that speaking up and taking action is the only way to bring change to this inhumane industry. I am also motivated by the other people who dedicate their time and efforts to bring an end to puppy mills. It makes me feel good to know so many people care as much as I do.
What would you like everyone to know about puppy mills, pet stores and animal welfare laws in your state?
I wish people realized that pet stores source their puppies from commercial breeders (aka puppy mills). There are so many great dogs waiting to be adopted at rescue groups and animal shelters!
To date, over 60 municipalities in Florida have introduced retail pet store bans. This makes me very proud to be a Floridian! Our team recently attended several proposed ordinance meetings in Brevard County. We are currently researching the status of other pending ordinances and are hoping to attend more meetings in the near future!
Tell us about your pets!
In addition to Zoie, my husband and I have 5 Chihuahua mixes – all rescues! We adopted Rico (11) from River City Chihuahua Rescue in St. Louis in 2008. He is our smallest dog, but he has a big attitude! We adopted Coco (8) from a shelter in Missouri in 2015. Coco gives the best kisses and loves being the center of attention! We adopted Nena (12) from Orange County Animal Shelter in Orlando in 2016. Nena was very fearful when she first joined our family, but she has learned to trust us and is starting to enjoy being with the pack. After seeing Tinx (2) in a Colorado rescue video, I knew she was meant to be in our family. Tinx is a little spitfire – she plays hard and sleeps hard. She loves being petted and cuddled. Last but not least, we adopted Max (1) last year. He is very energetic and absolutely adores Tinx (she adores him too, for the record). He is a true Heinz 57 – we’re not sure if he’s a Chiweenie, a Miniature Pinscher or a Jack Russell, or a combo of all three!
Can you offer words of advice to someone who is considering becoming a Harley’s Hero?
There are so many ways to make a difference, everything helps! Harley’s Dream has so many great tools and educational resources to help you become a Harley’s Hero and network with other volunteers. There are Harley’s Heroes all over the country, so there may already be a team in your area. Animal advocacy can be very challenging – I think it’s really important to have a good support network. This is one of the benefits of being a Harley’s Hero – we all support each other and share in the accomplishments we collectively make.
Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?
“Nobody wins by playing small – remember who you really are.” – RuPaul
Learn about Harley’s Heroes: www.harleysdream.org/harleys-heroes
I love you Miss Michelle.
I love Michelle’s story. Everyone should be inspired by her enthusiasm and hard work. Michelle, a heartfelt thanks for all you do.
great job Michelle –