Megan and Jeff Carter do their part to make sure rescue dogs find their “forever” homes
Meet the pack leaders.
- Written byRich Thomas
- Photographed byJeff Berting
Every animal lover has an origin story—some type of childhood event or impactful relationship that galvanized their connect-ion to the fuzzy and less fortunate. For Megan Carter it started with a grandmother who encouraged her involvement in animal rescue.
When Megan was a little girl, the two would often take supplies to shelters in their hometown just outside State College, Pennsylvania, and volunteer their time with the animals—feeding them and taking them on walks. But that appreciation turned into impassioned advocacy when Megan went to a breeder in Central Pennsylvania to purchase her first dog at the age of 22.
At the time she wasn’t educated on the brutality of puppy mills, but what she saw shocked and disgusted her. The owner led her to a broken-down shed in the backyard, its inside packed with wire cages stacked on top of each other with little more than bits of shredded newspaper serving as liner. The dogs on the bottom were covered in the excrement of those above them. It was early February, and the temperatures were in the mid-30s.
“We left with only one puppy because that’s all they let us take,” Megan remembers. “We called the police the next day, and they actually did end up getting shut down. That was my first experience with seeing the way in which those animals are treated.”
Megan and her husband, Jeff Carter, who plays centerman for the Los Angeles Kings, have been involved with animal rescue and advocacy for the majority of the time they’ve lived in the South Bay—beginning with Megan’s early volunteer work with shelter and rescue group NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles). Their involvement with West L.A.-based Wags & Walks started in 2013 when the company was still in its infancy and working in founder Lesley Brog’s garage in West Los Angeles. To date Wags & Walks has saved more than 4,000 dogs, a statistic they proudly display on their homepage.
“The Carters have been loyal supporters of Wags & Walks since the early stages,” says Lesley. “Our team was so small when we first started saving dogs, and Megan was instrumental in helping us launch our foster program and grow our community of supporters. Megan and Jeff have been so kind to our organization and have helped us develop a relationship with the Los Angeles Kings that ultimately led to a sponsorship.”
The Learning & Enrichment Center, unveiled in January and sponsored by the Kings organization, is a dedicated space at Wags & Walks headquarters where people can learn about adoption, volunteering and humane education. The Kings also host regular supply drives at home games, created the “We Are All K-9s” player/pet calendar in 2015—proceeds have benefitted various animal-related nonprofits—and host the Pucks for Pups charity hockey game, featuring various celebrities and notable NHL alums.
“There are many dogs in shelters that are there through no fault of their own. They may have been lost, a family may HAVE been fInancially unable to care for them … the list of reasons goes on. These dogs deserve to f ind their forever homes.”
When the Wags & Walks Adoption Center had its grand opening earlier this year, the Carters were front and center. Though Jeff’s schedule makes it difficult for him to be present at all functions, he helps Megan find foster homes online when he can.
“He’s never had more than the koi fish that lived in his dad’s pond,” jokes Megan. “He’d never walked a dog before, so he had to learn how to take care of a pet. Our oldest dog is 11, and she takes the pre-game naps with him. They’re best buddies.”
That oldest is Miley, the dog Megan rescued from the puppy mill in Pennsylvania. Then there’s Mack, a 5-year-old Shih Tzu-Yorkie mix who was en route to a shelter before the Carters took him in. And there’s Bo who has, among other disabilities, a double front leg deformity, a back deformity, skin problems, hearing problems and is completely blind in one eye. After fostering countless dogs, the Carters decided Bo was the one destined to become a part of their family. “He completes the pack,” she says.
With 2-year-old son Caden and 1-year-old daughter Emersyn ruling the roost, the Carters have less time to foster these days. But they’ve helped cultivate a strong network of Kings players who are equally passionate about the cause, including Tyler and Cat Toffoli and Jake and Courtney Muzzin, who adopted their Saint Bernard, Daryl, from a rescue called Sunny Saints.
“None of them are really from here, so they’re not familiar with the pet overpopulation problem in L.A.,” says Megan of the Kings players. “I think for them to be able to see what we do at these events but also see our center and follow us on social media, it’s really opened a lot of their eyes.”
Equally important for the Carters—and for Wags & Walks—is to change the mindset that rescue dogs are damaged goods or castoffs with hidden behavioral problems just waiting to manifest themselves once they find a home. “There are many dogs in shelters that are there through no fault of their own,” stresses Megan. “They may have been lost, a family may have been financially unable to care for them … the list of reasons goes on. These dogs deserve to find their forever homes.”
Strip back all the galas and fundraisers and celebrity endorsements, and what’s left are compassion and education—arguably the cornerstones of every rescue operation. For the Carters, building that network of volunteers and joining together all the satellite entities that are associated with rescue—trainers, walkers, vets, kennels and retail businesses like Healthy Spot in Manhattan Beach—has become paramount to their involvement in the South Bay community. Once the Carter children are old enough to engage in the same activities and create the same lasting bonds that Megan and her grandmother did back in Pennsylvania, the cycle of compassion will undoubtedly continue.
Follow Wags & Walks on Instagram @wagsandwalks and learn how you can become involved in animal rescue and fostering.