When she is not advocating for quality-of-life standards for dogs living in commercial breeding situations or working to strengthen the enforcement of animal cruelty laws, you might find her rescuing 98 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels from a puppy mill. This lawyer, mom, dog lover and animal advocate talks about the difference between being fearless and walking through your fear. We are pleased to welcome today’s FACE of Birmingham, Angie Ingram!
Tell us a bit about how you found out about the puppy mills and that undertaking.
Our local Cavalier rescue group had learned that 98 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were in a bad situation that was getting more and more urgent. In November 2014, I was part of a group of volunteers that helped to rescue them from an auction in Missouri. This enormously moving and meaningful experience — seeing these dogs go from a shocking state of neglect and mistreatment to forever homes where they are happy and loved — motivated me to do something about the horrific problem of puppy mill breeding. It was then that I began legal research about puppy mills and local and federal law.
What did you learn?
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills across the nation. To maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, breeding females are often killed. And Alabama is home to many puppy mills and backyard breeders that put profit over the welfare of dogs. Through this experience I also founded the Alabama Puppy Mill Project.
Tell us more about that role and the work you do to advocate for animals.
As the director of animal welfare for Cavalier Rescue of Alabama and founder of the Alabama Puppy Mill Project, my goal is to use my legal background and skills to help educate people in ways that help companion animals and the people who love them, while ensuring that proper commercial breeding standards are in place to prevent dogs and cats from suffering in puppy mill situations in our own state.
I would also like to make some positive change in finding a way to better enforce the existing animal cruelty laws across Alabama. Too often, animal abusers are not held accountable in this state because law enforcement lacks the resources to bring animal cruelty cases to fruition. It would be wonderful to see a statewide animal cruelty task force put in place that is professionally trained in animal law enforcement.
Tell us about your legal practice.
Much of my 21-year legal career has been in creditor and landlord-tenant law. My new law firm opened this year, and our practice areas include both landlord-tenant law and animal law. I am one of a few attorneys in Alabama practicing animal law, so education is a major part of my job. Animal law may include both civil and criminal law. I love what I am doing and am passionate about the pets and people that our firm serves.
When did your love for animals begin, and why Cavalier King Charles Spaniels?
I have always been an animal lover and grew up primarily around cats. We still have two 12-year-old Himalayan cats, Sammie and Gracie. My children are now grown and around 2012, I began to really experience the empty nest. We lived in downtown Birmingham, and I kept noticing so many people with their dogs sitting outside at cafes and walking everywhere. At some point, I spotted someone with a beautiful little Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and it really caught my attention. I was smitten. I did a lot of research on the breed and discovered they were the perfect dogs for condo living and were bred to be lap dogs. That year, my husband and I adopted Nick, my beautiful Blenheim Cavalier. We later added Jack, Kirby and now Victor.
What is most challenging about your job?
Sometimes it is hard to hear criticism. Megyn Kelly from Fox News recently gave a speech at Variety’s Power of Women Luncheon and talked about how some have used the word “fearless” to describe her. She said, “Fear is normal. The goal is not to get rid of it, the goal is to walk through it.” She continued, “I worry, I have fear, I have self-doubt, I have insecurities, I have cellulite. I don’t want to lose or fail or embarrass myself any more than the next gal, but I’m willing to take the risk of doing all that and more for a chance to make my life sing.”
I identify with Megyn’s sentiments. I’ve seen firsthand how the power of social media allows so many positive things and allows people to connect. However, I’ve also seen firsthand how it can become a platform for simple disagreements to turn into online bullying. I know what that feels like, and it’s hard. However, you stick to your convictions and get up every day and keep doing what you’re doing.
What is most rewarding?
Educating people about animal law. And I love the reaction I get when I speak to someone about what I do, and they seem so excited that I have chosen this area to focus on as part of my profession.
What do you love most about Birmingham?
After traveling to many places, I’ve learned that it is always nice to come home to Birmingham. We have so much to explore right here in our beautiful city. The people of Birmingham are true Southerners, and I love how everywhere you go we all talk to each other — it’s the polite thing to do, and it certainly makes life so much easier. Plus, it’s very dog friendly!
What upcoming local event are you most looking forward to?
Do Dah Day [which took place May 14]
Any hidden gems in Birmingham that you think locals should check out?
We lived downtown for almost nine years in the John Hand Building. I loved our nightly walks with the dogs down to Urban Standard for a chai latte and talking to people along Second Avenue North. There was always someone outside with their dogs, people at Collins Bar and El Barrio and lots of activity.
Favorite local restaurants?
Bistro 218 and Trattoria Centrale — They have the best brunch and French toast!
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Take even more time to enjoy your children while they’re still at home. They grow up so fast.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
My dad has always been a hard worker. He raised my sister and me and taught me about having a strong work ethic and that you can do and achieve anything if you work hard enough and always do the right thing.
What are your must-have style staples?
A classic, structured handbag that can go from the office to court to dinner, with plenty of room for legal folders and a few dog treats; chic flats (Try walking four dogs in four-inch heels!); and Jazzy J Designs collars and leashes. We don’t go anywhere without them.
What is your best piece of advice?
Don’t stress the small things. I still need to learn to take my own advice.
With the exception of faith, family and friends, what are three things that you cannot live without?
My dogs, chai lattes and my husband and daughter would say my iPhone.
And thank you to Laura Jett Walker of Jett Walker Photography for the gorgeous photos of Angie and her pups at her home.
StyleBlueprint is heading to Charlotte, NC, this spring. We currently serve Atlanta, Birmingham, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and our regional Southern Edition. We can’t wait to share the best of Charlotte and the South with even more readers! Sign up here to be among the first to know when SB Charlotte launches.