Palm Desert resident Lindi Biggi has taken on the daunting task of advocating for the animals in our desert. She founded Loving All Animals in 2009, and is currently the organization’s president.
The organization’s mission is to bring together local and national animal welfare organizations. Loving All Animals currently holds adoption fairs, fundraisers to help local animal groups in need, and supports an Internet networking organization which helps find homes for critters big and small.
Biggi recently took some time to discuss the emotional roller coaster that is “animal rescue” at her getaway home at Lake Arrowhead. She also answered some follow-up questions via email.
For more information, visit www.lovingallanimals.org, or call 760-776-9397.
What ignites your quest to devote most of your waking hours to animal advocacy? In other words, what floats your boat about critters?
I am genetically programed to dedicate my life to animals. It’s all my mother’s fault. I was raised on various farms, spending several years on a 2,300-acre farm property in Oregon. People who know me now will envision a series of beautiful rolling green hills encircled by a white rail fence with a grazing herd of Black Angus cattle and an equally elaborate corral full of … show-quality horses. … Well, it wasn’t like that at all. It was a falling-down barn that was actually in better shape than the three-story-tall, cereal-box-shaped house that was built with the cheapest of materials available in the early 1940s. The driveway, if you could call it that, was a 3-mile-long series of dusty pot holes in the rare months that rain wasn’t falling. … Not far from where we lived was a slaughterhouse, and not far from that was a livestock auction house where live auctions were held every weekend. Farmers from near and far would bring in their livestock to be sold in the auction ring. Often, for various reasons, the animals were too old, too sick or too injured to be able to respond to the prodding methods used to force them into the ring, resulting in them not being sold and not finding a new owner and not being worth it for the old owner to take the trouble to take them back where they came from. At the end of the auction, most of the owners would simply send these animals to the slaughterhouse.
Well, my mom had a better idea: She agreed to take them all, regardless of health condition, or (regardless) if it were a chicken, a duck, a goat, a calf, a horse … and once, we even got a bison. … Week after week, the trucks were loaded with the sick animals and brought down our dirt road. That was the start of what was called Flemings Funny Farm—my maiden name is Fleming—and that was the end of the minimum amount of housekeeping my mother ever did. … We had herds of various kinds of cattle, horses, turkeys, peacocks, goats, sheep—you name it, it was somewhere on that 2,300 acres. … The bison did regain its health, and it ruled over all creatures.
Mom and the boys ran their make shift animal hospital, and I, being the only girl, was assigned all the housework, which wouldn’t have been so bad, except mom kept scouring calves in the kitchen, baby chicks or turkeys or ducks in the shower, rabbits in my brothers’ bedroom, and I can’t tell you how many times I would find a bunch of newborn piglets laying on top of the freshly dried clothes in the clothes dryer. … As you can see, my passion for animals is part of my breeding, it’s in my genes.
How long have you been involved with animal organizations? What motivated you to start your own?
Like a lot of kids of my day, the 4-H club would be the first organization. As a young adult, I did very little with four-legged animals, as I had my hands full dealing with my two legged critters, namely my son and my daughter, and later the five children of my husband. As our children left the nest, I filled the empty space with exotic birds, which we never had on the farm. I then belonged to a few bird clubs. Upon moving to the desert, I wanted to become active with The Living Desert, but between my own exotic bird flock and starting up the Angels for Animal Samaritans group, I never got the time to do that. I later was honored to be on the board of directors for Animal Samaritans and served with that organization until I resigned. Again, I was honored by being invited to serve on the board of directors for PetSmart Charities and enjoyed seeing the animal world from a national viewpoint.
Starting Loving All Animals was actually motivated by two profoundly important things in my life. Family: Tabitha Lindsay Loftis was my granddaughter who moved in with me at the age of 15. She worked on almost every animal event I was involved with, and at age 17, she left for school on a Monday morning and never came home. She was killed in an automobile accident, and losing her left an unbelievable void in my life. I found myself with absolutely no useful purpose. … Knowing that my life depended upon getting busy doing something worthwhile, or (letting) my sadness continue to destroy me, starting Loving All Animals and working for the animals was a natural.
(Second), friends: I love my friends, and my friends love animals, too. I had the memories of all the fun and productive hours we had spent doing things for the animals. Forming Loving All Animals to give us a venue to work together again was a natural.
What do you feel could and should be done to stop euthanasia in our shelters?
There is only one answer to this question: Get the supply and demand in balance.
The old saying, “If people knew better, they would do better,” screams the truth in this situation. I truly think most people are good, I mean really good, and would never knowingly allow these beautiful, God-made life forms have their lives snuffed out. We as a society have been dumbed-down to accept it. Can you for one second imagine society saying it was OK to go into overcrowded schools and euthanize those over the capacity of the building? We don’t even do that at our jails; instead, we build more jails. Go figure.
