Animal Protection > AR Interviews

Leo Grillo
Founder, D .E.L.T.A. Rescue
(Dedication & Everlasting Love to Animals)

Gimme Shelter in Santa Claria Magazine

Actor/Producer Leo Grillo rescues abandoned dogs and cats in the wilderness areas of Los Angeles.

When Leo Grillo moved to Los Angeles from Boston in 1977, he was ramping up his career as a film actor. Less than two years later he had a second passion in life.

One day, while driving to Bakersfield to visit a friend, Grillo spotted a lone Doberman walking along a ridge in the Angeles National Forest, hungry, thirsty and tired. Grillo stopped his car, called to the dog and continued his drive with the dog in his lap. He named the dog "Delta," the first of thousands of animals that Grillo made it his mission to rescue.

Now Grillo heads D.E.L.T.A. (Dedication & Everlasting Love to Animals) Rescue, the largest no-kill, care-for-life animal shelter in the world and the only organization in the country that rescues animals abandoned in the wilderness.

In Acton, its 94-acre Supershelter houses over 1,500 dogs and cats. The dogs at this huge sanctuary are paired off in hundreds of yards with stucco houses, wading pools, and shade covers while cats live in over 40 indoor-outdoor catteries. And all of these animals are here for life. "I used to adopt, and even with the best people, even though our contract said you can't do anything bad to my dog without calling me, don't put this dog down for any reason, they still did it eventually. So I said no more adoptions. These dogs are fine. They've got a hospital, they've got friends. In the summer, they've got swimming pools. They don't need another home. They don't want another home. Here they are safe at last. We tell people to go to the pounds to save a life, they kill beautiful animals there every day."

Years ago Grillo was on a Disney TV show and they asked him, "If you could tell America one thing, what would it be?" "I said, 'Well, you know what? When you see an animal alone somewhere in the wilderness, in a park, campsite, picnic area, campground, on the road, he's not going home. There's no place to go. So don't think if you ignore him he's going to go home. He's hungry; he needs food; he needs to be helped.' That's the basic thing. What I'm doing is that."

Grillo is also very active in the film industry, too, with three production companies. This spring one of his companies, Animals Are People Too, will begin shooting a thriller about the wild horse roundups.

"I want to be an example to other people," he said. People say, 'Holy cow! One guy did this? If he did all this, then I can do that'." And the example caught on. "There are so many more people rescuing animals today."

He does it with help from his wife Stacy, a registered nurse cum veterinary nurse, two full-time veterinarians and a staff of about 60 people who consider their work as important as caring for people. "It's very similar," said Grillo, "The whole goal is to treat animals like people." Every year each animal even gets a huge Christmas stocking. "And then for the next week or so there's, like, 20 treats. They look up at their stocking and wait for their caretaker to give them a treat."

"I do all of this because when I'm out there and I see a dog who is abandoned, what I see is a three-year-old child. She's frightened to death, cold, and hungry. And she will die without my help. That's what I see. So if you saw a three-year-old girl or boy sitting under a tree, crying, all mussed up and cold, what would you do? That's all this is about."

Grillo looks around at the hundreds of dog pens marching across the desert. "There are so many stories," he sighs. "There's a dog with no ears. We call her Whisper." He points to another yard with two old dogs, their snouts and eyebrows faded to white. "Somebody just threw them out. I can't tell you how many I have at home -- the real basket cases who will never get over being dumped like trash." Leo and Stacy also have two daughters -- 17 and three-years-old 'who are also major animal lovers.

D.E.L.T.A. Rescue has an international program that brings people from shelters in other countries to work at the Supershelter in Acton and learn about care, treatment and medications for animals. "We take what we do and share it with the rest of the world, and we bring their medical people over here for up to 18 months. They go back with new knowledge, new medicine and new techniques," said Grillo. "We had a nurse come here from India who had never even seen hair clippers!"

The Supershelter boasts state-of-the-art facilities with two animal hospitals that include dog and cat intensive-care units and a physical therapy and rehabilitation center where animals are treated with deep-tissue-ultrasound, electrostimulation, treadmill and hydrotherapy.

In association with a doctor at UC Davis, D.E.L.T.A. Rescue established the world's first kidney dialysis center for dogs and cats at UC Davis.

"There are no restrictions here on practicing medicine," said Grillo.

"We treat each animal like a person, keeping--him comfortable at all times. Heart disease, cancer, kidney disease and other chronic illness is all treated here. We can track a disease for the life of an animal and because of that, we've even made medical discoveries here."

Grillo will go to any length to rescue an abandoned animal. He once found a family of white dogs in the forest, and he spent 719 days (almost two years) successfully rescuing them.

"I'm the rescuer. But I can't be everywhere. People have to know that dumping an animal in the wilderness is an absolute death sentence for the little guy."

It takes about $6 million a year to run D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, all of which comes from direct mail donations.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please make checks payable to D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, P.O. Box 9, Glendale, CA, 91209 or call (661)269-4010. For more information on the shelter and its operations, visit Dedication & Everlasting Love to Animals (D.E.L.T.A. Rescue) is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, (Tax ID #95-3759277).

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,