Beth Stern’s passion for animals is in her blood. The wife of shock jock Howard Stern comes from a long line of animal lovers—on her desk sits a picture of her great grandmother with a huge mixed St. Bernard. Stern grew up with a variety of pets in Fox Chapel, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where her family kept an eye out for injured wildlife. “If we found any injured animals in the neighborhood we would call the wildlife rescue rehabilitator and he’d come to our home,” recalled Stern. “Even as a little girl, it was always about saving animals because they deserve to be comfortable too.”
For the past 10 years, the former model has been a national spokeswoman for the largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization in the world, North Shore Animal League America (NSALA). In 2004, Stern was asked to do a runway show modeling couture gowns while holding puppies that were up for adoption from the Port Washington-based NSALA. Proud to donate her time for the cause, Stern didn’t leave the runway until every last puppy was adopted. She then asked if she could volunteer at the center. “I just started spending time there and when they realized I was Howard Stern’s girlfriend, they thought, ‘What a good way to help promote our organization,’” said Stern. “I started doing morning shows on their behalf. But my favorite thing in the world is actually being at North Shore.”
The proud parents of five cats, the Sterns made a pact to adopt adult cats or those with health issues because it’s easier to find homes for kittens. Since June, Beth and Howard have fostered over 50 kittens and cats in their Southampton home until they were ready for adoption. “Howard’s my partner in all of the work that I do,” said Stern. “He loves our cats and picks names for them. He shot the league’s 2014 calendar and has been so instrumental in helping me find homes for the animals by talking about them on his radio show.”
Because cats aren’t adopted as readily as dogs, they spend more time in shelters. But Stern always thought the felines would be more appealing if they were comfortable and happy. Based on the success of an animal sanctuary in Utah, Stern proposed creating a cage-free habitat at NSALA with a wellness center, skylights and tunnels where cats could roam freely and people would see them thriving. The Sterns decided to call the project Bianca’s Furry Friends in honor of their beloved bulldog that passed away two summers ago. “Bianca loved all of the cats that we adopted,” said Stern. “She was just so kind and gracious to all of them that we decided to name it after her.”
Both dogs and cats are currently housed on NSALA’s first floor so the second-floor addition would also free up space for more adult dog and puppy mill rescues. Now all Stern has to do is raise $7 million for the 14,000-square-foot expansion. But the league is halfway there and may soon be able to break ground thanks to generous donations at fundraisers hosted by Stern. Good friend Billy Joel informed her he’s donating all of his earnings from a sold out May 9th birthday show at Madison Square Garden to the cause.
“It just shows Billy’s love and passion for animals,” noted Stern. “His most recent adoption, Rosie, was a special needs pug from the league. He and his girlfriend are incredible adoptive parents to puppy mill rescues.”
In addition to promoting shelter adoptions and going out on rescues with the animal league, Stern works closely with Long Island Bulldog Rescue and transports animals for Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons. “I took a course on transporting injured animals,” said Stern, “and I have my wildlife rescue kit ready to go when I get a call.”
When asked if she would host Hallmark Channel’s first annual Kitten Bowl, Stern knew they needed kittens and asked NSALA to supply the players. Over three million viewers tuned in for the show, which was emceed by legendary Yankees announcer John Sterling and featured Stern’s animal-loving friends Rachael Ray and Regis Philbin. Those who weren’t entertained by Super Bowl XLVIII would have been better off watching the lively Kitten Bowl, where kittens froliced across a customized football field with balls and cat toys. The program was successful in finding homes for all 71 “catheletes.” “I had a blast,” said Stern. “They even gave extra points for cuteness. If they ask me to host it every year for the rest of my life I’m in.”
The proud author of 2010’s 500-page dog manual Oh My Dog can sometimes be seen interviewing celebrities as a special correspondent on ET, but Stern’s heart is in animal advocacy. “I’m just really fortunate that I can spend my days living out my passion to work with animals,” said Stern. “I love being involved with the entire process of adoption and everything North Shore does when I visit each week. It really fulfills me.”
Model and animal activist Beth Stern is trying to raise $7 million for the North Shore Animal League America.
For more information: animalleague.org