She gives voice to arguably the most famous pony on television right now, but Tara Strong (a.k.a. Twilight Sparkle from Discovery Family’s My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) is quick to speak up for another species who needs a voice.
With Easter quickly approaching, the actress — who has two rescue bunnies in her brood of pets — is vocal about the upsetting trend of buying rabbits around the holiday, and, as it often happens, discarding them soon after.
“This shelter that I got [mine] from had them every single year,” Strong tells PEOPLE of her bunnies Stasha and Potato. “Some jerks bought the bunnies for pictures with their children for Easter and then dumped them off at shelters. Horrible. So they now have a giant pen in my yard. People are like, ‘Your bunny’s condo is nicer than my house. We have like a heated house for them, we spoil them very badly.’ “
Before bringing a bunny home, Strong would have you strongly consider this: “If you don’t have the space to make a proper inclosure, don’t get one,” she says. “If you don’t have the idea in your head that it could be a commitment of 18 years, don’t get one.”
Like cats, bunnies can be quirky and don’t like to be carried around, despite what people assume. Bunnies also require more room than a cage. “Just make sure you have the space for them,” she says. “Potato, for some reason he stayed small, but that’s not always the case. Bunnies can get big; people keep them in these little hamster cages, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Strong’s fluffy pair are exceedingly cozy inside the large enclosure at her L.A. home and have a unique, affectionate relationship with her two dogs, Latke, a rescue, and Reese, a Bernese mountain dog (but, she stresses, rabbits don’t always get along with other animals, or children, who tend to want to snuggle them).
“My dogs love them,” she says. “but the problem with Latke is that she kisses them non-stop and it drives them crazy. If I have them both out at the same time Latke will just not stop kissing them, it’s really, really, really cute.”
As you’d expect of a woman who plays a pony, cuteness is a constant in Strong’s life. “I can’t remember not having a pet in my lifetime,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m completely obsessed with animals, my children and I are all vegan.”
Strong has used her pony powers to raise money for lots of groups, including the Wildlife Learning Center, a zoological park in Sylmar, California, that is home to many abandoned and injured animals. In 2013, she helped raise funds for a new veterinary suite there.
“The pony fans alone raised $40,000 so they could build their own vet clinic,” she says. “We had a signing, myself, and [My Little Pony creator] Lauren Faust and Melissa McCarthy came and we did a signing with Pony stuff and everything. It was funny, outside the gates they’ve never seen that kind of group, it was all Bronies!”
A Brony, for the uninformed, is an adult male fan of MLP and Strong says her connection with all her dedicated fans, runs deep. Many of them learn through Twitter of her animal causes and donate to get involved.
“Twitter is such an amazing resource. I’ve raised over $200,000 for kids with cancer, probably $100,000 for animals,” she says. “I’ll do like a blitz where I’ll say, if you donate $5 dollars right now to this charity, I’ll pick five people — screen shot it to me that you donated — and I’ll take five people for an autograph. And if you think about it, I have almost 300,000 followers, so if everyone’s donating $5 bucks, it’s not a bad thing.”
Strong applauds her fans’ passion for getting involved in causes that she cares about. “You know a lot of these kids don’t have a lot of money but they feel like they’re contributing and so I think for me, personally, social media/twitter has been the most effective for really getting people to be involved and to donate and have an awareness about animal cruelty and just helping save animals everywhere that they can,” she adds.
While her bunny love is real, the star has her sights set on rescuing another dog right now. A friend is taking her to Marc Ching’s Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation, which saves dogs from the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, China.
“I know my husband’s going to kill me because I’m going to grab one of those dogs,” she says. “Sometimes you just have to go, ‘Honey, I found [this dog] on the street’ — good lie!”
To learn more about the responsibilities of bunny ownership, visit PETA’s website. The seventh season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic begins Saturday, April 15 at 11:30a/10:30c on Discovery Family.