As Dogs Die in the Cold, Humans Flaunt their Lack of Morality, Compassion

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A PA dog I never succeeded in freeing from his tether, watching him suffer for years.

“Don’t read the comments…don’t read the comments,” I muttered to myself, as I angrily and helplessly perused a particularly gruesome article about a dog frozen solid on a Toledo, Ohio porch, just days after Christmas.

http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2017/12/28/Dog-found-frozen-solid-on-central-Toledo-porch.html

After all, everyone knows most online commenters crawl from the boggy swamp each morning and slither back into its putrid depths as even daylight flees their remonstrances.

It’s madness to entertain the notion of reading this swill.

I read the comments.

“WHY do I read the comments?” I muttered to myself, as the next wave of anger crawled up my gullet and lodged in my thyroid, causing the death of millions of necessary cells and an immediate need to increase my dose of levoxyl.

One might reason that no one could logically argue that a dog left to freeze to death, curled up on the porch of an abandoned home, was within the bounds of humane treatment.

Yet online commenters—suffering from an obvious lack of morality and compassion—would once again cause me to lower the bar on what I perceive as the most subhuman level of societal dreghood.

Besides the whole gamut of “It’s just a dog” comments, one particularly egregious human posited that—because people are so much more important than dogs—if the guy had run into financial troubles, it followed that he would choose himself over the dog.

This was met with an odious amount of agreement from the peanut gallery of her fellow bog-dwellers, and I was forced by my remaining unexploded blood vessels to comment that a moral obligation to take care of humans in no way precludes the very same moral obligation to care for the animals we’ve taken responsibility for.

I also told them they were sick people. Sick, sick people.

Because they are.

In truth, though, I almost envy these heartless beings. Might it not be nice to be entirely unmoved by the plight of others?

To not hurt for the dogs left outside in the cold winter months? To not feel the excruciating and needless death of this poor creature as a black mark on the collective soul of our society?

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care. It turns out that caring is exceedingly painful.

Last night it dropped to 11 degrees in Culpeper County, Virginia, and below zero in many areas of the country. It’s set to dip even lower as the week goes on.

What do I do with this pain?

Even before I officially began advocating for backyard dogs in 2002, I remember the heightened anxiety I experienced on cold winter nights, and the very real fears for the survival of chained and other dogs left outside to fend for themselves in temperatures that would freeze a human within moments.

Now that I’m off the front lines of animal rescue, I find myself continuing to experience extreme anxiety in the severe cold, the knowledge of what these dogs must survive never relinquishing the space it has carved into my spirit.

As I walked to my chilly bedroom last night, changed into my flannel jammies, and threw on my space heater for a few minutes to warm up the room, I tried to push the pain aside so I could free myself (and maybe them?) in dreamland.

I shivered at what I perceived as the frigid touch of my blankets, feeling immediate shame that I could tolerate so little cold while the dogs didn’t even have the luxury of losing themselves in sleep, spending their 14 hours of darkness locked in a battle for basic survival.

I put myself in their fur for just a moment, feeling the wrap of the chain around my neck, the cold metal flash-freezing to my exposed skin, my hopeless and fruitless search for someplace, anyplace, within the reach of my tether to provide even a moment’s escape from the subzero windchill. I would huddle in the corner of my drafty house, wishing for bedding that didn’t exist, and a kindness and empathy from my guardians that would not be forthcoming.

I was depressed, despondent, terrified of death’s approach.

But I was just a dog, after all.

I pulled myself from the vision. The air around my bed was heavy with suffering, both mine and theirs, and I was wrapped in a cloak of misery.

What do I do with this pain?

That, I still have no answer for.

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This Christmas, Finally, Pennsylvania Chained Dogs Will Find a Gift Under the Tree

(This Op-Ed appeared in an edited version in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, and can be read and commented on at this link. I encourage you to post a comment, as it will encourage the paper to print more animal opinion pieces.)

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In the past, Pennsylvania winters have brought the gift of anxiety to both dog rescuers and caring citizens forced to witness the suffering of neighborhood dogs from the warmth of their kitchen windows.

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While some humans hung lights from their porches and stockings from their chimneys, their dogs hung from tethers in the backyard—cold, hungry, thirsty, miserable, and, most of all, isolated.

Anyone who stepped forward to ease the suffering of these forgotten dogs was told to “mind their business”, or, worse, arrested for the “crime” of providing food, water, or medical care to one of God’s creatures.

As founder of the first national nonprofit focusing solely on backyard dogs, I spent 13+ years leading efforts to free dogs from chains in Pennsylvania. In just one example, I recall watching two Cambria County dogs fight to stay alive in the subzero temperatures of a miserable January day. The skinny white husky huddled in her flimsy, strawless house, while a short-haired boxer in the same yard shivered and shook as she devoured every morsel of the food I offered, skin taut over protruding ribs.

It was obvious to all Pennsylvania citizens who possessed a beating heart that these dogs—and the thousands like them left chained to suffer the frigid elements—deserved better than the life to which they’d been sentenced.

