La Russa, Tony

Tony La Russa and his wife Elaine are a high profile example of the kind of animal welfare advocacy that is encouraged by the ASPCA. The La Russa's have contributed time, money and celebrity to the cause.

Biographical Highlights

Tony La Russa is one of the best major league baseball managers.  He was named Manager of the Year four times, won a World Series with the Oakland Athletics, and managed Mark McGwire to a home run record.  La Russa won World Series championships in both the National League and the American League, one of only two managers to do this.  His passion for baseball is matched by his love of animals, and the desire to provide a sanctuary for stray and lost pets through his Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).

Historic Roots

Tony La Russa was born in Tampa, FL, in 1944.  He attended high school and college in Tampa, graduating from the University of South Florida with a degree in Industrial Management.  He later completed a law degree at Florida State University, and is a member of the Florida Bar.

After high school, La Russa played professional baseball in the minor and major leagues for the next several years.  In 1963 he appeared in several games for the Kansas City Athletics, but his major league career as a player was not very noteworthy.  After his appointment as manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1979, however, it was evident that he had real talent as a baseball manager.  He managed the Oakland Athletics to two World Series between 1986 and 1995.  In 1996 La Russa moved to the St. Louis Cardinals, where his success as a manager has continued.

Since 1991 La Russa has also been a manager for the Animal Rescue Foundation, (ARF), which he and his wife, Elaine, created in 1991.  ARF began with an incident on the ball field.  During a game in 1990, a cat wandered onto the field in the middle of a game.  The frightened cat eluded capture until La Russa was able to coax it into the dugout, where he made sure the cat was safe and comfortable before resuming the game.  Later he tried to place the cat with a local shelter, but discovered that there was not one No-Kill shelter in the area.  Rather than risk having the cat euthanized, La Russa and his wife took the cat home and found a home for it themselves.

Realizing that public support for animal shelters was inadequate, La Russa and his wife created the Animal Rescue Foundation.  Their goal was to find homes for abandoned animals, advocate pet population control through spay-neuter programs, and to involve people in need with animals in a therapeutic context.  By 1993 ARF had grown from a small local group to a significant non-profit corporation.

In 1994 the La Russas expanded the ARF program to include animal therapy programs for abused children and senior citizens in the San Francisco Bay area.  They see the relationship with companion animals as a two way street.  They believe that the animals give the relationship as much as they receive from it.  ARF has continued to expand its program offerings, and now has several innovative programs operating in Contra Costa County, CA. including:

  • The Emergency Medical Fund, providing services and veterinary care for sick or injured animals whose owners are unable to afford it.
  • The Battered Pet Program, which provides shelter and care for the pets of women who are in shelters because they have experience domestic violence.
  • The Best Medicine Program, which helps terminally ill people provide care for their pets.
  • The Animal Connection Therapy Program, which brings animals into hospital settings and Alzheimer centers to provide therapeutic interaction with the patients.
  • The Teaching Loving Care Program, which helps to provide animal assisted therapy to 20 women who are incarcerated and trying to deal with significant emotional and behavioral problems.


La Russa’s contributions to the welfare of animals were recognized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).  In 2007, he was awarded the ASPCA’s Henry Bergh Award, which is presented annually to an individual who has worked most of their life to improve the health and welfare of animals.

When he is not managing his baseball team, La Russa lives with his wife, two daughters, a rabbit, five dogs, five mice, and fourteen cats at his home in Alamo, CA.  

Importance

Tony La Russa and his wife Elaine are a high profile example of the kind of animal welfare advocacy that is encouraged by the ASPCA.  The La Russa’s have contributed time, money and celebrity to the cause.  Their foundation, the Animal Rescue Foundation performs an important service in the San Francisco-Oakland area, finding homes for animals who need them and making animals available for therapeutic work where it is appropriate.  ARF works with many other groups in the Bay area to further the cause of animal welfare.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

ARF supports the idea of sheltering and adopting animals in need, along with numerous other programs surrounding that activity.  There are several similar organizations which support the same goals, like the Ryan Newman Foundation and The Greg Biffle Foundation.  Each of these groups support animal sanctuary/adoption programs, spay/neuter clinics and education programs.  They also use the celebrity of their founders or sponsors to leverage support among other celebrities and the public at large.  This is an effective model for advocacy of this and similar causes.

Key Related Ideas

  • Animal Welfare:  The compassion and respect due animals as living, responsive beings.  Animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans, and this is not to be left to the compassionate impulses of humans, but is an entitlement that must be protected under the law.
  • Celebrity:  Someone who is famous during his or her own lifetime.  The state of being famous.
  • Shelter:  A safe place where animals who are sick, injured, or in need of a safe home can be taken and cared for.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Ryan Newman:  Newman is a NASCAR racing driver who uses his celebrity to support animal welfare causes through his foundation, the Ryan Newman Foundation.
  • Greg Biffle: is a NASCAR motorsports celebrity who along with his wife, Nicole, endeavors to create awareness and serve as advocates to improve the well-being of animals, through the Greg Biffle Foundation.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • The Greg Biffle Foundation:  This organization supports animal welfare using NASCAR driver Greg Biffle’s fame to motivate potential donors and volunteers to support the cause.  (http://www.gregbifflefoundation.com).
  • The Ryan Newman Foundation:  RNF supports animal welfare, and is especially focused on spay/neuter issues. (https://www.rescueranch.com/.).


Related Web Site

  • https://arflife.org/.  The Animal Rescue Foundation site contains information on the specific programs operated by the organization as well as the La Russa family and their animal related activities.


Bibliography and Internet Sources