Arts & Entertainment

Does Iggygate need a mediator?

Dog (animal)PetsCelebritiesFamilyLinda BlairPersonal Service

Los Angeles may be short on water and free parking, but our city hardly lacks for outspoken animal lovers.

They travel like roving packs in this town, on the beaches and hills among celebrity royalty, and on the flats and in the Valley with the homelier mutts.

Ellen DeGeneres, who finds herself embroiled in an all-out media war with Mutts & Moms co-founder Marina Baktis over a now world-famous scruffy black dog named Iggy, is an animal enthusiast herself.

DeGeneres frequently makes appearances at benefits for various rescues, and when she can't show up because of scheduling conflicts, the talk show host often provides requisite funding and swag.

Given her support of local pet projects, the Hollywood animal rescue community is especially befuddled by Iggygate -- the celebrity dog adoption scandal involving dog and cat fights, a hairdresser, two young pet lovers and a traumatic animal rescue.

Because many local shelters have benefited from DeGeneres' support, local activists say it's difficult to view the celebrity as an enemy.

On the other hand, these rescue groups have rigid and exacting contracts they expect adopters to agree to before taking a dog or cat home.

They say they don't want animals they have rescued and invested time and money in to be placed randomly in homes they haven't vetted.

"I think it is a really sad affair, really a tragedy for just about everyone involved," said Jo Forman, a former costume supervisor for "Frasier" and founder of the Bill Foundation, a dog rescue group based in Beverly Hills. (DeGeneres is an honorary board member of the foundation.)

Forman has worked with DeGeneres and is a colleague and friend of Baktis.

"I feel everyone has made huge mistakes -- Ellen has publicly admitted she made a mistake and was in violation of a contract, and Marina could have handled the situation more sensibly."

Forman said she would like to see DeGeneres, her partner, Portia de Rossi, Baktis and a rescue colleague of her choice sit down with a mediator.

Perhaps by sitting down and talking, the group can overcome any obstacles to getting Iggy back to DeGeneres' hairdresser and her daughters, Forman suggested.

"I would love to see an amicable resolution to this," she said.

"I'm overwhelmed with e-mails about this, people are so upset," said actress Linda Blair, founder of the rescue group Linda Blair World Heart Foundation. "People are asking, 'What can you do? Pease get Ellen's dog back!' It's not my group, I can't. But I feel bad for both sides."

Blair is convinced that Baktis had a problem where a child injured one of her dogs and that's why she is adamant that Iggy cannot go to a home with children.

"She has the right to set her contract and do what she thinks is best for the dogs, but Linda Blair World Heart is more open-minded that there are good children and families that dogs can go to," she said. "I would have liked to help this poor woman because she got herself into a pickle. She made a mistake to not talk to Ellen and not to interview the family."

Marc Rosen, a producer at Rosen-Obst Productions and chairman of Operation Doggy Drop, which helped find homes for dogs that were left behind during Hurricane Katrina, said he was appalled by the situation.

"This is what gives rescue groups a bad name," Rosen said.

"These groups that are trying to do good inherently end up doing ill when they neglect the humane factor," he said. "Ellen is a beacon of support for animal adoptions; now they are souring her against that endeavor."

Rosen said he and his wife have found homes for more than 200 dogs and have stopped dealing with nonprofit rescue groups because of their unbending rules.

"If we have friends who want a dog, we go to the pound or shelter ourselves and recommend dogs to them," he said. "If you adopt from a pound, it's 10 times less the bureaucracy than getting it from a rescue."

Kym Williams, founder of celebritydogwatcher.com, combined her love of dogs with her obsession with celebrities into a blog and has been following the story closely.

Williams is primarily concerned that the hairdresser's children had already bonded with Iggy when Baktis had the dog taken away.

"They are the ones that got hurt in this mess," she said.

Williams said that judging by the comments pouring into her site, her readers are mostly supportive of DeGeneres, sometimes to a fault.

One commenter even went so far as to post Baktis' home number and address, which made Williams uncomfortable. She removed the comment with the address and phone number from the site.

"I don't want to be involved in anything like that," she said.

Like Forman, she is hoping for an amicable resolution.

"Things could still be corrected," she said.

"Baktis just has to swallow her pride and say, 'I overreacted.' She can save face that way."

deborah.netburn@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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