Best known as the brash and brutally honest half of KISS FM’s nationally syndicated Johnjay & Rich Morning Show, Johnjay Van Es is also making a name for himself as an advocate for homeless pets. When he’s not working, exercising or binge-watching Friends, the father of three and his family foster pets in need and help them find forever homes through Johnjay’s seven million listeners and his social media channels—which inspire pet adoption awareness using the hashtag “LovePup.”
Just like us at PetSmart Charities, Johnjay’s roots are planted in Phoenix, Arizona. Though the Johnjay & Rich Morning Show enjoys a national following, the Arizona native plans to stay grounded in The Valley of the Sun—great news for dogs and dog lovers across the city which continues to rank among the highest in homeless pet population. We chatted with the radio star (post-workout and mid-meal, of course) about #lovepup and helping pets in need.
How did your involvement with pet rescue begin?
When I was a kid, if I found a stray I’d keep it and bring it home. My parents would get mad and I’d have to find a home for the dog. Then, I met my wife, Blake, and she’s a huge dog lover too. Now, we have three kids and five rescue dogs at home.
How did your rescue efforts evolve?
About a year ago, somebody called my wife about a stray Chihuahua they found in an alley, we took in the Chihuahua as a foster and posted the dog’s picture on my Instagram. Within seconds, people were messaging me about adopting her. It was crazy! While looking through each person’s Instagram profile and history, I saw a really nice couple. They had about 100 weeks of pictures of their travels, hanging out at home and spending time with family, but most of all. I noticed they brought their dog with them everywhere. They seemed perfect, and when we met, they were amazing.
I thought, “Wow, I’m really good at this, I found the best family for this dog.” The next day I shared the story on the radio and that opened up the floodgates. All of a sudden, I’m getting calls from people who have found dogs, need to rehome a dog or want to adopt a dog. So, we’re constantly rescuing dogs, at one point, I had 14 dogs at my house that needed homes. We’ve rescued and found homes for about 150 dogs. If they need to be spayed, neutered or need any veterinary care, shots or surgeries, I cover those expenses.
Tell us about the #LovePup mission
It started with #LoveUp about a year ago. I want to start a movement where people do something nice for others everyday. I asked people to share their stories using the hashtag “LoveUp.” At the same time, I was saving dogs and talking about it on the radio so people naturally started tagging it #LovePup. Today, #LoveUp is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization., #LovePup isn’t yet, but, I’m working on making it an official charity so we can help even more pets. In the meantime, I help match dogs with people through Instagram. I vet potential adopters through their social profiles before meeting them.
What characteristics are you seeking?
Basically, I look for people that have a history of doing good things. If you’re drinking and partying all the time, you’re probably not going to get the dog.
What role do your wife and kids play in all of this?
I couldn’t do this without my wife, Blake. She’s amazing. I bring dogs home and she takes care of them, feeds them, gives them eye drops, tick baths, anything they need. She’s out there meeting potential pet adopters when I’m on the air and then helps drop off dogs at their new homes. The kids are also involved; it’s a big family project.
How do you inspire your kids to be future animal advocates?
It’s so important for my kids to be well-balanced human beings and gentlemen. If they know how to love animals and they see their mom and dad loving animals I think they’ll grow up to be solid guys. I heard this on Oprah once, she said “Values are caught not taught.” So my wife and I show them how we love on each other and we love on our dogs and kids.
Why is pet adoption important to you?
There are so many pets that need homes. Why not adopt and save a dog’s life? I tell people, “Go save a dog from a shelter because that dog will know you saved its life and it will be the best dog you’ve ever had.” I believe that one hundred percent. Here’s the difference between rescue dogs and purchased dogs, rescues are about a week or two away from actually having a human conversation with you. Like my dog Taco, I’ll look at Taco and he looks at me like, “Hey man, can you turn off the TV?” They’re just that connected to you.
Looking to help save homeless pets?
Follow Johnjay and share your #lovepup story on Instagram
Rescue your best friend during National Adoption Weekend
Find unconditional love at any of our Everyday Adoption Centers