2012-07-13 / People


Activist puts animals at forefront
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Don Kimball Don Kimball South Portland animal advocate Don Kimball casts a pretty wide net. He has been involved in animal rights organizations from Maine to New Mexico, and has taken on issues from clubbing baby seals in Canada to mountain lion hunting in California.

Kimball said he has considered focusing on one or two issues to avoid “getting so spread out,” but he said that’s not his style. “It’s just the way my life is, I see so many issues and so much out there.”

This summer, Kimball said the most important animal issue on most Maine pet owners’ minds should be preventing their pet from over heating. He said it doesn’t take long for a dog in a hot car to overheat.

“In the Hannaford parking lot today, if you drive around the parking lot with the windows down and your radio off and listen, you may hear a dog in distress. I talk to the guys always, I always talk to the baggers and tell them to keep their eye out,” Kimball said.

Kimball is a member of a small organization called the Society for Peace and Justice for Animals, a group composed of a handful of people scattered between Maine and New Mexico that aims to prevent animal cruelty. He said for the most part, cruelty is not intentional.

“Five percent or 10 percent I’m guessing would be actually people that are sick and really hurting animals intentionally,” he said.

The work Kimball does investigating cases of cruelty in Maine is on his own. He will work off a phone call, tip or newspaper article. But he has been involved with other larger organizations around the state. He served on the board of directors for Maine Friends of Animals and volunteered at the Buxton Animal Shelter.

He said encouraging pet adoption is another priority for animal activists in Maine.

“Every time you buy an animal from a pet store, that’s one less animal that’s in the shelter that could be adopted,” Kimball said. “

“You’re not supposed to really spend too much time with any one particular animal because they all have needs but you have your favorites. I mean, you see them every day ... and it’s wonderful when somebody came (to adopt), but it was kind of mixed feelings because you get close to them and someone would come adopt them.”

Kimball started his career as an animal advocate in 1990 when he was living in California. There, as a self-described “tree-hugger,” he worked with the Sierra Club to preserve the redwood forest, which he called an “outdoor cathedral.” Through that organization, Kimball got involved in an effort to stop hunters from killing mountain lions.

Around the same time, Kimball decided to become a vegetarian and later to become a vegan. He said loving animals and eating meat is akin to someone saying, “I love trees but I’m a logger.”

Kimball grew up in Massachusetts and, in the 1970s, served for four years in the Air Force at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. The lifestyle change was drastic, but it was a change “hopefully in the right direction,” Kimball said.

Kimball has lived in Maine for 10 years and has family in New England, but he said he plants to head west once again in the near future. The reason, Kimball said, is there are simply more animal issues to fight for.

“I lived up in the mountains east of Albuquerque (N.M.), and it was like practically every day we seemed to be rescuing dogs. One time we got a tip that someone was hoarding dogs in the national forest. We went up there and they had over 20 animals chained to trees. And this was in the middle of winter.”

Kimball said culture accounts for the differences in animal cruelty on each coast. Certain sections of Hispanic culture promote dog fighting, he said. But that’s not all he will focus on. He also said owners often abandon their animals in transient cities like Las Vegas, or even at roadside hotels and in airports.

It would be easy for Kimball to be overwhelmed. But when Kimball talks about spaying and neutering pets, vegetarianism, boycotting fur and fighting animal cruelty, the last thing he seems to be worried about is spreading himself too thin.

Neighbors is a weekly profile that features a community member from South Portland or Cape Elizabeth. Know someone you would like to see featured in the Sentry? Contact Jack Flagler at news@inthesentry.com.

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