Check out our interview with “Home & Family” Pet Rescue Expert Larissa Wohl.
Larissa is a true pet rescue expert with extensive on-camera and production experience. She coordinates and showcases two adoptable animals every day, as well as producing and hosting numerous pet-parent segments on Hallmark Channel’s morning show Home & Family. She’s also part of the networks highly rated programming such as Kitten Bowl, Cat Bowl, American Rescue Dog Show, and Tails of Joy (with the animal rescue Paw Works). Larissa has also become a go-to animal expert as a news anchor, field reporter and journalist.
Follow Larissa at @larissawohl
Hi Larissa, please tell us a little about you?
Hello! My name is Larissa and I’m the on-camera Pet Rescue Expert for Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family.” I have a fierce love and passion for helping animals in need and educating others on the importance of adoption!
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Quirky, Empathetic and Tenacious.
What’s your background?
Growing up, my dream was to major in psychology! I’ve always been fascinated by the human mind and how it works. I went down the psychology path until I transferred to San Francisco State and decided to pursue a degree in media. I then switched my major to their “Radio and Television” department and focused my attention on journalism and broadcasting!
When did you start in the business?
After graduation, I moved back to Los Angeles and quickly realized how cutthroat the television news world is. I started working as an intern for a couple semesters, just to get my foot in the door and make some contacts. It was there I received my best piece of advice (which I didn’t want to hear!). My news director told me that if I ever wanted to make it on television, I’d have to leave Los Angeles and move to a smaller market. Of course my family and friends were in Los Angeles, so it was the last thing I wanted to do. But I listened and moved to Tucson, Arizona and started my career as the Morning Traffic Anchor and Reporter for KVOA News!
What is the key to your success?
This is a tough question! I think there are a variety of things that have helped lead me to where I am today.
I definitely credit my years in television news for giving me the practice and foundation I needed for my current job on “Home & Family.” News is extremely challenging and requires long hours that are anything but glamorous. I was an MMJ, which meant I coordinated my own news stories, filmed them, edited them, wrote them, etc… I wore many hats and failure was not an option. It’s a very tough job and taught me everything I know about work ethic, stepping up to the plate and pushing through your limits. While that all may sound scary, I am so thankful to have had all those experiences that helped me get to the place I am today.
The other key to my success is that I get to work with animals and talk about a topic I am SO passionate and excited about. This TRULY makes the world of difference. I absolutely LOVE what I do and look forward to going to work every single day. I know how lucky I am to be able to say that and I NEVER take it for granted! I hope my viewers feel my love and dedication through the television screen and I hope I inspire them as much as humanely possible.
What is fun and rewarding about what you do to for animal advocacy? And what’s not?
I still pinch myself that I get to do what I do. I have my absolute dream job and can only hope it lasts forever! One of the best parts about it is hearing from adopters who have found their furry best friend through our show. I have so many people reach out to me to tell me that the dog/cat they adopted, after seeing them on our show, has changed their lives. It fills my heart with so much joy.
The hardest part of my job is the coordination aspect! We showcase at least 10 animals a week on “Home & Family.” If the animals are local to Los Angeles, we have them come to set in person. If they aren’t, we use video chat to meet them. It’s a lot of fun, but requires a lot of careful logistics and organization!
The other hardest part is something that every rescuer faces. It’s the fact that the world of animal rescue introduces you to the best and worst of humanity. It’s often very upsetting and defeating to hear and see some of the awful stories about animals being neglected, abandoned, abused, etc…
It can really take a toll on you physically and mentally, so it’s very important to celebrate the good and keep on working hard to save as many as you can!
Now what about your work with Hallmark Channel’s “Adoption Ever After” initiative?
I am so honored to be part of “Adoption Ever After.” Hallmark Channel has done such an extraordinary job making it their networks mission to bring awareness to this important topic. It has done so much for homeless animals and the rescue organizations that work so hard to save them. As a network, we have helped more than 50,000 animals find homes and about 1,500 of those have been through “Home & Family.” Those numbers still give me goosebumps. We have a long way to go to finally clear all the shelters, but we’re definitely making strides!
How challenging has been to be doing this?
When we started showcasing adoptable animals on “Home & Family,” I was the only one leading the charge! I coordinated the rescues, planned the schedule, sent the arrival information, shot and edited the footage, etc…
When we decided to start doing two adoptions a day, I was lucky enough to get a GREAT producer to help!
My producer now helps me keep everything coordinated and moving smoothly. There are always rescues that drop out last minute or animals who get adopted, so we are constantly moving things around. But the chaos of all of it is part of the fun!
I also have to say that the ENTIRE team at “Home & Family” has been nothing but 1,000% supportive! Everyone from the Executive Producers to the production assistants are truly there to help us any way we need. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with and I appreciate them so much.
Why animal rescue/adoption content?
Roughly 5-Million amazing animals are euthanized every year around the country and this is just unacceptable to me. These animals have done nothing wrong except be born and they absolutely deserve a second chance! I am so lucky to work for Hallmark Channel, which realizes that this horrible statistic needs to change and that we must be the voice for the voiceless.
Now tell us about your Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family” segment?
