Allie Rizzo is known to many as a model, writer, and mother. However, on top of all her responsibilities, she is also an animal advocate and spends her time visiting shelter dogs, while understanding their unique stories. Oftentimes, shelter dogs come from tragic backgrounds, where they may have suffered abuse and neglect. To give context on the topic, animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. All animal cruelty is a concern because it is wrong to inflict suffering on any living creature. Intentional cruelty is a particular concern because it is a sign of psychological distress and often indicates that an animal either has already been a victim of violence or might be predisposed to committing acts of violence. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world. The ASPCA organization was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law. From her experiences as a board member of ASPCA, Allie was able to take her learnings and expand on her company Mother of Dogs, which aims to provide attention to shelter animals in the United States.
Allie has been heavily involved in the animal rescue world for years, as she served as the associate vice chair of the ASPCA'S largest fundraiser for the Bergh Ball at the Plaza Hotel for seven consecutive years. The Bergh Ball is a cornerstone of the ASPCA’s fundraising efforts to directly impact the lives of homeless, abused and vulnerable animals across the country. The event attracts over 350 animal lovers, including community leaders, generous donors and celebrities, and raises critical funds to support the ASPCA’s life-saving work for animals nationwide. Moreover, her responsibilities included hosting multiple events for the humane society. In 2019, she collaborated with active wear brand Bandier to create a pro-rescue line that donated one hundred percent of all proceeds to local NYC animal rescues. Additionally, Allie co-chaired To The Rescue! LA Gala. It was held in LA on the New York lot of Paramount Studios, and it was a fundraiser for the Humane Society of the United States, to benefit a Farm Animal Protection Campaign. Many notable celebrities were in attendance such as Steven Tyler, Jon Bernthal, Kate Mara, Zendaya, Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalderturned to commemorate a night of celebration and advocacy for the better treatment of farm animals.
Her most notable rescue was when she toured a public shelter in Miami-Dade County, Florida, when she saw something quite abnormal: shelter workers were pushing a dog around on a rolling cart. Shortly, she learned that the dog’s name was Arie, a nine month old dog. He was so timid and lethargic that he refused to walk anywhere, as a matter of fact any movement from doors, people, or other dogs prompted him to freeze. Allie explains that “It was as if whoever had him previously locked him alone in a crate for 24 hours a day without any interaction with anything or anyone.” Since Arie couldn’t walk, shelter workers had to wheel him around in a cart. Living in the high-kill shelter, it was clear to Allie that the young dog wouldn’t last more than a week there. On her flight home, Allie’s thoughts were consumed with pictures she had taken of Arie. Soon, she called a volunteer, and requested to take Arie into a boarding facility and get him fully vetted. Arie was welcomed into Allie’s Virginia home with open arms, and he started to slowly acclimate to a life outside his crate and the shelter. Allie created a few special areas throughout the home to ensure that Arie felt safe, and was by his side throughout the day to help Arie build the strength needed to take on the world. She carried him around almost everywhere, even as a full grown dog. Even in comfortable situations, Arie was so scared from his past trauma that he had a tough time trying to function. Allie explains that “We try to go for a walk and he would see a bush and try to hide under it,” Rizzo said. “He was more shut down than we could have ever imagined.”
Allie lives part-time in New York City, and she brought Arie with her, so a friend could help foster him. Soon, the friend arranged for trainers to come to the home each day to work with Arie, which still didn’t ease Arie. After that, Allie connected with Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR) in Pennsylvania. Specializing in rehabilitating dogs with emotional trauma from situations like puppy mills or hoarding cases, MLAR took Arie in and created an individual training program for him centered around positive experiences and the chance to choose to be with people. Once Arie was settled in, he started shy dog and homeschool classes, which help dogs gain confidence through specialized training in a “mock home” setting. Arie learned how to solve special puzzles, and alongside other dogs, got acclimated to sights and sounds that one would typically find in a home — like the noise an empty water bottle makes if someone drops it. After receiving specialized training, arie started to feel better and a family eventually took him in.
As Allie looks back, she can’t help but have gratitude for the significant progress Arie has made since she opened her home to the then-broken dog just a few days before Christmas. It’s incredible to see the level of progress he has made in just one year and see the impact she has made in one dog’s life. Her goal is to continue to advocate for animals and provide them with the support needed to thrive and flourish.