It starts with a pet who changes your life. For Prince Lorenzo Borghese, of the royal Borghese family and The Bachelor fame, it started with Belle, a black Lab pup gifted to him on his 21st birthday. The “it” I’m referring to is an inspiring journey where he’d witness unspeakable abuses and be a part of soul-stirring happy endings; a journey that would require him to roll up his sleeves and get into the trenches to fight for something he believed in. The battlegrounds were animal abuse, kill shelters and puppy mills. The victories are each and every dog saved from death row, and each battle won to end kill shelters and puppy mills for good. This is what Prince Lorenzo has dedicated his life to doing. And, he’s making his presence felt. His vehicle? Animal AID USA, an extraordinary not-for-profit rights and rescue agency. And, it’s his Royal Treatment Pet Products, a truly gorgeous line of organic herbal shampoos, conditioners and spray mists for dogs, that is helping to pave the way.
Lorenzo and his team of animal angels are currently saving 120 dogs a month, every month, through Animal AID USA. But, how did a privileged prince, who could be donating money to others to do this work, come to be a significant soldier in this battle? Here’s his story, the story of his pet products and of the organization that makes it all worthwhile.
Where it began
Lorenzo grew up with lots of pets. In France, where he lived until he was 7, his family had guinea pigs and goldfish. When he moved to New Jersey, that family grew to include dogs, cats, parrots, lovebirds, even a newt! So, he was very comfortable around animals, but it took getting Belle to connect him to a passion for animals that would drive his life.
Belle had skin problems. After a trip to the vet, where he was told he bathed her too often, he started thinking, ‘Why should regular bathing be detrimental to a dog?’ He began researching and discovered that most shampoos on the market did more harm than good. The ingredients were drying, that’s why vets were warning their clients not to bathe more than once a month. That didn’t sit too well with Lorenzo, and he consulted his mother and brother, who have a cosmetic line called Perlier. When your family has been in the cosmetics business for over 50 years, you’ve got connections. Lorenzo found people to help him formulate a special shampoo and conditioner for Belle, based on what he had researched, using the finest herbs from Italy and all organic ingredients. After trying it out, he noticed that not only did her skin improve dramatically, but her coat was shiny and soft. He knew he was on to something really good. So he set out to create different herbal formulas and scents, that would satisfy the varied needs of a dog’s skin and coat. He launched the Royal Treatment Italian Pet Spa in 2003 on the television shopping channel HSN.
Today, Royal Treatment offers close to 100 pet-friendly products for dogs, with delicious scents like Organic Fresh Current & Blackberry, Organic Italian Pink Grapefruit and Mediterranean Sea Breeze. Coming soon will be a natural tear stain removal wipe that is also a brightener, and a natural flea & tick repellent. Lorenzo donates 5% of annual profits and $2.00 for every new customer to Animal AID USA. I’d heard about Royal Treatment from my daughter, who raved about the products she’d tried on her dog. Lorenzo was kind enough to send us a bottle of the Honey Oatmeal Shampoo and corresponding conditioner. This is the formulation for dry, sensitive skin, which is an issue Sophie has, so I was interested to see how it worked.
The first thing I noticed was how gorgeous the shampoo smelled, like real honey and oatmeal, and how rich it was. When I looked at the ingredients, organic honey and organic oatmeal are the first two. There’s nothing in there that isn’t truly natural. I’ve used it twice now, and her coat is shiny, her skin is soft and the dryness is going away. She’s itching much less,too. I”m going to continue using them and will keep you posted on how it’s going.
I want to share these beautiful products with you, so Prince Lorenzo has generously offered Bark and Swagger readers a special promo code for a 15% discount on Royal Treatment products. Just enter the code BARKANDSWAGGER during check out to receive your discount, and please tell me how you like the products! And, because Lorenzo is contributing $2.00 to Animal AID USA for each new customer, you’ll be doing a good deed in the process.
