Episode 67 – Julianne Zimmer

What do you do when you decide it’s time to adopt a new furry family member? Do you go to a store? Look online? Adopt? Julianne Zimmer decided to adopt, but not a typical adoption. She decided to go for an animal that truly needed her- and what happened after that was unexpected and changed animal advocacy in Maryland. Never underestimate the power of doing for the greater good.

Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Julian Zimmer started re Loved back in 2012 with one goal in mind, and that was education from this idea of the model. Education for responsibility was born. Relieves main focus is to reduce the flow into the shelter. This is done in a management level, and not only through educating the public but through legislation. Resource is shelter support. An owner retention Julian Zimmer was announced is one of the Daily records 2017 Maryland’s top 100 women, and she started on a number of roles within the Baltimore area. Relives vision is to create a society that thinks about the impact their actions have on the amount of homeless animals on the shelters, ability to care for them appropriately and humanely. Hey, Julianne, Thanks for coming on today. Thank you for having me. So tell us a little bit of your background and kind of your story as to how you get into animal rescue. Well, in my twenties, I did. Ah, you know, some transport and some fostering. I’ve always been for the underdog, whether it was people or animals. Uh, I remember when I was a kid and my parents would take us somewhere and they would, you know, let us pick out a stuffed animal. I would always go for the one with the wonky eye, work the crooked mouth, or because I knew no other. No other kid would pick that one. And they needed love, too. So I think way back when I was a kid, uh, if you look hard enough, you could have seen this coming for sure. Yeah, absolutely. So now this has been something. So you went from stuffed animals than to re animals? Did you guys have animals when you were a child? Yes, we did. And we always got them from, you know, at that time, the pound is what it was cold and ah, you know, we we always had an animal in the house. You know, it’s I think it’s There’s been very few very brief times in my lifetime where I have not had an animal house, and I can tell you that it’s the most deafening silence that I’ve ever heard. And it’s not a comfortable thing for me. Um, you know, I I like having animals, and I’ve always had several. So, uh, I’d have to say that I’m I’m split right down the middle. I love dogs and cats. Bigger dog peoples and people are cat people. Honestly, I love them equally, and, um, I think they’re wonderful. Both? Yeah. No, we’re the same way. We’re We’ve got one dog and four cats, so we, uh, equally distribute the love between the species and, well, we love all animals as well. That’s nice. That same. So now you were an animal rescue. You said you did some transport and fostering, but I mean, you didn’t go down. What? Some people go down the traditional path of being a veterinary tech mission were or working in an animal shelter, right? My You know, I had always been an advocate for adopting. I had always been against pet stores, but I think my career and animal rescue started with Jericho. And, um, I guess it was about seven years ago or so. Uh, I was looking to adopt a larger breed dog. I had always had smaller dogs Prior. Ah, I knew that I wanted to adopt a breed or a type of dog that that needed adopting. Um, my husband had mentioned some, you know, fancy larger breeds. But when I did my research in my area, I noticed that we were just inundated with bully breeds. And I really didn’t understand why I didn’t have any prior experience with these types of dogs. So I started to educate myself in regards to to, you know, those type of breeds. And, you know, I looked into their temperaments, you know, their health issues, behavioral issues, train ability. And I realized that these types of dogs were were pretty amazing. And the reason that they had gotten such a bad rap is because they were dogs that were very eager to please their owners. So, you know, this made them easy to fight. And with that, putting any breed in the hands of a criminal element is an indicator that something is gonna go wrong. Uh, when you have a large group of people who are irresponsible, you know, there’s always going to be problems. So I decided to ignore the media sensationalism about them being, you know, vicious and mean, And I decided I was going thio adopt a bully breed. Um, so I went on petfinder dot com and I put in my zip code and the fact that I wanted a boy. I had two other small rescue dogs at the time, and, ah, the 1st 1 they came up and I checked off the box. Special needs cause, you know, I had to have the wonky eyed one. The 1st 1 that came up was a nine month old people named Dallas. He had been set on fire and found in Baltimore city. Uh, they didn’t know who did it, why they did it. There were speculations. Ah, but this dog was was a puppy. You know, when this happened. So they estimated that he was probably on the streets for about a week before animal control caught up with him. Um, and he was brought in and, you know, given medical care. So my family and I met him and we just fell in love. We, you know, had to introduce him to our other dogs, and he seemed fine