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Ellen DeGeneres loves rescue pets, stew and stamps; Portia de Rossi speaks out for feral cats

March 23, 2010 |  7:03 pm

Ellenportia

If there weren't already reason enough to love Ellen DeGeneres and her hilarious wife Portia de Rossi, add this to the list: The couple is using their high-profile status to help homeless dogs and cats.

DeGeneres is working to promote pet adoption through the U.S. Postal Service's forthcoming "Stamps to the Rescue" campaign, through which consumers can purchase a set of stamps with images of dogs and cats rescued from shelters. In connection with the release of the new stamp collection, the pet-food company of which DeGeneres is part owner, Halo Purely for Pets, has announced that it will donate a million servings of its "Spot's Stew" food to needy pets in animal shelters across the country.

DeGeneres will join Postmaster General John E. Potter at an dedication ceremony for the "Stamps to the Rescue" campaign at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Hollywood on April 30, the day the stamps officially go on sale. (In the meantime, they can be preordered online.)

Meanwhile, De Rossi has partnered with feral-cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies to promote the organization and its efforts to save adult feral cats' lives and reduce the number of kittens they produce through the trap-neuter-return program. TNR, as the approach is often referred to, "is the only way to help contain the [feral cat] populations and save their lives," De Rossi said.

TNR is widely viewed by feral-cat caregivers as the most effective way of managing feral colonies in the short-term while helping to reduce their numbers in the long term. But here in Southern California, the approach came under fire earlier this year when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with a group of bird fanciers and wildlife advocates who argued that TNR violated state environmental laws and failed to protect the birds that are killed by feral cats.

The judge's ruling -- which bars local groups that practice TNR from receiving city-sponsored vouchers for free sterilization surgeries for feral cats, prevents city shelters from releasing feral cats in their care to such groups and keeps the city from referring those who complain about feral-cat colonies to TNR groups, among other things -- was viewed as a travesty by many in L.A.'s animal-rescue community. 

DeGeneres and De Rossi are longtime animal lovers; the pair even decided to make a donation to the Best Friends Animal Society in lieu of gifts to their friends and family in 2008, and DeGeneres often devotes time on her popular talk show to discussing animal-related topics. But the couple was also involved in a much-publicized controversy a few years back when they gave a terrier mix named Iggy, whom they'd adopted from an L.A.-area rescue group, to the family of DeGeneres' hairstylist without the rescue group's prior consent.

The group, Mutts & Moms, responded by removing Iggy from the hairstylist's home, noting that its adoption contract contained a clause that prevented adopters from re-homing animals obtained from the group without its permission. An attorney for Mutts & Moms claimed that the group had offered the hairstylist's family the chance to formally apply to adopt Iggy, but that they had refused to do so. Mutts & Moms quickly placed Iggy in a new adoptive home. DeGeneres and De Rossi currently have five pets -- two dogs and three cats -- including a mixed-breed dog rescued from an abusive owner.

DeGeneres was named one of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' People of the Year, along with "Project Runway's" Tim Gunn, in 2009. Earlier in the year, she and De Rossi received the Humane Society of the United States' Wyler Award for their work on behalf of California's Proposition 2 ballot initiative, which imposed more humane standards for the treatment of farmed animals in the state.

Learn more about DeGeneres and De Rossi's recent work on behalf of homeless animals at The Times' celebrity news blog, Ministry of Gossip.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: De Rossi, left, and DeGeneres. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

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