Association Leader Meets Snakes on a Plane
The Animal Humane Association is publishing a book called Animal Stars this week about animal movie stars. So we talked to AHA president Robin Ganzert, who's making her debut as an author with a book about her favorite interviewees and life as a head of the oldest national humane organization.
What’s Animal Stars about? The world of animals and animals trainers (along with the celebrities they work worth) in film and TV.
Why write this book? It’s a celebration of AHA’s 75 years of working with animal actors. We’re the only sanctioned organization in the entertainment industry to ensure the safety and treatment of animals in film. Not one animal has been hurt on the set in the last 18 months.
What’s your favorite story in the book? Interviewing the trainer Jules Sylvester, who trained “Kitty” on the set of Snakes on the Plane. I asked how you train snakes and he said you don’t train the snakes, you train the humans to stay away from the snakes. I also love Crystal, a capuchin monkey who’s been in over 40 blockbuster films. Robin Williams spent his last birthday with her and she lives with her trainer, Tom Gunderson, and his four children.
What else does AHA do? We run the iconic “No Animals Were Harmed” program; animal rescue work; run a certification program for farm animals (we’ve certified humane treatment of over 1 billion farm animals); and fund research of animal therapy for children.
How is AHA different than other animal-focused organizations? We’re the only one devoted to children and animals and the only one devoted to the human-animal bond. We were the first in animal rescue and the only one to certify animals in film and entertainment. We also have the largest farm animal certification program.
What’s your public policy focus? We’ve testified at a number of congressional briefings on animal therapy research and help members understand animals as an alternative therapy treatment, perhaps one with reimbursement implications. We’re also working on policies on military dogs and farm animals.
How did you get into the association world? I started in philanthropy, running programs for Wells Fargo and then was the deputy director of the Pew Charitable Trusts. I came to AHA in 2010.
Where are you from? I was born in Florida but lived all over. I now live in North Carolina and regularly travel to DC and LA for AHA.
How do you spend your free time? I have three active children (ages 21, 18, 14), three cats, three dogs, and four horses.