Hey there, please introduce yourself with all the facts we need to know about you, Christopher!
I was born in Yonkers New York and lived in New York City for most of my life. I have a Bachelor of Fine Art in Photography from The School of Visual Arts in New York City. I also have a Bachelor of Science in Health Science from Long Island University in Brooklyn New York and Physician Assistant Board Certified from Long Island University – Brooklyn Hospital. I worked as a PA in human healthcare, specializing in HIV/AIDS medicine until I moved to Florida in 2003. In Florida I became a licensed Realtor and worked in the industry in Miami for ten years. Around the middle of 2015, I took a long look at my life as I was not happy personally or professionally . I had been vegan for six years and this had made my desire to work within the animal community grow strong. In December of 2015 I decided to take a chance and go back to school to become a Veterinary Technician with the goal of someday opening an animal sanctuary. On April 4 of 2016 I was given the opportunity to work full time as a vet tech with Choice Veterinary Services here in Florida. Since that day I have never looked back. Today I am happily married to my incredible husband Randy, who is also vegan, and we have just been pre approved for the purchase of farmland to start our animal sanctuary. Little Bear Sanctuary, named after my mom Ursula (little bear in Latin), will be a 501c3 (non profit) to provide shelter for farm animals to live out the remainder of their lives in peace.
Can you elaborate on your day job as Veterinary Technician at Choice Veterinary Services in Punta Gorda Florida?
My day job with Choice Veterinary Services is both challenging and rewarding. I don’t think many people realize what goes on behind the scenes in a veterinary office. We provide healthcare to both small, large, and exotic animals. A vet tech is a veterinary nurse – our skills consist of everything from exams, blood draws, xrays, surgical assisting,, dental cleanings, dispensing medications, and that’s to name a few. Euthanasia is without a doubt the most difficult aspect of my job. To finally be passionate about my career and to see my goals approaching are feelings that I don’t think I can put into words. I have never been happier.
Why are you an advocate for “adopt don’t shop”?
I’m an advocate for adopt don’t shop because there are millions of stray animals in shelters across the U.S. and the world that need loving homes. There are high kill shelters in big cities across the U.S. that euthanize upwards of ten thousand animals monthly. South Florida, where I live, has the largest homeless cat population in the country, figures place it around eight hundred thousand. Animals in pet shops come from puppy mills where the conditions are horrid and the animals are inbred and overbred causing so many health issues. Evolving toy breeds of dogs that weigh 3 pounds as adults have so many health issues – dogs are not meant to be so small. For every animal someone buys there are hundreds at shelters that are euthanized. I’ve volunteered at some of these shelters and the dogs and cats are starving for love and attention. The best breed is a shelter animal! They will show you unconditional love like you have never experienced. I also would like to point out that black dogs and cats are the most overlooked in shelters and they truly are the best! Please consider opening your heart and home to a shelter pet. Your life will be changed for the better in so many ways.
Adopting changes lives – Who is living with you at home?
All of our fur kids are rescues. We have three dogs and five cats. Naya is my first rescue, she is a shepherd mix from Miami Dade Animal Services, Cashmere is our pitbull mix who is from Animal Welfare League in Port Charlotte, and Koa is our newest arrival. She is a Belgian Malinois that we rescued from a person who could not take care of her after she was hit by a car. Our cats, Jagger, Giada, PJ, Max, and Penelope are all rescues from Miami from various shelters and also from the street.
What are recent rescue stories that moved you a lot?
Every rescue moves me. If you ever get the chance to volunteer at a shelter I highly recommend it. You will never forget the look on a rescue fur kids face when someone takes them for that walk out of the building. The overwhelming look and tail wags of happiness is something that will make your heart melt.
Dog fights, lighting cats on fire, torturing strays or even very own pets – Why do you think are people being cruel to animals in the first place, because they cannot speak?
I think there are many reason why people are cruel to animals. Mental illness, growing up in an abusive situation, lack of education, poor role models. If animals could speak we’d be living in a different world no doubt.
Sometimes life seems like the most horrific horror movie – but you are into the genre of films, which are your favorites?