with them. We named him Jericho, and, you know, the rest after, that’s pretty much history. Um, learning about him and why he was in the position he was in, uh, about the type of dog he was and why it was so dramatically different from what the newspapers were saying, Um, you know, was really enlightening to me. I have decided that that as I had educated myself on the type of dog he waas that there was more education that was needed for others. I I always, you know, fancy myself a savvy person into toe Have this realization hit me like Newton’s apple when I’m sitting here staring at this dog that was just such a victim. And have these people out there say, Oh, they’re just born mean. This doll was anything but mean, and he had suffered the most unimaginable abuse that you, the Juve that I’ve ever seen. And it was shocking, you know. Most of the skin was burned off his back. His hind quarters had skin gone and this dog just set there with wiggly but and tail and just so loving. And I thought something’s really wrong here, Um, And then knowing that these dogs were in the shelters just dying and being euthanized for space being abused, I thought that case, someone has to do something. And then I went What? Well, maybe that person’s me. So, um, that’s where education for responsibility came from. And that became the first thing that came into my mind even before the nonprofit eso It became our battle cry. Shortly after that, uh, I decided you Maybe I should start something to help these dogs and to educate the public. And it was in the comments section of an article about a new pet store that had opened that I met my board. Um, we we met at my house. We decided that we were gonna we were gonna form this nonprofit, and I laid all the ground works. I did most of the paperwork myself. Um, and you know, that’s where real love animals came from. The concept of it is to is to re love, much as we all pride ourselves on recycling. This is This is no different. Why would we create new animals and charge so much for them when there are ones who meet us in a shelter? So that’s that’s kind of where it where it all began. Yeah, it’s really interesting. I mean, and thank you for sharing that story because, you know, for so many people, I mean, education seems almost like the last thing that I I generally hear people go into when they’ve experienced the love of a rescued of either start throwing rescue. They become a foster. They they work at a local shelter. But education, it sounds like, was a real passion for you. Yeah, Um I am my superpower, as we talked about before. You know, everyone has their place in animal rescue. My superpower is is solving problems. So I have a really keen ability to go to the root of a problem. I feel like when and and although fostering is super important, Ah, volunteering at shelters and with rescues are super important. All that stuff is super important. But those jobs will never end if we don’t educate. Education is the only way that we’re going to stop what’s going on from happening we can’t rescue our way out of this. So for me, I didn’t want to spend my time addressing a symptom. I wanted to go right to the heart of the problem and address it from that perspective. So tell us a little bit more about the education for responsibility program. I mean, how does it work? You know what’s involved in it? Well, uh, I created the Education for Responsibility program in 2011. It started by having volunteers. And when I see volunteers, I mean me and maybe one or two other people, uh, go into a classroom and, you know, teach the basics about animal care, responsibility, understanding animal’s body language. Ah, the dynamic in which they should be treated in our homes, et cetera. We also discussed, you know, feral cats and shelters, choosing the right pet for your family. The kids loved it. Ah, we used a power point presentation and had, like, a conversation based lesson, and it was really good. Um, I would bring in items like a cat trap or bowls and leashes to use his visuals. And, you know, it was a lot of fun, but it occurred to me rather quickly that it wasn’t enough. There were wasn’t enough volunteers to get into all the classrooms that needed to learn about this. Um, also, you know, one hour in a classroom wasn’t enough. By the time the kids would settle down from having a visitor, the hour was up. So there was no retaining the information. You know that that you give whether there was some retention, but not enough. Um, it was at that time that, you know, I decided to create a program that would be taught by the students teacher. Uh, it was eight lessons once a month between 45 minutes an hour and 1/2 depending on the grade level. It had, ah, common core standards in the curriculum, which in Maryland we, ah, we have to have. It was a power point lead, conversation based lesson. And I believe the first year we started with, like, 14 classes, um, a few years later, we’re up 270 classes. It’s amazing. We had a stuffed dog that each class would get. They would quote unquote adopt the dog, and the program would start out its first lesson by everybody. Ah, voting to name the dog and then they would delegate responsibilities every day for the students. Would you know, some days he would be walked by this student? You know, people would have to take him out. People would have to remember to give him food