Coyotes and parrots are just some of the animals affected by Hollywood strikes

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Benay Karp of Benay’s Bird and Animal Rentals trains one of her coyotes, Chai, for on camera work. Photo courtesy Benay Karp.

Benay Karp has been working with animals on Hollywood sets since the mid 1980s. Her business, Benay’s Bird and Animal Rentals, had just bounced back from the COVID shutdown when writers and actors took to the picket lines, shutting down Tinseltown again. And so, it’s extremely difficult to keep those animals fed and trained — and employees paid. 

“With animals, unfortunately, our bills don't change. We still have an enormous feed bill, we still have vet bills, we have all the care that goes into taking care of our animals,” says Karp.

And those birds, raccoons, possums, foxes, coyotes, and prairie dogs are all waiting for their close-ups. In the meantime, the work continues.

“They [animals] are getting trained …so that they are ready when a job comes in,” says Benay Karp of how she’s spending her downtime during the Hollywood strikes. Photo courtesy of Benay Karp.

“I get up and my day starts at about 6 a.m. I take my coyotes out for walks individually and together before it gets too hot, especially in the summertime … and then come in and start to prepare diets [meals],” says Karp. “I have a fantastic crew of people that come in every day, between 7:00-8:00 and spend hours preparing hundreds of diets for our animals. Cleaning takes several hours for all of the enclosures, and ranch repairs are every single day. There's always something that needs to be repaired or replaced.”

On top of all that: health care of the animals. “Yesterday, I was at the vet for several hours with one of our dogs. Unfortunately, those [visits] don't go away either. And those are a big expense as well.”

L to R: Elliot, Jackie, and Ozzie are staying on top of their game as they wait for the strike to end and the cameras to return. Photo courtesy of Benay Karp.

A member of the Teamsters, Karp shares, “Our insurance is based on the amount of hours you work. You have to have X amount of hours in a certain amount of period of time, or you lose your insurance. And everybody is about to lose their insurance because we're not working for months and months.”

Karp hopes that people remember that the strike is affecting many more people (and animals) than the actors and writers who are getting so much of the attention from the public and press.

“The crew is very overlooked, and all the people that are on the shows that make them happen, the behind-the-scenes, behind-the-camera people who make it happen. But we are all in solidarity. We all believe in the unions. We all want this to end, but we understand what's happening.”