Virginia: Where it’s a Felony to Help a Dog We Treat Like Garbage


I thought Doogie was dead when I first saw him.

In Virginia it’s a felony to take a dog. Wow, they must really LOVE their dogs, you might think. To place so much value on this ‘property’?

Not. So. Fast.

The state has also repeatedly ignored any attempts at better legislation which would give dogs protection against the extremes of weather or life on a chain.


Here in Virginia, we’re ok with cat chaining, too, as you see above, because, well, why not? We don’t want to discriminate. (People fought for years to get the sheriff to do something about these chained cats in Page County, VA. I myself was threatened in November with trespassing charges just for taking pics of them from the road. The Deputy told me repeatedly there was nothing he could do, because it was not illegal to chain them. Apparently the owner finally go so tired of the reports that she allowed someone to build a fence.)


Doogie couldn’t even stand while on the chain

When I was arrested and convicted of theft and receiving stolen property for my Good Samaritan act of rescuing Doogie from a Pennsylvania chain in 2006, my ‘crime’ was the lowest level misdemeanor. Taking Doogie was equivalent to stealing a pack of gum.

While that was bad for Doogie’s net worth, it was good for me as his rescuer, because I only had to do 68 hours of shelf cleaning at the library in exchange for his freedom. He was worth it.

But when I moved to VA, I quickly learned that stealing a dog was a felony, making it considerably less attractive to rabid ‘dog thieves’ such as myself.

“Woohoo!” The Virginia lawmakers say. “Our law is working perfectly. We don’t want any nasty doo-gooders out there removing dogs from perfectly good logging chains. Our PROPERTY should stay right where we chain it up; if you choose to help one of these suffering creatures—if you choose to have a heart—we will make sure you pay for the rest of your life.”

Well-played, Virginia. [Translation: You’re assholes.]

This same scenario is playing out in a courtroom in Virginia Beach this week, as Bettina Cuce Rodriguez went on felony trial for her Good Samaritan act of rescuing a chained dog that, according to testimony shared in the Virginia Pilot “was severely dehydrated, starving, forced to stay out in freezing weather, and was kept tethered to a tree with a cable that was constantly getting wrapped around the tree.”

Read the full articles here:

The county, Accomack County along the eastern shore of the state, is well-known in animal circles for its large amount of animal cruelty, abuse, and dog chaining, with little to no help available from animal control.

Or Virginia legislators.

What are concerned citizens supposed to do? Turn a blind eye to death and do nothing to help a suffering dog?

When a human being acts as a Good Samaritan for a dog that is living chained, is in poor health, and has repeatedly been denied help from authorities, that person is acting AS A HUMAN BEING SHOULD ACT.

You know, with morals and a soul and all that boring crap.

As usual, the wrong person is on trial here. It is instead Daniel Melendez, the dog chainer, who should be on trial. He might have some understanding of this fact deep down in his gut, given that he disappeared from the courtroom today and never showed back up to testify.

Unfortunately for Bettina, the judge didn’t see fit to drop the case, merely postponing it for a few weeks while they go look for his sorry butt.

Shame, shame, shame, Virginia.

Rest assured, if I happen across a chained dog in bad shape—as these unfortunate folks did—I might not take the dog because of your felony law, but I WILL MAKE THE BIGGEST STINK YOU’VE EVER SEEN.

I just wonder if the dog will survive while I’m fighting the system that should be protecting him?

Go, Bettina.