Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Meet The Rescuers! Part 3, with Rescuzilla's Susan Cava!

Welcome to our third edition of our award-wnning (ok, not really) smash hit series, Meet The Rescuers, where I talk to some of NYC's (and beyond!) movers and shakers in the animal rescue world (Who cares about the other world?). To see other interviews, click here. Today's Q and A is with Susan Cava , who runs the awesomely monikored Rescuzilla!

Hey Susan...How many years have you been rescuing animals and why did you start?

Well, you don't walk into New York's Animal Care and Control and walk out without a desire to help the animals there.  I adopted my dog Juno, who has since passed, in 1996 and started volunteering with Pet-I-Care and the ACC shortly after.  With experience and passion some years later, it was a natural evolution into Rescuzilla.  

How many years has Rescuzilla been around?

Rescuzilla has been around for three years...but the current version of it with Katherine Good, Carolina Leon-Duarte and Lesli VanSchaick is around just over a year.  I was ready to hang Rescuzilla's little hat when these three amazing friends and ladies said they were ready to be partners in the rescue.  We have been able to save far more animals together and stay slightly sane while doing it.

What do you do when you're not rescuing animals?

Nothing.  I kid, I kid.  I just moved out to the beach and am really enjoying biking, running, soon surfing and hanging with friends and family.

Whats your favorite TV show?

Hmmm...I am loving Archer and Mad Men right now.  And I hold my head in shame while admitting I am hooked on Celebrity Apprentice...probably because I want to go on the show, do it better and win money for our rescue!  But oops, I'm not a celebrity! haha.

Who were you rooting for on Celebrity Apprentice this year? I can't stand the show (I hate most of the "celebs" as well as Trump and his brood) but my wife watches it, therefore, I watch it. Even though I'm a comic, I thought Lisa Lampanelli came off really poorly, and I thought that Miss World (or whatever) handled herself very well.

Yeah, Lisa came off like a weirdo but that's ok - better to have some passion than none! =)

Weirdo? More like an asshole, but, more importantly, something I've always been interested in - How do you decide which animals to pull?

The core of Rescuzilla - myself, Katherine and Carolina - are hands on volunteers at the ACC.  We get to know the animals there and find animals that would match up with our fosters.  Sometimes people need a low-energy dog or a cat-friendly pooch - we get to know the animals first hand and figure out what works...then you meet one that matches up to no one and grabs your heart and all logic goes out the window!  But generally speaking we try to focus on dogs that match up to our resources - vetting and age are not major factors - but behavior is the big one. 

Are you vegan?

Yes, I am vegan and don't understand the disconnect most rescuers have between saving some animals and eating others.  There is little difference between a pig and a dog, they have the same capacity to feel and to learn. Running an animal rescue while eating animals seems like a convenient type of morality.  I'm just saying!

I'll take a stab at that ...

1 - We don't see pigs every day - its tougher to get that emotional attachment when we never see them, and when we do, they aren't wagging their tails or rubbing up against us
2 - It's how most of us grew up - Sposedly, Obama ate dog as a child, and you know what, I don't hold that against him - That was his culture...our culture is eating meat, though not dog

3 - We all get into animal rescue for our own reasons, but some are very specific, like I got into it partially to overcome guilt I felt about my own dog being killed - It actually had nothing to do with animals in general... of course, the more I got into it, the more of a "lunatic" I am becoming....

I haven't eaten meat or chicken for a month and don't plan on going back to it, but I don't condemn those that do -

Well...I'm not sure how we grew up dictates who we are and yeah, I don't see pigs each day but when animal flesh is in front of me it is still a dead animal. I don't see the difference at all with eating dogs or eating cows - they are all living, feeling, helpless animals in hellish conditions prior to slaughter. 

Assuming current management stays the same and the budget does not increase, whats one change you would make if you were in a position of power at the ACC?

Well my dear Harris, let's deal with reality instead and note that there are way more volunteers and a lot more organization at the ACC nowadays.  The ACC still needs a bazillion changes (specifically the actual shelter itself [bigger cages in the overflow area being numero uno in my book]) but as long as the Board of Health is there to veto anything that requires logic or money, I'd like to see more people at the ACC volunteering. 

It's a basic orientation, some training online and a few hours being trained in the shelter - it's really not that complicated.  So people can donate as little as two hours of time each month to walk dogs or people can sew beds at home and drop them off - there is just so much that people can do!  Rather than daydream about the changes we'd like to see if we were in charge of the ACC, how about we simply do those changes as volunteers?  Rescuzilla is part of the force that is there doing it - let's see more people be part of it!

Wait... There's more organization now? In what way? 

There are more volunteers? Then why are some dogs still going days without getting outside (

There are far more volunteers there - easily, hands down, the Level 1's are always in and out and now Level 2's are growing. Little things like Lindsay, the vol coordinator, sending out pleas for vols or making sure the bins are stocked with walking logs or treats are stocked at all times. There are now shelves for the clean dishes - places for the dirty bowls. All the cats always have toys. The dogs often have kongs. Small diffs that those who hung on prior to Julie cannot deny. The place still needs oodles of work but for those who are physically in the shelter, there is certainly improvement.

I'm not in the trenches so I can't argue, but I think some would (comment if you disagree). How would you spend all the free time you'd have if you never got into rescue? 

Open a vegan baked goods line.  If people come to our fundraising events, I try to always have my killer cookies there!

Where are you originally from?

Yorktown Heights, NY.

Name something about you that most people don't know...

Before I volunteer at the shelter, I blast Alice in Chains in my headphones so I can get charged up to deal with all the lonely animals I am about to encounter...many of whom will die the next day.  It breaks your heart every single time...but this world of animal rescue we are in, it is not for the meek of heart.

I agree. Thanks for your time!

If you want to learn more about Rescuzilla, visit their website at

Susan Cava with Babe, her favorite foster pittie of all-time.

Harris Bloom
Stewie to the Rescue


Anonymous said...

Rescuzilla is the best!!! Thank you for setting a great example and being a responsible, hands-on rescue while fighting against the euthanasia of our homeless pets!

Anonymous said...

Rescuzilla is a wonderful organization. Please go to their website , see what they do, and get involved.


Anonymous said...

Groups like this just don't get the recognition they deserve. Your interview with Rescuzilla founder Susan Cava was inspiring. I only wish there was more awarness of the good they are doing.

This is a start!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this interview, and am so glad to see the focus put onto an organization like this. Thanks for making me aware of Rescuzilla!

Anonymous said...

Rescuzilla is an uplifting group. Their Facebook page always makes me feel good and hopeful. Its why I support their work. Thanks for some insight on the group.

NYCKitten said...

Thanks so much for the article Harris! Rescuzilla appreciates the love! =)

Anonymous said...

Rescuzilla is a wonderful organization and I hope their work gets more recognition as bringing attention to their rescue and what they do will only help save more dogs that need homes. Thanks to Susan and her team for all they do and for making differences in not only the dogs lives, but in the adopters as well. Thank you Rescuzilla...keep up the great work you do.