Lori Kirshner, MD, spends her free time teaching others about animals and working to improve their treatment.
Desert Paws began as a group supporting other local animal groups by giving grants for equipments, supplies, and projects.
"Now, the primary mission of Desert Paws is education," Dr. Kirshner said.
"The Desert Paws Animal Discovery and Education Center will be a unique and exciting center that entertains and educates children and their families about the world of animals," Dr. Kirshner said. It will include age-appropriate, hands-on exhibits and will host lectures, films, class trips, after-school, and summer programs.
"It will be reminiscent of a conventional children's museum, but with a focus on animals and their environment," she said.
Board members include Dr. Kirshner's husband, Peter Spiegel, MD, who is her partner in their Palm Desert, CA, practice, Focus on You, as well as entertainer and animal lover Barry Manilow.
Dr. Kirshner, a native of Los Angeles, said she always has felt a strong compassion for animals, but seeing animal abuse when she moved to the desert, she felt compelled to initiate change.
"I see animal abuse everywhere-not just individuals abusing their pets, but by companies, rodeos, circuses, and the meat industry . . . and much of it is for human pleasure or entertainment.
"When you teach respect and compassion for living creatures, I feel this makes children better people and has a positive impact on their behavior throughout life," she said.
Getting the word out
The local newspaper is one medium Dr. Kirshner uses to advocate for animals. Desert Paws sponsors a monthly ad that features pets available for adoption at local shelters.
She also brings her passion for animals to the airwaves, hosting a weekly radio show called "Animals Today" on KPSI ( http://www.animalstodayradio.com/). Featured guests have included attorneys involved with legal cases regarding the circus, dog-fighting cases, and even pet trusts. Authors and producers of the Nature Channel and PBS animal shows have been guests on the show, as have ethologists, veterinarians, and marine biologists, discussing topics not often heard on radio.
At home, Drs. Kirshner and Spiegel have three dogs and two cats-all rescued animals. She also finds time to enjoy vegetarian cooking, weighlifting, and spending time in the outdoors running or hiking.
"As a married couple sharing an ophthalmology practice and a passion for animals, we are together much of the day," Dr. Kirshner said. "It's like an ongoing conversation about eyes and animals (with a little bit of political analysis, too). We really enjoy the challenges and rewards of being ophthalmologists. But we also want to better the plight of the animals by inspiring people to think about them and to act compassionately and responsibly toward them."