Star turns heads at animal shelter

Linda Blair has spent decades fighting for animals

Penny Stone

Penny Stone

Canines and their human caregivers at the Victoria branch of the B.C. SPCA recently had stars in their eyes, or rather, one star in particular.

Linda Blair, child star of the 1973 film, The Exorcist, toured the animal shelter Friday afternoon before attending a Victoria Film Festival screening of her classic horror movie that night, as well as a reception Saturday night.

While at the shelter, she met 10-month-old Elmer, a mastiff born with three legs, and Angelina, a 10-year-old terrier-chihuahua cross, who was recently rescued from a life spent breeding in a puppy mill.

“Not only are we creating an overpopulation, but not all of the animals will find homes unless people know and can help support the work of the SPCA, and to stop the backyard breeders and encourage people to come and adopt and not to shop,” said Blair, a vegan.

For the past 30 years, she has championed for abused and neglected animals. Today, animals are rescued and rehabilitated through her non-profit Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation in southern California.

It was actually her life-changing experience playing a child possessed by a demon in The Exorcist that would prepare her for her eventual real-life role as an animal advocate. She said she learned how to put up mental walls to handle emotional pain.

“I had to survive one of the most controversial films of all time,” Blair said. “I was judged. I was ridiculed. There was a lot of prejudice placed on me by many because of (my) being the devil (in the film).”

Blair is the first celebrity to visit the Victoria shelter, which branch manager Penny Stone hoped would help the animals that live there.

It is 100-per-cent-reliant on donations to provide for 100 cats, 30 dogs, 80 rabbits and 30 guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice and chinchillas until they are adopted.

“For a lot of people it’s about her work in film, but for me it’s about her work with animal organizations,” said Stone. “It’s great she’s hands-on in the trenches, but it’s also great even when the celebrities lend their name because it makes a huge difference.”

For details on Blair’s animal advocacy work, please visit www.lindablairworldheart.org, www.borninnocent.net, or visit the Victoria branch of the B.C. SPCA at www.spca.bc.ca/victoria.