Tracy Miller is the founder and president of SOAR—Speak Out and Rescue—in Kentucky. And she’s my Chained Dog Shero for June/July 2016, with good reason.
A Chained Dog Shero is a woman who puts herself on the line for those American dogs without a voice—dogs chained in backyards, suffering without food and water, and languishing in both heat and cold. These helpless beings often die from temperature extremes and lack of shade, shelter, and basic nourishment.
Witnessing their plight rips out the hearts of every caring citizen in America. Unfortunately, there are all too few who speak up for these dogs.
Tracy is not one of the folks who look the other way. I first met Tracy on the Ten State Tour that Dawn Ashby and I undertook for Dogs Deserve Better in 2008. Tracy formed her own organization to free chained dogs in eight Kentucky counties, and has been freeing them and fighting for better laws for these dogs ever since.
Ray, below, is just one of the suffering animals Tracy released from the chain. Tracy shares his heartbreaking story, plus answers my questions, to inspire YOU in your quest to free chained dogs.
What Made You Want to Fight for Chained Dogs?
I have loved animals all my life and was a volunteer with our local humane society for many years, doing various aspects of rescue until finally I decided to go out on my own and start SOAR in 2008, to “Speak Out” for chained and penned dogs. I have always felt so sorry for them, it seemed no one was helping the forgotten at the end of a chain.
What Accomplishments Have you Made on Behalf of Chained Dogs in your Area?
In 2010 SOAR was successful in getting a strict anti-chaining law passed in our Capitol City of Frankfort, Kentucky. But, it came at a heavy price. A dog named “Big Boy” hung himself in his own backyard after his owners went on vacation and left him chained and unsupervised. The community was outraged and we were able to bring it quickly before the city commission.
SOAR covers eight counties and we are constantly lobbying for better laws here in Kentucky since we rank as the number one state in the nation for animal abuse. It’s a disgusting title to hold.
What Steps did you Take to Make a Difference on the Dogs’ Behalf?
Never give up! Once you start petitioning your local government for a chaining law, it’s a long process and people will drop out as time goes along; but, YOU can’t if you are the founder of the group. You have to fight till the end, even if you are the only one left to see the law pass or fail.
In 2015, SOAR rescued a dog named Ray. He lived chained to a downspout, was being starved, was infested with worms, had a fungal infection and was missing half the hair on his body. We had him two days and he broke with Parvo. We did everything medically we could to save him, but he died three days later at the vet’s office, his immune system was just too weak to keep fighting. My heart was broken and I wanted justice for Ray. He did not deserve to be treated like trash, and his owner shouldn’t get to just walk away.
I made it my mission to pursue his case so his death was not in vain. The county Ray was rescued from was over an hour from where SOAR is based. I was relentless in calling Animal Control and the County Attorney, asking if they were going to pursue the case, because I was going to if they did not charge the owner. They told me they would.
Two months went by and the warrant still wasn’t served—and the guy worked within walking distance from the police department! I kept getting the run-around; finally I showed up one day and wanted to know why. After confronting the Chief of Police and probing for answers, the warrant was served.
Then it took several months of hearings before a guilty plea was entered, and a deal was worked out for Ray’s owner to pay restitution to SOAR for all the medical bills incurred trying to save Ray’s life. Monthly installments are to be paid through the court in the amount of $2,141.75. We just received our second installment today! I never missed a court date and because I was persistent and the county attorney was very kind and included me in on all the proceedings we got an outcome that is unheard of in Kentucky. It won’t bring Ray back, but at least his owner now has a criminal record and if she misses a payment to SOAR, in the pokey she goes—and that wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit.
What was your Hardest Moment, the Moment you Wanted to Give Up? And How did you Overcome It?
The hardest moments are when we have to walk away from a chained or penned dog because their owners refuse to change their ways and do better for the dog. Since there are little or no laws to protect them, people act like they have a right to abuse their animals instead of treating them like a beloved family member.
This makes me want to give up on a daily basis!
I overcome it by knowing that we are making a difference. We have rescued close to two hundred dogs and assisted hundreds of others by building fences to free them from their chains, giving out straw in the winter months to help keep them warm and by giving a kind word, a belly rub, and lots of treats to those we encounter on our “outings.”
What Would be your Best Advice for Others Trying to Free Dogs from Chains?
Seek out assistance from those already doing it. SOAR gets many requests from all over Kentucky wanting to know if “we” can do anything about a chained dog in their area. We tell them we are happy to come hold a class and teach them how to do exactly what we do, why we do it the way we do, and so forth. So far, only one county has taken us up on it. We are already taking care of our neck of the woods—it’s time others step-up and “speak out” for the ones in their backyard.
Any Parting Words of Advice for those Wanting to Make a Difference for Chained Dogs?
If you’re going to start your own rescue, it’s “your” baby. Be Passionate, Be Committed, Be Driven! Rescue never sleeps, it will rip your heart out and give you great joy. You will lose friends, sleep and your sanity, but it’s an adventure I wouldn’t trade for the world. I count it a privilege to “get to” do what I do every day and thank God for choosing me to ‘Speak Out And Rescue’ those who have no voice.
Join SOAR’s Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/Speak-Out-And-Rescue-232873172587/