In addition to the two segments a day where I showcase adoptable animals on “Home & Family,” I also do weekly segments to help pet parents with numerous issues. Everything from how to adopt at your local shelter, to the best products for traveling with your pet, to ways to help ease anxiety in your pets. I have such a fun time coming up with some of these segments and I truly hope the viewers get something out of them as well.
With regards to Coronavirus, what do you recommend in terms of adoption and animal shelters?
Coronavirus has pushed shelters across the country to work by appointment only. Most rescue groups are also cancelling all their rescue events. That means that there are MANY wonderful animals that need to be adopted, but might not be seen by the public! I highly urge everyone to find out if your shelter is taking appointments and go see if you meet a furry best friend to adopt. Remember that these babies all deserve a family of their own and if you’ve ever contemplated adopting, now is an amazing time.
Many shelters across the country are also in need of fosters right now. If you can be a temporary home until this calms down, that’s another wonderful way to help! Fostering is so rewarding and will help your isolation period feel less lonely.
Any tips for pet owners and what to do during this process?
First of all, I’d love to stress that the World Health Organization has found no evidence that domestic pets can transmit Covid-19 to humans or vice versa. This is extremely important because many people are operating under that belief and are surrendering their animals to shelters out of fear. PLEASE do not abandon your animals. This is a time when they can bring you so much love and happiness and it’s your job to protect them. Please use common sense right now and wash your hands after playing with them, avoid touching other people’s dogs or allowing others to touch yours and don’t share leashes right now.
Please also check on any seniors in your neighborhood and make sure that their pets are ok.
How does it feel to be a popular face for helping the animals?
I never became an animal rescuer for the notoriety. I truly love it and feel it’s my duty in life. I’m thrilled if people connect with that and turn to me for advice and help, but I still get a little embarrassed if I get recognized or anything like that.
What projects are you currently working on?
In addition to Hallmark Channel, I’m always working on my own website, www.SavedByTheL.com and trying to offer a space for people to get important information to help them be the best pet parent they can be. I’m also always looking for foster opportunities to help shelters and rescues in my area. In addition to that, we recently premiered our new special on Hallmark Channel called “Tails of Joy” [featuring the animal rescue Paw Works]. It’s an amazing show that pulls the curtain back on the world of rescue and what goes into it. We had such a fun time filming it and found so many wonderful homes for the featured animals. We are currently working on our second special, which will feature hundreds of dogs from Louisiana who are now living their best lives in rescue groups or their forever homes!
What is your own definition of happiness?
My own definition of happiness is pretty simple. I am happiest when I’m being authentic, working to make a difference and sharing my life with loving people. I don’t need a lot in life to be happy as long as I’m being the best person I can be and speaking my truth!
What is next for Larissa Wohl in 2020?
Great question! I would love to expand our “Adoption Ever After” efforts even more. Our end goal is to clear the shelters, educate our viewers and inspire them to be part of the solution!
Something people don’t know about you?
I think people think I’m very extroverted and outgoing…and while I LOVE to be social and help others, I’m actually very introverted. I love my job and doing what I do, but when I’m done for the day, I am extremely happy to be at home alone with my dogs. I definitely recharge the most when I can relax by myself and just enjoy some quiet time.
Who was your role model as a child?
One of my role models growing up, who I still adore, is Jane Goodall. Her vision, conservation efforts and ability to connect and educate with people about animals and the environment has always been an inspiration to me. She has devoted her entire life to this and I can’t think of anything more special and admirable.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would have to say that my mom would be my answer. She passed away almost 15 years ago and I would love to see her and talk to her now that I’m an adult. I think there’s something very special about being able to interact with your parents from an adult perspective and there are definitely some funny questions I’d have for her now!!
Which project is still on your bucket list?
I would love to do some volunteer vacations at some point. The idea of traveling the country and working with elephants or monkeys enthralls me! It would be so amazing to see them in their environment and interact with such beautiful creatures.
In five years from now, where do you see yourself and your career?
Career wise, I can only hope and pray that I’m still able to do what I do and educate more people about the importance of adopting and saving animals. Personally, I’d love the opportunity to start a family and begin that chapter of my life… Here’s hoping!
Do you support any charities?
Absolutely! I like to support the local animal rescues that I personally know and work with. I find that the smaller rescue organizations do so much work and oftentimes get overlooked when it comes to donations! Please support your small rescues!!
What do you like to watch on TV?
I’m a bit of a “Real Housewives” fanatic! I love shows where I can just turn off my brain and be entertained after a long day! I also LOVE true crime and have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Dateline on NBC.
3 things you can’t leave home without?
My phone, my Burts Bees chapstick, and my lipgloss!
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
My weeks are usually so busy and hectic, that my favorite Sundays are when I can just relax and unwind! I try to leave my Sunday’s pretty open so I can wake up, relax with my pups and do whatever it is I choose. I love the simple things! Reading, going to the beach, going to the Farmer’s Market, playing with the pups, taking a nap, etc…
What do you think of Social Media?
I think I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It is absolutely wonderful for the animal rescue community. So many animals have been saved these days by photos circulating online, which is amazing! Rescuers are now so connected and can band together like never before.
That said, I think social media can also be challenging because you’re constantly being bombarded with the idea of what you should look like, sound like, be doing in life, etc… Sometimes it feels like you never quite measure up, so I try to always remind myself that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and that social media is not always reality!!
Where we can follow you?