Animal AID USA
With his focus on Belle and his growing business, Royal Pet Club (the umbrella under which Royal Treatment falls), Lorenzo was now immersed in the world of all things dog. His awareness of those who were suffering was also growing, and he got involved with a number of animal advocacy organizations, like the American Humane Association, for which he became an ambassador in 2011, and Animal Care & Control of New York City, in which he is co-founder of NYC4ACC, a group of young professionals who organize fundraisers for this city shelter.
“When you walk into a shelter where the dogs are all about to be euthanized and they’re looking at you, dying to get out, they’re barking, wagging their tails and they’re helpless,” he describes. “Looking into their eyes, I want to take home every one of them, but know I can’t. Then, all of a sudden, I met Karen Talbot and everything changed.”
Karen was running an organization she’d started a few years earlier called M.O.M.S. (Making Of Miracle Stories) Animal Rescue. Talbot wrote to Lorenzo asking for help with her cause. At first, he thought she was another person just asking for money, but as he read on, he became intrigued by how hard she worked to save animals from kill shelters. “I wanted to help Karen because I’ve never met anyone so devoted to rescuing animals,” Lorenzo explains. “She’s not a wealthy person and I think her husband, Dante, is in debt with five or six credit cards by now. Yet, these guys manage to rescue about 100 dogs a month on their own bank account.” To give you an even better idea of Karen’s commitment to animals, instead of a wedding ring, Dante purchased Karen a transportation vehicle. For vacations, they don’t fly off to a place in the sun. Instead, they spend their time in cars, driving down to Georgia to rescue animals. That was all Lorenzo needed to hear. For him, he’d found his partner and, in January of 2012, Animal AID USA was born.
The agency is made up of a group of volunteer animal lovers who receive no monetary compensation. Members drive more than 1,600 miles each month in order to relocate animals from high-kill shelters to partnering rescue organizations and forever homes. In addition to finding homes for animals at risk, Animal Aid USA raises money to fund spay and neuter programs in low income communities and raise awareness of the legal cruelties happening daily in the U.S.. One of its key missions is to help eradicate the gas chamber, and Lorenzo and Karen found their angel “mascot” in a beagle mix named Grace. Grace was the only one of seven dogs who survived the gas chamber at a Georgia facility one day. Her plight led to the passing of Grace’s Law, which banned the use of the gas chamber for euthanizing dogs in that state. Inspired by her story, Animal AID USA thought it fitting to name its caravan of hope after her. Aptly dubbed the “Amazing Grace Caravan,” it makes a monthly journey from New Jersey to Georgia, where it picks up dogs destined for death and delivers them to a new life. It also takes promotional treks down the east coast, making stops along the way to educate people about the cruelty of the gas chamber and to advocate for legislation to banish them. Other causes Animal AID is proactively engaged in includes the cruel and painful intracardiac injection without anasthesia (another means of euthanasia), and abolishing puppy mills.
Last summer, Grace celebrated a momentous occasion. She got married! In a formal doggy I do’s ceremony, Grace wed fellow gas chamber survivor, Daniel, another beagle mix who has become a canine celebrity advocating across the country to end gas chambers, with his dad, Joe Dwyer.
The Miracle Ranch
In 2012, Lorenzo and Karen purchased land in Long County, Georgia, and dubbed the site the Miracle Ranch. It’s purpose would be as a safe place to quarantine and vet dogs who were rescued, before their journey up north. Adults and children worked side-by-side volunteering on the ranch and things were going great. Unfortunately, a contingent of locals were unhappy and let their discontent be known, leading to the recent closing of Miracle Ranch. I asked Lorenzo what happened. “I think some of the locals didn’t like the idea of northerners coming into their town and saving their dogs,” he explained. “Also, a few neighbors complained about the barking. They got a motion to kick us out, but before that ever came to pass, a couple of locals got aggressive, to the point of shooting guns. Karen and I decided, for the safety of the volunteers, including children, and the dogs, that it was best to shut it down.” Sad, but when one door closes, another often opens. As of a couple of months ago, Lorenzo and Karen have found another location in Georgia, where the locals are welcoming them with open arms. Until funds permit them to launch a full scale facility, Ware County, Georgia’s Okefenokee Humane Society will house and vet the dogs prior to their journey, and Animal AID‘s equipment and resources will greatly supplement the work of Ware County’s animal rescue efforts.
