Steve Dale's Pet World: Ten Years of National Radio


Ten years of hosting nationally syndicated Steve Dale’s Pet World means that by speaking with four to five phone callers each week, I’ve talked with and hopefully helped well over 2,000 pet owners.

What’s most important are the dozens of email, and return calls from listeners saying that the advice I’ve offered has helped their family, even saved their pet(s).

Pre-dating Steve Dale’s Pet World was another national radio show which I began hosting in May, 2001 called Animal Planet Radio. The association with Animal Planet was fun. Back then there were several pet shows on the TV network, and I was a frequent TV guest. Someone thought it made sense – being a radio dude – that the network (before the era of podcasts) venture into terrestrial radio.

My first producer was Steve Bergman. A couple of years later, Matt Bubala, then John Williams’ producer at WGN Radio, took over.  Steve laid ground work production for the show, a format that is pretty much the same today.

By 2005 together both Animal Planet and myself ‘broke up’ with the radio syndicator, (and for good reason). Matt soon founded Black Dog Radio Productions, which took over syndicating the newly named Steve Dale’s Pet World.

While my focus has always been to help pet owners, it’s also been to inform and to entertain. After all, pets are entertaining.

With a growing national audience (combined with the national exposure I’ve enjoyed via my Tribune Content Agency print column), I’ve been able to interview some of the most notable veterinarians in the U.S., even in the world, taking  microphones to places as wide-ranging as Mexico and Australia.  I’m proud to say I’ve been the first to speak with pet owners about a very long list of new medical discoveries. If there’s a pet book author, I’ve wanted to interview – I’ve done it – proud to say selling lots of good books along the way. Proud to say because I’m careful about the books I support.

For example, I accepted talking with ‘Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan about whatever book it was he was touting….but he was then forced to explain his dog training methods and messages, which I considered archaic.

I’m sure I’ve interviewed hundreds of pet book authors, and others in the ‘pet world, even a wide-ranging variety of celebrities have decided to talk pets with me.

At the top of the list is Betty White. I’ve talked to the TV legend at least once a year each year. At the Western Veterinary Conference, I caught up with her and we sat down for a video shoot. She truly has a knowledge based about veterinary medicine and animal welfare that’s quite impressive.

Sharing that place at the top of the list, a conversation with primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. In my lifetime, few have done as much to advance knowledge of primatology, support conservation, and even impact world peace. Being in her presence is truly like being face to face with a Saint.

Other celebrities include various Animal Planet stars, such as the late Steve Irwin, and my pals Jackson Galaxy and Victoria Stilwell.

As the 2007 pet food recall rocked the pet world – I was feverishly reporting on the latest, but based on fact – as so much misinformation was being disseminated. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin was going to send me to Washington to testify about what pet owners had to say. He was on the show twice.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken talked about how he was surprised to learn the impact U.S. veterans can have with an assistance dog, which about a year later the  U. S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs unceremoniously cut funding for. I was then and still am appalled by how our government doesn’t ‘get it.’ Assistance dogs truly do lower suicide rates, increase employment rates and sometimes replace drugs taken by veterans with various illnesses and injuries, including PTSD.

I’m not shy about speaking up for animals – and the list is incredibly long of topics I’ve had stood on my radio pulpit and delivered a sermon, until producer Matt gives me the cut sign. And then, on occasion, I keep goinganyway. Michael Vick was one of those topics, as I was disgusted that the Humane Society of the United States actually ‘got into bed’ with the guy. I’ve spoken out time and again against breed specific bans.  And over the past few years, I’ve been adamant about speaking up for veterinary visits. Veterinarians can do amazing things, but they can help pets they’re not seeing.

Here’s an partial list of celebrities I’ve talked with over the past ten years: Rock ‘n roller Bret Michaels, American Idol judge Randy Jackson, businesswoman Kathy Ireland, actress Kyra Sedgewick, and Academy Award winner Hillary Swank. At the completion of a phone interview with Vanessa Williams, I wasn’t supposed to – but I did hear her call me “a character.” And Newt Gingrich called me the most effective advocate for cats he’s ever met, as it was actually his sister Susan who began a fund with the Winn Feline Foundation to support raising dollars to learn more about FIP (feline infectious peritonitis).

Among pet book authors, Roger Caras and Mordecai Siegel clearly stood alone.. Caras was a guest on my old Pet Central show at WGN Radio before he passed away in 2001. Siegal was a personal friend, the man who appropriately said on the show, “Acquiring a dog may be the only opportunity a human has to choose a relative.” Uncle Morty was a frequent guest.

Dr. Sophia Yin’s behavior techniques were influential to shift the entire veterinary profession’s view on handling. She appeared on the show over a dozen times, and suddenly passed in 2014.

Also appearing on the show at least a dozen times, the father of veterinary behavior Dr. R.K. Anderson. He was passionate about reaching out to pet owners with science-based information. He passed away in 2012.

We do more than the radio show, we also record videos on a wide variety of pet topics, often traveling to veterinary conferences. In fact, by now, our YouTube page is a veritable encyclopedia of pet topics. James Donato is always behind the camera, and has helped to edit nearly each of those videos.

If the show is a success, and ten years, reaching millions – I suppose is success, by definition, Matt Bubala had a vision of what we might be able to do. And we’ve done it. I will say there’s no pet radio show like ours, with our reach and durability.

Of course, I thank all the affiliate radio stations for taking the show, and for those who also listen to archived interviews online, or check the shows out on ITunes.

Still, most of all – my thanks are to the pets themselves…..and my own pets, who are sometimes with me in the studio. I learn every day about life – the joy of just being in the now