and water. And, uh, we realized really quickly that this dog became very real to these classes, and and we’re talking about, you know, pre k through five at this point. Um, so so many examples of just really great stuff, Um, one that comes to mind would be a student who ah, would have to leave the classroom several times a week to go to special English classes. Ah, she didn’t speak English. She was very anxious. She was new. I think she was ah, pre K or kindergarten students. So, you know, just I think pre k in kindergarten students just are anxious normally because they go from being with mom, all data being a classroom, so she would cry and, you know, put up a fit. When the teacher said it was her time to go to these classes. And one day, the teacher said, You know what? How about you walk? You know Cody, the class dog. How about you walk Cody to your lesson with you? And immediately everything was falling after that class days, she walked Cody. And when she got back, he knows she was able to practice some of the words she used when the teacher would say how they could he do to co to use the bathroom. It was amazing. We started realizing that, you know, we started this program for animals, but it very much was about people to it was about, ah, the connection between people and animals. It was about accountability and sympathy, not only for something that can’t help itself but each other. Um, we saw kids working together more. Just a lot of great examples. That was just not what we had. What we had designed. The program for more delightful bonuses. Um, you know, the dogs are used as rewards. The kids get to read two dogs during quiet time. It was actually pretty amazing how much of an impact that a stuffed animal could have on a classroom, kids, just by being a representative of an actual rescue dog. The kid’s got it, you know. And the dog also was articulated. So when we would teach the Children about body language, we could wag the tail or put the tail between the legs or put the ears down. So, you know, our program really developed into what it is now, which is just a really good, comprehensive program that teaches all about just the whole concept of owning an animal the way we should relate to them. How to read their body language is, you know, picking the right one and even, you know, every once in a while we have a kid that didn’t like animals. And we would say, You know, that’s okay. You still have to know about this stuff because you’re going to encounter them eventually. So, um, it’s been a very surprising a good, surprising journey with this program for sure. Yeah, it’s really interesting listening to talk about it. I kept waiting for you to talk about, and then we introduced live animals from the shelter. But you didn’t. This was as you said, it was all through. Ah, stuffed animal that you are able to see this much change in the kids. Yeah, we did eventually start Thio, bring in live animals but in the beginning for us, you know, we’re not a rescue where management level, Ah, problem solving humane nonprofit organization more than we are a rescue. Although we are roots were rescuing. You know, I have changed my share of pit bulls around alleys and ah, trapped my share of cats. I believe all of that came into play with what I do now. I had to kind of start on the bottom and work my way up. But, um, about 22 to 3 years ago Ah, we joined. Ah, I joined the Baltimore City Mayors Anti Animal Abuse Advisory Commission and that was led by, ah, lady named Katie Flory, who works at the Maryland S P. C. A. Um, education was one of the missions of the mayor’s commission. So I started and Katie was just a big believer in humane ed. So ah, we started working together and I started partnering with the S P. C A. Uh, I believe it was, um, the first year we had over 100 and 50 classrooms, so it was definitely a blessing because they would help sponsor all those materials that we would distribute to each classroom each classroom got a T shirt with the logo on it. So the Children knew the day they were gonna have that lesson. They would get a few, you know, nice hardback, humane ed books for their library. They would get the dog. Um, and with the S P C A. You know it. I think it was roughly 80 $80 or so. A classroom with the S P. C A. We got a huge help with sponsoring the materials that we would give to these classrooms. And ah, with that, they also started to make visits into the classrooms as well as sponsoring field trips for the students to come to the shelter, which has always been my dream. Because these Children, you know, a lot of them will never see a shelter. They need to see the reality they need to see all these dogs. You know, we want them to walk into the shelter and go. But that dog is so cute. How come nobody wants him or that hat is adorable? How is there are a whole slew of kittens here that nobody wants? Because that is what is going to occur to them to say, Why are we creating in vying animals when we have all of these dogs that I need a home? You know, it just doesn’t make sense. And I think for them to truly understand what’s going on, you know, is is important for them to see a shelter. Now the S P. C. A is a privatize shelter, so they’re not a municipal shelter, meaning they generally don’t have to use a nice for space. But they don’t take every animal that walks through the door, either. Ah, you