The Animal AID Club
It’s up to our children to take this message of compassion, kindness and advocacy forward. Teaching them how to treat animals from a young age is key. So, Animal Aid formed the Animal Aid Club, which is dedicated to helping abandoned pets through the school system. With downloadable lesson plans from the American Humane Association’s Humane Education Resources for Professionals, an entertaining Readers theatre play for students to perform, and access to an inspiring rescue documentary called “Take Me Home,” Animal Aid Club gives kids all the materials needed to start a club in their communities and share this message with their friends and neighbors. “By providing children with the education, awareness and resources, we are empowering them to make change in their world for shelter animals,” emphasized Karen Talbot.
Once you read about Animal AID USA‘s accomplishments and, as important, the volunteers who are its heart, I think you’ll agree it’s an organization doing amazing work. Here’s a powerful video of all they do. It truly does take a village:
I asked Lorenzo is there was a rescue story that particularly resonated with him. He told me about Chloe. Chloe is a pitbull mix who’s owner tried to run her over. Nice, right? He was arrested and a court date was set. Chloe was cooling her heels at the Liberty Animal Control in Georgia, a kill shelter, where animals in these circumstances are kept until the fate of the owner is decided. Her cage was so tiny, she could barely stand. And, it was filthy with cockroaches. When Lorenzo opened the door, Chloe was so terrified of humans, she just cowered in the corner. He had to do something, so he asked what it would take to get Chloe released. He was told that, if it wasn’t for the pending court date, she would’ve been euthanized already. But the only way to get her released, was to have the charges against this man dropped. Nothing is ever cut and dry simple. Lorenzo thought it was better to get Chloe out of there to safety, than to see this man prosecuted. He arranged to have the police come down, got the charges dropped, and took Chloe up north. She was adopted immediately. Today, Chloe is a happy, well-adjusted pup. “She’s probably one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever met,” Lorenzo shared. The power of love in transforming a dog who was terrified of humans.
Are you up for a challenge?
I’m passionate about animals, and I think Bark and Swagger readers are, too. Once I knew what Lorenzo and Karen were doing, I became a monthly donor. I’m sure what I can afford each month isn’t going to move mountains for them, but every bit helps and it really does all add up.
Because everyone involved with Animal AID are volunteers, there’s really no overhead. All the money raised goes towards saving dogs. The average cost to save a dog through Animal AID is roughly $50. Just $50 to save one pup’s life! Do you know what the average cost to save a life through a large organization is? About $500. We have an amazing and affordable opportunity.
So, here’s my challenge to you. Let’s save a dog! If we do this together, we can make even more of a difference. For each of us that donates $50 to the Save A Dog Challenge, you will undoubtedly feel great about what you just did. An extra bonus, is Animal AID will post your picture and give you a shout out on Facebook, and you’ll receive a photo of the dog you saved, so you can put a face to your donation and know this particular dog is on its way to a good life. You can also post the pic, tweet about it, and generally tell the world you’ve become an Animal AID sponsor and show the dog’s life you just saved. Pretty cool, right? If $50 is a bit of a stretch, no worries. Donate what you can. $35.00 provides food, vaccines, worming and flea protection for one dog. Any amount you can do will help. Click on the Animal AID banner just below to donate.
Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Karen Talbot and the team of amazing volunteers who work with them are truly walking the walk of animal rescue. The conscious and caring movement of animal lover volunteers they have created is making a difference every day for innocent dogs who, by no fault of their own, have found themselves in a kill shelter. If you didn’t need a box of tissues watching the video above, I went through enough for us both. 🙂 When I see something like this, I feel like I want to get on the Amazing Grace Caravan and do something. Until that day, I can donate to the cause and help spread the word.
Do you have a rescue story? I’d love to hear it in the Comments below.