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Yet Pennsylvania law lagged behind what most understood to be moral truth.

This holiday season, for the first time ever, Pennsylvania chained dogs will find the gift of a law under their trees, and animal advocates and caring citizens alike will be the bearers of a merrier, i.e. less anxiety-ridden, Christmas.

In June of this year, Pennsylvania passed a comprehensive animal care package, which benefits chained dogs by prohibiting tethering for more than nine hours a day, and—even better—30 minutes or less in temperatures below 32 degrees.

While some may argue that a nine-hour law will be difficult to enforce, I maintain that a difficult law is better than no law at all when it comes to protecting Man’s Best Friend.

During my tenure on the front lines of efforts for chained dogs, I was left with no legal recourse to help chained dogs. I’m thrilled to say that is no longer the case.

To ensure that the new laws are enforced and upheld by humane agents and police officers, I offer three tips for concerned citizens:

  1. Keep a copy of the law on-hand. Most humane officers are well-versed in the new laws, and will make a reasonable effort to ensure they are enforced. However, many police officers will be less familiar with new animal laws, and you will want to have a copy of the law in hand while discussing the case with officers. You can find and print a copy of the law at this link: https://www.animallaw.info/statute/pa-cruelty-%C2%A7-5536-tethering-unattended-dog
  2. Document the case. No one is more concerned about getting a neighborhood dog help than you are, because you’re witnessing the neglect daily. In order to relieve both your suffering and the dog’s, do the legwork required to prove the law isn’t being followed. Keep a journal of the times of day you see the dog left chained in the yard. Take photos, and consider setting up a live feed that records more than nine hours if necessary. An investment of a few days on your end can save a dog from a lifetime of misery on a chain.
  3. Accept the responsibility to testify when necessary. A humane officer may drop a case if he/she doesn’t have eyewitness testimony. While I know it can be scary, the dogs need us to be their voices. Remember that they cannot speak for themselves.

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When I chained myself to a doghouse on the Pennsylvania State Capitol steps for 54 days advocating for passage of our anti-tethering law in 2010, my steadfast dream was that this day would come for chained dogs. It didn’t happen then, but now, in 2017, animal advocates and concerned citizens who came together to make this dream a reality can lay this gift at the feet of the chained dogs, finally presenting them with the justice they deserve.

I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it.

Five Ways for a Citizen to Tell if a Dog is Living Chained 24/7:

  1. There’s no grass. When dogs live chained for life, they end up with patches of dirt or mud instead of a grassy area, especially in the circle at the outer edge of the chain’s reach. The dogs run the perimeter out of frustration or boredom, and the chain’s dragging pulls out the grass.
  2. The doghouse is broken down, chewed up, decrepit. If a dog is chained 24/7, there’s a good chance he/she has been there for years, and this may not be the first dog to be sentenced to this fate. In these cases, the doghouse is old, falling apart, and has holes or other structural damage that make it an unsuitable shelter for the dog.
  3. The dog looks unkempt, smells badly. Dogs who spend their lives outside rarely if ever receive baths, and so their fur is dirty, matted, scruffy.
  4. The dog has fleas, ticks, other parasitic issues. A dog who spends 24/7 outside with no preventative will suffer flea, tick, worm, and other parasitic infestations. These become obvious to the casual observer, and without medical intervention, can prove deadly.
  5. The dog becomes angry, territorial, depressed, or shows signs of mental deterioration. According to the CDC, chained dogs are up to 3x more likely to bite, due to lack of socialization with humans and the fight or flight syndrome. A chained dog is unable to flee, therefore he/she must be on the alert and prone to increased aggression.

About Tamira Thayne:

capitolbookcover16loTamira Thayne pioneered the anti-tethering movement in America, forming and leading the nonprofit Dogs Deserve Better for 13 years. During her time on the front lines of animal activism and rescue she took on plenty of bad guys (often failing miserably); her swan song culminated in the purchase and transformation of Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound to a chained-dog rescue and rehabilitation center.

Tamira’s spent 878 hours chained to a doghouse on behalf of the voiceless in front of state capitol buildings nationwide; her organization rescued and rehabilitated thousands of chained dogs, finding them new, inside homes and families.

In 2016 she founded Who Chains You, publishing books by and for animal activists and rescuers. Tamira is the author of The Wrath of Dog, The King’s Tether, Foster Doggie Insanity, and Capitol in Chains, and the co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles.

How Much Crating is Too Much? After the New OAS Book, Some Thoughts on What Constitutes Over-Crating of Dogs

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My dog Khronos (left) and Sam (right) one of our two houseguests playing in front of open crates.

lostcoverlo-dropI left active rescue in 2015, so it’s been awhile since I thought much about the use of crates for dogs, in rescue or otherwise.

But between the release of our latest book from Who Chains You Publishing— I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found: Daisy and the Olympic Animal Sanctuary Rescue—and my occasion to use crates this week for two dogs I’m babysitting, I was forced once again to look the issue in the eye and give it a good mulling over.

