Anita Carswell was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, and survived Hurricane Camille in 1969 which was a Category 5 at landfall, while many people perished. When volunteering opportunities arose to help animals after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was like a summons from the universe. Even though she had been living in California since elementary school, Anita flew back and rescued animals for two weeks and personally fostered and adopted two cats she rescued on that trip who still live with her to this day.
As a child, when asked what she wanted to do with her life, Anita’s answer was always, “help animals” even though she did not know exactly how she would turn that into her life’s work. In high school, she realized if she did not help, no-one else would when dozens of fish became stranded after a storm flushed them from the ocean into puddles on the dirt fields around her high school. By the third day of passing by them on her way home from school, she knew she had to help. She pulled them out of puddles and took them home in garbage bags from the handlebars of her bike, later taking the car with only her learner’s permit to the ocean to release them into the wild.
In 1986, Anita became vegetarian after reading about how animals are treated by the meat industry, and vegan in 1987. She started a college animal rights group with a fellow student and now cherished friend, then attended demos and animal rights related events in Southern CA for almost ten years as a volunteer. She risked arrest at several fur demonstrations before moving up north to work for IDA. Anita could not turn down animals in need, and one trip to the city shelter looking for a lost cat, saw her bringing home four that would have been killed that night. When she moved up to Northern CA, she brought nine cats, and a crow with a bandaged wing she was rehabilitating with her.
On the weekends for almost ten years, Anita did weekly fur demonstrations in front of Neiman Marcus, educating thousands upon thousands of people with a small group of devoted activists. Falsely accused of vandalism at the store, she fought a false arrest, and a federal grand jury in 2000 to continue her right to protest in front of the store.
She also spent months persuading the San Francisco County Jail to adopt a vegan meal policy for vegan activists jailed for protests when her partner at the time was jailed for six months for activism and was denied vegan food.
Upon hearing that many small animals in San Francisco were killed for lack of homes, Anita agreed to adopt rats because they like to pile together and live in large groups. Anita has rescued over a hundred rats from hoarding situations over the years, and still cares for a half dozen as well as several cats, and also newly adopted were two recently dumped Easter rabbits found in the marshland behind IDA headquarters.
Most recently, Anita helped a wonderful high school student, Brandon Yanak, make Parma, Ohio become Ohio’s first Guardian City. She then set about working on the city where she lives, and made Richmond, CA a Guardian City in 2012.
Anita is IDA’s Guardian Campaign Director, but works on companion animal issues, as well as office operations issues.