To date, Larissa Wohl has helped more than 2,000 animals find their forever homes and expanded Hallmark Channel's "Adoption Ever After" initiative. What started as a small idea back in 2017 has grown into an uber-successful lifesaving mission with Larissa leading the pack.
Larissa is a true pet rescue expert with extensive on-camera and production experience. She coordinates and showcases two adoptable animals every day, as well as producing and hosting numerous pet-parent segments on Hallmark Channel's morning show Home & Family. She's also part of the networks highly rated programming such as Kitten Bowl, Cat Bowl, American Rescue Dog Show, and Tails of Joy (with the animal rescue Paw Works). Larissa has also become a go-to animal expert as a news anchor, field reporter and journalist. Throughout her reporting, she has uncovered a local animal dumping ground in Arizona, introduced the world to issues plaguing Central California shelters, and highlighted the importance of helping senior dogs in San Diego.
Her animal rescue efforts began at a very young age, and have paved the way for her career and life mission to 'use her voice to help the voiceless.' Larissa is constantly fostering animals in need, volunteering at local animal shelters, and utilizes her eve-expanding platform to advocate for animal welfare issues to save unwanted animals of all types.
Question: Can you tell us about pet rescue?
Larissa Wohl : Thank you so much for including me in this piece.
Pet rescue is so important year-round because millions of wonderful animals are euthanized every year in the US alone. That's not because there's anything wrong with them…it's just because there isn't enough space for them. Oftentimes, these animals have ended up in shelters through no fault of their own, but because their former owners weren't equipped to deal with them.
That's why it's so important to advocate for rescuing versus purchasing through a breeder or pet store. There are so many that are already in need of homes, so paying a breeder only incentivizes them to continue adding to our (already huge) overpopulation problem.
Question: What impacts does COVID-19 have on animal rescues?
Larissa Wohl : COVID-19 has had positive and negative effects on animal rescues and shelters. On the positive side, thousands of people have realized that an adoptable pet is a great companion during this quarantine period. Shelters and rescues have seen adoptions and fosters lining up to take in unwanted animals. This is the BEST thing we could ever see in the rescue world.
On the flip side, there are two big concerns. One is that all the wonderful people who adopted and fostered during quarantine (when they can be home all day), will suddenly turn them back into shelters and rescues once life returns back to normal and they're not as convenient! That would be tragic for these animals who have come to love and trust their new humans.
The second tragedy that rescuers are seeing is an abundance of animals surrendered to shelters right now because their owners can't afford their care. Whether they're being turned in properly or merely released to fend for themselves or tied to the shelter doors (during non-business hours) or simply left behind when their owners move out, it's definitely on the rise and unfortunate.
Many wonderful groups are trying to prevent this, by offering free medical care and food for families that are struggling.
Question: How can we groom our pets at home?
Larissa Wohl : Grooming at home is one of the biggest issues pet parents are dealing with right now! We are slowly starting to see dog groomers open their doors again, but in the meantime, I do have a few tips!
• Make sure your dog gets outside before bathing them. They should relieve themselves and expend some energy prior to bath time.
• Have all your supplies ready to rock and roll when you start the bathing process. Unless your dog loves to be bathed, you're going to want to make the process as fast as possible. So have your shampoo, water bucket, towel, ready to go!
• Use a licki-mat or similar product. Some even suction to the bathtub to help your dog stay distracted during bath time. Just spread some peanut butter or cheese in them and let your dog go to town. They can be lifesavers!
• For white dogs, use dog-safe blue shampoo. It helps make their fur extra white and beautiful.
• Use dog safe trimmers and nail clippers when grooming your dogs. But if your dog is too wiggly or nervous, let the professionals do it because it's easy to accidentally hurt your pup.
• When grooming, always check your dog's skin for any abnormal growths or issues. Oftentimes, this can be an indication that something is going on with their system and you should take them to your veterinarian.
• Try your best to thoroughly dry your pup, because no matter how great smelling the shampoo is, if you don't get them fully dry, they'll continue to have a "wet dog" odor to a certain extent!
Question: How can we keep our pets happy during COVID-19?
Larissa Wohl : The biggest word that comes to mind is "enrichment." This is the act of keeping your pet stimulated, both mentally and physically.
Pets (just like humans) can get easily bored with their surroundings and need to see, smell and explore new environments. In severe cases, extremely bored pets can even become destructive and decide to use your expensive shoes or furniture as their chew toys! So to combat that, there are many great things you can do!
• Exercise, exercise, exercise. A tired dog is less likely to act up, so walks, jogs, runs, dog parks, etc… are essential. Some dog parks aren't open right now but utilize your own streets or jogging paths if possible.
• Interactive puzzle toys, like Kong toys, are great! They make your dog work for their treat, which in turn keeps them busy, distracted and stimulated. NEVER leave your dog unsupervised with any toys though.
• Training! I know it sounds silly but training your dog to understand simple (or not so simple commands) actually exercises their brains and tires them out! The repetition that comes with teaching them how to "sit," "stay," "dance," etc. is exhausting to them and a great way to teach them new tricks AND keep them happy! It also helps strengthen the bond between you and your pet!
Question: Can you tell us about the importance of senior/special needs adoption?
Larissa Wohl : My favorite pets are the senior and special needs ones! They are often forgotten about and have the hardest time getting adopted, which is why it's VITAL we remind everyone that adopting a senior or special needs baby is the coolest thing you can do! Besides the fact that you're saving a life that might not otherwise be saved, there are many amazing benefits to adopting a senior or special needs animal.
• They are so loyal and grateful that you saved them.
• They teach you so much about humility, patience, perseverance and acceptance. When you see a special needs animal overcome its set of hurdles, it reminds you how to live your life as well!
• When it comes to seniors, you get what you see! There aren't any guessing games in terms of how much they bark, if they like other animals, if they're going to become super energetic. You will already be aware of all their amazing qualities!
• Adult/senior animals are so much easier and more mellow! Many of them just want a bed to lay in or a blanket to burrow in and they're happy as can be!
Question: How many pets have you got at home?
Larissa Wohl : Currently I have 3 rescue pups of my own named Muppet, Maple and Piggly. I also have a foster dog named Snickers! He's my third quarantine foster pup and he's adorable! He's not a dog most people would look at in a shelter and want to adopt. He's somewhat average looking and he's around 9 years old. He's also fully blind! That said, he gets around great, loves other dogs and keeps me laughing from morning until night. He has the funniest snarl and falls asleep in the weirdest positions! That's why it's so important to remember not to base your decision SOLELY on looks!
Question: What other tips do you have for pet owners?
Larissa Wohl : I would remind people that our pets are part of our family. Please make sure you remember that it's our job and responsibility to be their voice. If you notice them acting up, try to get to the root of what's going on. Is it something they're experiencing because our anxiety is running high right now? Is it something a trainer or vet can help with? Please don't give up on them easily. Unfortunately, many pet owners still feel like their animals are disposable and turn them in if things aren't going perfect. This keeps the cycle going around and around and makes it even harder for an animal to find a forever home.
Also, please remember that this is a great time to adopt, but make sure it's a lifetime commitment you can make even when life returns to normal! A new pet can be a wonderful companion for 15-20 years! So it's definitely a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly!
Interview by Gwen van Montfort