know, ideally, it’s good when kids see those because, you know, in truth, there’s a percentage of those animals that won’t make it through the day. And obviously that’s not something you wanna teach to a really young kid. But as they get older, you know they need to understand. They need to understand their statistics because that’s what I think. I think most people when they see that dog being posted on Facebook, and then later they go, Oh, what happened to the dog? Well, it was euthanized for why, why the dog was cute. What, like I think that sometimes when it occurs to people, when there’s a face put on it. Um, so, you know, it was, um it was great to have the S p c A. In fact, it got to a point where organization We have a CZ, I said before a very small management based organization. Ah, there’s it’s just a few of us. We Ah, we have very little funding, if any at all, because we just don’t have time to fundraise. Um, and there’s only a few of us are the ones that we do have are working on projects. So we got to a point where our little organization just couldn’t handle the load of of classes doing the program, which is a wonderful problem toe have. Exactly. It was a lot of work to get together. The materials raised the money, get everyone signed up, answer questions. Um, so it became really overwhelming. And ah, lot of it did fall on on my shoulders and one other board member, we were the two that did the bulk of the work. And, um, it became so overwhelming that this year we have we have decided to transfer the management of the program to the Maryland S P. C. A. Ah, They’re a fully staffed shelter that does a really good job bringing in donations. And it just seemed natural that that was the progression. Our goal was always to, you know, get this program out to everyone who could benefit from it. It’s a free program. We don’t charge for it. Ah, so with the goal of continuing to grow the program with 770 classes being taxing on us, we realized that it just wouldn’t have been able to grow much further with us managing the program. So we’re actually really excited to see where the Maryland s P. C. A can take the program and they’re they’re great shelter, great organization. And we just have all the faith in the world in them. So it’s Ah, it’s pretty exciting. Yeah, that’s really cool to see that come together like you said and to grow. And for somebody that did so much, one would think you’d say All right, I did my part right. I’m gonna step back. But but not you. You decided there’s other things that need to be done, so tell us a little bit more about what real love and what yourself is doing now? Well, we actually, um we’ve always been doing other things as well. Um, we that was That’s become one of the things that were known for because it’s more mainstream. And it’s it’s, ah, you know, more in in the public’s eye. But, you know, we have always been doing, you know, many, many other things. Um, we are big in legislation. We work on a legislative level in Maryland, and that’s something that’s always been on my radar since day one. Um, you know, regardless of what causes your fighting for our legislation, is your most powerful tool. Besides education, um, we’ve re love has always been leaders in the fight to get rid of puppy mills and pet stores. Who source. They’re animals from puppy mills. We have extensive knowledge on the subject in our state, and in fact, I’ve done an undercover investigation with the Humane Society. Ah, we’ve had peaceful protest. I have testified before the Senate in the House on puppy mill legislation for quite some time and proudly this year we did finally pass a bill that will prohibit the sale of dogs and cats and stores, and yeah, that’s a huge victory. We’ve been taking baby steps towards that for many, many years. It will take effect in 2019. 2020. Um, the spay and neuter bill. One of the things that we knew when we taught these kids to spay and neuter their pet. Ah, we realized most of them probably didn’t have the resources to do so. So I got involved with the spay and neuter bill. Um, many. Uh uh, Maybe about four years ago. Um, we use the concepts being used by a few other states in which the commercial food companies pay a surcharge per bag for each bag sold. So it’s not the customer Itsthe e. It’s the commercial food companies that are already, you know, making money off of our pets. That money goes into a trust managed by the Department of Agriculture and then several times a year, nonprofit organizations can apply for grants to get some of this money so that they can provide ah, low cost and no cost spay and neuter toe low income areas. Um, and again, you’re This is super important. When we’re teaching these Children in underserved areas to spay and neuter their pets and they go home and they say, Hey, Mom, you know, we should get, um you know, Rocky neutered and Mom’s got Hey, I’m trying to put food on the table and keep our electrical on. You know, we have to be able to give them those Resource is to make the right choice. Um, because we know when we started the education program, you know, I work with all the shelters in our area, and I knew that all of these a lot of these animals were were coming from these under served areas. Um, because people don’t have the resource is or the education in a zoo. They have different priorities in these areas that that may not