Glee's Charlotte Ross: 'Why Shelter Dogs are Awes
Ross met Jack Russell mix Taco on the streets of Puerto Rico when she was filming a movie on the island 13 years ago. "When you're there, you have to desensitize yourself from seeing homeless dogs on a daily basis," she tells PEOPLEPets.com. "Many were covered in mange, dying slowly. It was difficult for me."
On her days off, Ross would feed the pups she encountered, and eventually rescued four, placing three with friends and keeping Taco for herself. "He's the poster child of why getting a homeless dog is the best way to go," she says. "Once they have consistent love, food, and trust, they really are forever grateful."
In the time since, Ross has revisited Puerto Rico for several shoots, rescuing more dogs every time. "My brother jokes, 'Don't come home with another burrito,'" she says. "But every time I shoot there, half the crew comes back with dogs."
As Taco got on in years, Ross decided to add another pup to her pack, this time, a Lab mix named Tyler (formerly Tyson), whom she found at a south-central Los Angeles shelter. "He's another example of why shelter dogs are awesome," she says. "He's the sweetest, most docile guy."
While the pooches get along famously, Taco, at more than 14 years old, is becoming a bit of a "crotchety old man," Ross jokes. "He naps all the time." Four-year-old Tyler, on the other hand, loves to swim. "He'll jump on you and play with you, and once you get to his level, he'll roll around for hours," she says.
Thankfully, the pups have a built-in playmate: Ross's 6 1/2-year-old son, Maxwell, a pint-sized vegetarian. "He did it by choice," the actress says. "Some people have a connection to animals they can't describe, and [Maxwell] seems to be one of those people."
His love of animals likely has to do with his mom's activism: Not only did Ross pose for PETA's anti-fur campaign, but she's the spokeswoman for Operation Blankets of Love, too. She's also involved with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and recently wrote a letter to the National Institutes of Health in an effort to block their testing on aging chimpanzees. The initiative was put on hold for two years.
"If I wasn't an actress, animal activism would be my full-time job," Ross says, laughing. "But I always dreamed I'd become famous, so one day I could bring attention to the mistreatment of animals. Luckily, my career has moved forward, and I've jumped at the chance to be involved with these causes."
Catch Ross in the action-thriller Drive Angry, in theaters Feb. 25.
Read more about celebrities' animal activism on PEOPLEPets.com:
'Laverne & Shirley' Star Cindy Williams Puts Homeless Dogs in Spotlight
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Donate $2 Million to Wildlife Sanctuary