Known for being the first (and only!) female scout in the NBA, Bonnie-Jill Laflin is also an active animal rights and rescue advocate.
The actress, model, sportscaster, and former cheerleader started rescuing animals at a very young age; her family saved horses and all of their dogs came from the pound. Instead of receiving the usual birthday gifts as a child, Laflin would request donations be made to the local rescue society.
“My parents instilled in me at a very young age to make sure our voiceless had voices,” Laflin tells the Daily Biscuit.
Now Laflin is the founder of Hounds and Heroes, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to lifting the spirits and morale of active, wounded, and veteran military troops worldwide while increasing awareness about cruelty to animals.
When asked about the inspiration behind Hounds and Heroes, Laflin explains the organization began with, “being able to combine my two passions: animal welfare and supporting our troops.”
Hounds and Heroes rescues dogs from kill-shelters and trains them to be companions for members of the military suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The nonprofit notes the pairing saves two lives, the dog that would have been euthanized in the shelter and the serviceperson seeking a way to cope with past trauma.
Samson & Smith
“There are so many stories,” Lafin says. “One that comes to mind is one of our matches we’ve just done with a dog named Samson.”
About two weeks ago Doug Smith, a wounded Marine, contacted Laflin about being paired up with a hound. When he visited the shelter he immediately fell for Samson, a German shepherd with an unhappy history of being abused and then abandoned on the side of a highway. Laflin checked whether Smith would prefer a healthier dog, as Samson was recovering from being hit and dragged by a truck.
“People normally don’t like dogs that are imperfect,” Laflin explains. “He picked a dog that went through everything.”
Smith related to Samson’s past, as Smith had been wounded by an IED. He told Laflin that he and Samson had been through the same thing.
“It’s amazing to see how they’ve connected,” Laflin says, choking up. “This dog was so abused and the veteran could relate. That’s what tore me up.” She adds, “They found each other.”
Through Hounds and Heroes, Samson and Smith are training together.
“They’re a match made in heaven,” Laflin says. “I get emotional when you can see certain chemistry. They’re happy tears.”
Laflin’s Fur-Baby Rescues
Currently, Laflin has six rescue pets of her own, three dogs and three cats. All of them have unique rescue stories.
The (very!) recent addition to Laflin’s fur-baby family is Jo Montana, formerly known as Clarice, of this year’s Puppy Bowl fame.
“I just picked her up from LAX an hour ago!” Laflin says.
Laflin co-hosted this year’s Puppy Bowl and instantly bonded with the pup during the game.
“Unfortunately I’ve been sick and was hospitalized with walking pneumonia. Richard Branson from Virgin America stepped up and team members flew her down and I met her in LAX,” Laflin tells the Daily Biscuit. “She’s pooped from flying, but she has her Team Fluff jersey on! She’s making friends with the other pups and cats.”
One of said pups is Jaclyn Chan, who Laflin rescued from a truck headed to slaughter for the dog meat trade in China. Laflin works for an NBA show there and is also involved with Together for Animals in China.
“I’m trying to do as much as I can to try to get this banned,” Laflin notes.
Jaclyn Chan has become a bit of an ambassador for the Say No to Dog Meat campaign, and Laflin continues to educate people about what goes on over there.
Since Laflin’s parents own a large piece of land, sometimes the dogs Laflin rescues wind up living on their 30-acre ranch.
“They have 10 rescue dogs. If I had 30 acres of land, I’d probably have just as many!” Laflin jokes.
Though her mom is on board with any rescue additions, Laflin usually tries to distract her dad when she arrives with a new pup to live on the ranch.
“He doesn’t even know about Jo Montana yet, but he just joined Facebook. I told my mom to take the app down off his iPhone [so he wouldn’t notice]!” Laflin says.
Asur, a blind rescue also living on the ranch, is a retired bomb-sniffing dog that lost his vision after an incident with an IED. Laflin explains the dog’s handler didn’t want him after the accident, which is very rare. Since the government technically owned Asur, there were complications about who could adopt him. That’s when Laflin stepped in and saved the pooch.
“He does so well now. He’s adjusted. It’s almost like he’s not blind,” Laflin says. “He’s a Marine. He’s my baby.”
Laflin’s other fur-babies include a dog named Scout and three cats. Johnny Cash is a kitty Laflin heard meowing from a restaurant dumpster.
“I took off my heels and jumped in the dumpster,” Laflin recalls. “Now that cat thinks I birthed him.”
Patsy Cline is a black cat she adopted from Best Friends, a coalition partner of Hounds and Heroes.
“Black cats are usually the last to be adopted. The odds were against her; he was blind in one eye,” Laflin explains. “I like the dog and cat that no one’s going to adopt.”
Hounds and Heroes…and Horses!
Hounds and Heroes was founded in 2010 and the initiative to pair dogs to servicepersons started a year and a half ago. There have been 10 pairings made so far and the group is coordinating three more in the pipeline.
“It’s just me and my volunteers,” Laflin says. “As we get bigger we hope to help more. We can only train and do as much as possible. We’re hoping to grow and expand—we have requests across the country.”
Another initiative Hounds and Heroes will soon venture into is rescuing horses from slaughter for human consumption. Laflin has partnered with Sue Chapman of Becky’s Hope Horse Rescue in Frisco, Texas, to host equine therapy on their 120 acres for wounded warriors.
Laflin explains, “They go to the ranch and learn how to ride and saddle; they’re around farm animals…”
The new arm of Hounds and Heroes is gearing up to start this April.
“We’re saving these horses,” Laflin says, “and now they’ll be saving these guys’ lives.”
Get to Know Bonnie-Jill
Laflin has done 18 USO/Goodwill Tours, including six to Iraq and Afghanistan and seven other countries to support U.S. troops. She still found time to discuss all things animals with with the Daily Biscuit, including her favorite movies about animals.
“I really like All Dogs Go to Heaven as an animated, fun movie,” Laflin says.
On the more serious side, Laflin recommends seeing the documentary, Blackfish.
“I think it’s an amazing movie,” she notes, adding, “that and The Cove made people go, ‘wow.’”
As for advice to anyone looking to adopt a pet, Laflin said the biggest thing is Adopt Don’t Shop.
“I’m really against breeders and dogs sold at pet stores. People of the animal welfare movement know they come from puppy mills. I’ve done the raids,” Laflin explains. “If you’re going to get a dog, I tell everyone: contact me! A lot of people don’t know and they go and buy a dog. … Purebreds are in every shelter and there’s even a rescue group just for purebreds. Go and save a life!”
Laflin shared that adopting from a shelter doesn’t just save one life; it also saves the life of the next animal that can take its place, as shelters get overcrowded.
“My favorite thing about rescues—people will call me crazy for saying this—but rescue dogs truly know you saved them. Ask anyone who’s saved a dog.”
Laflin also notes, “It’s just hard to have a home that doesn’t have any fur-babies in it. They add to your world.”
Download Rescue Dogs Movie on iTunes today!