So true! I’ve loved horror movies since I was a child. For me it’s an escape from the horrors of everyday life. These “monsters” in horror films are “not real” so I get to loose myself in a fantasy for a few hours. The monsters in real life are much more frightening. I’m a fan of a lot of the older films from the 50’s and 60’s. My favorite is an incredible black and white British film from 1960 called Horror Hotel (The City of the Dead) directed by John Moxey. It’s a must see for any fan of the genre.
When did you go vegan and why?
I have been vegan for seven years. I reconnected with a friend from high school on Facebook about eight years ago who is vegan. He posts the true horrors of factory farming and animal abuse, etc. I had been vegetarian (not strict) for two years prior. I truly had no idea of the lives of animals in a factory farm, the conditions, the torture, etc. The horrible videos and pics opened my eyes. I had a shift of consciousness and have been vegan ever since. I literally am vegan for the animals. The health benefits are a reward. Before I was vegan I was overweight, had high blood pressure, smoked cigarettes, had high cholesterol and was on multiple medications. Since becoming vegan I no longer need any medications, feel amazing, am healthy, and happy.
How did you become an ambassador of FOR THE LOVE OF ANIMALS APPAREL?
When I started my instagram account a few years ago, I came across @ftlaapparel and loved their t-shirts. I immediately purchased the Be Kind To Animals Or I’ll Kill You shirt. I had a few questions about the style and color so I contacted the owner and designer Kim Panzarella to ask her if she could modify the size of the text and I wanted a specific style of the shirt. I was surprised when she explained her process of silk screening and hand making each shirt. I had no idea of the work involved behind each design. When I received it I took a pic of myself wearing it and posted it to instagram. I ordered another shirt from the Hounds and Heroes collection which benefits the organization that supports our service men, women, and dogs. Again, I modeled it and put in on IG. She loved my pictures, we began speaking on a regular basis, got along really well. She asked me if I’d like to be her brand ambassador and model for her. How could I refuse? We both still laugh about how I wanted her to change her design in my first order. We are now great friends and I’m so happy to have her in my life.
On your instagram, you also show us your favorite vegan treats, can you name some which recently excited you?
Oh how I love vegan treats! I’m definitely a vegan food junkie at heart. There are so many great new products that have become available. So Delicious makes some of the best vegan ice cream and who would have ever thought Ben & Jerry’s now has seven vegan ice creams! My favorite being the Coconut Seven Layer Bar and PB J & Cookies. The Alternative Baking Company makes the best soft batch cookies. Hail Merry miracle tarts are divine! I love to bake so I’m always veganizing cake and dessert recipes. Follow Your Heart vegan egg has changed the way I bake! I can go on and on! LOL
What is your favorite dish to make yourself?
If I had to pick one, homemade Mac & Cheeze – but I also make a great Chik’n pot pie!
And what will you most likely order when eating out?
Pizza! I love pizza!
What is your region of Florida like vegan-wise?
Where I live in southwest Florida there are some great vegan establishment’s and the food markets have so many vegan options. We even have an organic pizza restaurant that makes the best vegan pizza with vegan cheese.
Any spots you would recommend to our readers travelling there?
Definitely! Chef Brooke’s Natural Cafe, Pizza Fusion, and Ginger Bistro all in Fort Myers. Ada’s Whole Foods and Earth Origins are the two best markets for vegan options.
So, most exciting news for last, tell us all about your plans, hopes and wishes for your own animal sanctuary, please!
We are very excited about our plans for the new sanctuary. We’re in the mortgage process and we expect to be opening in the Fall of 2017. In this area there are a lot of farm animals in need who are typically sent to slaughter when they can no longer be cared for. We hope to take in as many as we can over the coming years. We are in the process of our 501c3 paperwork. We feel it’s important to be a legal non profit not only to best help the animals but to also benefit our donors and volunteers so they can take advantage of all the tax benefits under the law. We also want to have this non profit legal status to educate others who donate their hard earned money to charitable organizations, especially when it comes to animals, as there are so many scams and fake accounts online. Always check an organization’s status and stick with a registered 501c3 when you donate.
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