be in a place that puts emphasis on pets and treating animals respectfully and responsibly. You know, um, it’s ah, it’s something that we felt, you know. We had to dio and and so the the, um, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in euthanasia in our shelters since we pass this bill. So if if you if anyone does legislation in their state, that is the one bill you definitely want to get past, um, other legislation that I’ve worked on has been, you know, dog fighting dog baiting, which, of course, in our area and many cities is super super important, putting heavier punishments on those who abuse and neglect animals. And most recently, while I’ve worked for many years on ah, tethering and chaining dogs and extreme conditions, those have always been pretty big for May this year in Baltimore County. At the beginning of the year, we had a dog that froze to death. Um, animal control was called, but ah, they never they never came out. Um, so I started looking into article 12 which is our county code, and I found out that it was woefully inadequate. Um, so I sat down and I wrote a bill based on surrounding counties and states and, ah, together with a colleague of mine. We submitted it to a councilman, joined forces with another councilman and another colleague of ours. And we got the bill passed into law in April of this year. It ah, it prohibits having animals out in extreme conditions for more than 30 minutes. And it’s below 32 degrees and above 90. Ah, it’s noon is Oscar’s Lohan. Oscar is the dog people froze to death. And that’s the first Billy ever wrote my son. Yeah, that’s fighting, like, very exciting. My kids will get, you know, smart with me sometimes. And I look at him and say, Hey, you know, I wrote a bill that even you have to follow. You really eat, You know, you don’t mess with me. Uh, but, you know, it’s, um you know, it’s a really, really valuable tool, and and, you know, it’s important to note, You know, I I you know, no senators and delegates and many politicians at this point in my career, but and I’ve, you know, testified at the state. I’ve written bills. Um, you know, I don’t I don’t have a college degree. I did go to college but was distracted by other goals in my life. And, um, you know, I just I making a point to tell people when I talk about stuff like that that I have done is that you know, I’m I’m no one special. You know, anyone could do that. Any any person can go. Hey, something’s not right. Um, why? Why did it turn out like that? Why did a situation turn out the way it did. And then you find out and you go Okay, Now what can I do to stop that from happening the next time? That’s what it takes. Yeah, anyone can do it. Anyone can do it. You know, you don’t have to have a law degree or or anything like that to be able to do stuff like that. So it’s It’s really important that people know that because there’s there’s so many different ways you can get involved and there’s always people out there that are willing to lock arms with you and say, Hey, I’m going to do this with you It’s gonna say so, Julian, If somebody is listening to this and really wants to get in contact with you or learn more, what’s the best way for them to get a hold of you? They can. They can email us at real love animals at gmail dot com, or they can go onto our website, which is Ah, www dot really love animals dot or GE. And there’s a contact link in there that they can mess it just through there. And we’re also on Facebook. Cool. Well, Julian, I’m so glad you came on today to share the program, and there’s so much that you’ve done. And it sounds like there’s so much yet to come. Is there anything else you wanted to share before we wrap things up? No. You know, Well, yes, actually, um you know, I just want to remind people that, um, you know, real love is the name of our organization, but it’s it’s also a concept, a cz Muchas. You would reuse or recycle something. You know, we are creating a movement so that people will really love animals. And, you know, we live in a society that is by default, used to throwing things away. And, you know, we need to stop that. We want people to rest you specifically because right now there aren’t enough homes for the animals waiting in the shelter. And until there is a day where there are more homes available than there are shelter animals, you know there isn’t a need toe by an animal. You can find just about everything in a shelter. And I hope one day our work will slow down. And I believe that we can change the future for animals. But this is something that we can all do. We can all educate with the power of social media. Today, it is easy to educate just a small portion of your world just by being vocal on social media by encouraging people to adopt sharing information about low cost spay and neuter and vet clinics. You know, sharing animals that need homes, telling people about education programs that are out there. If we all educate a little than none of us will have to educate a lot, and we can all change the future together. So just be vocal, educate yourself and educate others very, very nicely stated. And I 100% agree with you. So thank you, Julianne, for coming on. It was great to talk to you. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, joined the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue

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