The solution is truly a very simple one. … The real question is: Why don’t we do it? First: Spay/neuter, so as to stop the production of unwanted animals. Second, adopt: Get society to understand that they need to adopt shelter animals and drastically cut back commercial puppy-mill operations. If people don’t buy (the animals), they will diminish the breeding. Third: Support the animal-welfare organizations that are working so hard to get us to being a no-kill nation. … Right now, more than 50 percent of the dogs and 80 percent of the cats are being put down in one of our local shelters, and it is even worse with some of our neighboring shelters.
If citizens (only) knew that it cost an average of $426 for every animal entering our public system; it doesn’t matter if they come out dead or alive. That is what it costs for facility, staff, dog-catchers, trucks, equipment, administration, etc. One doesn’t need to be a mathematician to see that government-paid spay/neuter for low-income people would cost the taxpayers less. So again, we need to ask: Why don’t we do it?
You’re very active with adoption fairs and even transport some of the animals in your limousine. Where did the idea come from?
Yes, adoption fairs give people who don’t or won’t go to shelters an opportunity to see the beautiful creatures that are available. We, at LAA, are trying to get humans to see (shelter animals’) beauty and get rid of the stereotype that shelter animals are bad, rejects, ugly, dirty and undesirable, but instead see them as the beautiful, loving, adorable creatures that God made them to be. They are not mutts, but premium blends. In fact, did you know that 30 percent of shelter animals are purebreds? We take an animal out of the shelter, spay/neuter, vaccinate, microchip and, if necessary, take care of other health issues. We groom them, spray them with perfume, give them a fancy name (and) a fancy collar, and take them around in the limo. Animals that no one would ever look at find people fighting over them. We love it when that happens.
The idea for the limo is a very special story. As you know, some of the dogs rescued from Duroville might even fit the description of “undesirable.” I have to admit: Some of them were pretty bad. Well, we were invited to the very prestigious event known as (the Palm Springs Art Museum’s) “Day in the Garden,” and we took three Duroville dogs. … Two of the cute dogs obviously found loving homes quickly, and next on the auction block was a great big, shaggy and ugly “Bear Dog”—silence. Silence, that is, until the lady stepped up and said, “Here is $1,500. I WANT THAT DOG.” … It really was a sight I will never forget. I watched as she left with her … over-priced, untrained companion, and as they walked through the front door, I saw the driver of a great big black limo opening the door for her and Bear to enter. He took his place next to her on the seat, and he looked regal in that car—and believe me when I say making him look regal was a challenge. Anyway, ask and you shall receive: We (then) wanted a limo; it took a while, but one was donated.
How would someone become involved in your volunteer program?
We have 1,001 volunteer opportunities, everything from office work, public relations, walking/training dogs, loving on cats, fostering and event work. Please call 760-834-7000, or email email@example.com.
Why do you believe in microchipping? Do you think microchips are dangerous?
I have been a serious supporter of microchips for the last 20-plus years, and I would stake my life on the fact that they are NOT dangerous. I am hoping to live long enough to see our government see that dog licenses are useless to the dog and to the dog owner. … (Governments) need to phase out the license requirement and replace it with mandatory microchip for all companion animals, and then use the database as a retrieval system. This could be done where it would be cheaper for the citizen, give animal services (departments) a meaningful income program, give animal owners a value for their money, and get a whole lot more of lost animals back home.
You’re known as the “Bird Lady,” and your beautiful home in Palm Desert is like a tropical oasis filled with egrets, cranes, exotic parrots and macaws. Did you have a parakeet when you were a little girl? When did your love of these feathered friends take flight?
I don’t think I ever had a parakeet as a small girl. My daughter bought me a couple of finches which died, because I didn’t know how to care for exotic birds. That was in the early ’80s, which is when I started reading about them and accumulating more and more each year. Now my bird library must contain well over 100 books, and I have over 50 exotic birds under my care—and, yes, most came to me because they had no other place to go.
How do you keep your heart from despairing when there are only so many animals you can save?
I don’t. (I have) many sleepless nights (and) many frustrating, helpless emotions to deal with. Sometimes I want to quit and have to remind myself that thousands of us are dealing with the same pain that I am, and for the same reason. We are stronger in greater numbers and must stick together and keep trying. “United, we stand; divided, we fail the animals.”
What is your ultimate goal for Loving All Animals?
I want to see us all working together to create a no-kill community, and then move on to creating a no-kill nation. I want us to figure out how we can provide FREE spay/neuter services to low-income families. I want to create a huge database of willing foster homes that can be available to all the shelters, plus (help) individuals who need short-term care of their pets while they, themselves, are homeless or when they need to be in the hospital, or (have) other short-term reasons that would require they give up their pet. … I hope to see the day where every companion animal has a microchip and a working retrieval system that gets lost pets home, and I hope to see the day when people really understand that the love of an animal is of great value, and the quality of the love isn’t increased because you pay a big price for a purebred dog. Rescues are really the greater lovers.