My dog Khronos has been with us for over a year now, so he’s trained to a doggie door and is a perfect gentleman inside the house, no longer needing or using a crate.

Yet we still have one or two of them, folded up and gathering dust in the back basement room, most likely to get used soon when I foster a dog. It’s always good to have a crate around, even when your pack is stable and you have no foster doggies…just in case.

But just how much crating IS acceptable? When does crating a dog become cruelty?

I’ve always been a big believer in the ultimate freedom for our companions…which to my mind meant chain-free AND cage-free was the ONLY way to go.

So when I came into rescue I’d never used a crate before, viewing them as borderline cruel. However, eventually—and through multiple foster dog situations—I was forced to change my mind and opinion when matters of safety and sanity reared their ugly heads.

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George, my other little houseguest. Yes, that underbite is just too cute…at least all the rescue ladies think so, cooing when I post his pic on my page.

Sam and George’s dad doesn’t crate them at home anymore, either. He’s had the boys with him for years, and both are well-trained to his house and know their daily schedule.

But I asked him to bring his crates with the dogs for the 12 days they’d be staying here. Because the truth is, when you combine new dogs with your own family dog(s) and/or cats or other companions, one never knows what can happen, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry. A crate is a useful tool that can and will keep everyone secure at bedtime or if you have to leave the home for work or errands.

The boys have now gotten used to my dog, and the three have started playing quite nicely together, but I still wouldn’t leave them alone without crating our visitors. Why? Because I’m not going to take the chance that I get up in the morning or come home from town to discover that play turned violent and someone’s been injured, or something was destroyed and eaten that could harm one of them. If I’m not here to directly supervise, the crates will be used.

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Khronos and Sam posing for their pic like good boys.

So I crated Sam and George for bed both nights so far (and probably will every night they’re here so I don’t lay awake worrying). Then today I wanted to go to town for a few hours, and I’m not gonna lie—this put me in a dilemma.

I felt hella guilty about crating them again after they’d spent eight hours in the crate overnight.

But I knew I had to. For my peace of mind and their safety.

So to assuage my guilt, I took all three dogs for a half mile walk on our property. Then I fed them. Then I took them for another half mile walk. Only then did I feel they’d had enough exercise to sleep in their crates while I was gone.

And when I came home a few hours later? I immediately took them for another half mile walk, fed them, and walked them again.

And guess what? I STILL felt guilty about leaving them in the crate for the time I was gone!

Which got me to thinkin’…

If I feel distressed about leaving two dogs in their crates at night and while I run out to do errands—when I know it’s for their safety AND only after making sure they get some good exercise—WHAT KIND OF MONSTER IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY CAPABLE OF LEAVING A DOG IN A CRATE FOR DAYS, EVEN YEARS, ON END?

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One of the crates outside the Olympic Animal Sanctuary. Note the hardened and crystalized urine encrusted on the top. Can you imagine the suffering?

Seriously, don’t you wonder that, too? Who can emotionally handle that kind of guilt?

Unless…unless you just don’t feel guilt.

Unless you don’t feel empathy for other beings, feel responsible for their welfare, feel any of the emotions that a normal human being should feel.

Because leaving a dog crated for years on end, forcing him to sleep in his own defecation and urination, refusing to walk the dog, allow him to stretch his legs, or provide daily food and water? That’s just the definition of heartless. And that’s exactly what Steve Markwell, founder of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, Washington, did to the dogs in his care. He went out into the world, misrepresented himself as the ultimate dog trainer, got rescues to send him their difficult dogs under the guise of rehabbing them, and then plopped them in crates as if they were nothing more than props, wandering back out to repeat the pattern.

And I just don’t understand HOW. HOW could anyone do that?

If you’re a dog rescue or foster home who’s working out of crates, think long and hard about the appropriate amount of time a dog can be crated without slipping into the realm of cruelty and neglect.

Dogs need daily walks, AND they need time to just BE DOGS. To wrestle around with other dogs or their humans. To play, to lounge, to loll, to eat, to drink. If you’re crating dogs longer than bedtime and while you’re at work or out running errands, it’s too long.

If dogs can’t have hours a day to be a (supervised when needed) part of the family, IT’S NOT ENOUGH.

I still believe dogs deserve as much freedom as humanly possible. I’ve grown to understand that this often includes the use of appropriate crating, living INSIDE the home with the family, playtime, and a walk daily or as often as possible.

No matter if you’re a home-based dog rescue or a family fostering or training a new dog, keep in mind that crates are tools, nothing more. The ultimate goal of crating is to achieve the point where your dog no longer needs the crate—but for those dogs who see their crate as a den, it can remain available in the home with the door open so they are free to go in and out as desired.

lostcoverlo-dropIn the case of the OAS dogs, many of them eventually earned their freedom from crating hell, thanks to those in the rescue community who did their parts and kept up the pressure on Markwell until the goal was achieved.

As Laura Koerber, the author of I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found: Daisy and the Olympic Animal Sanctuary Rescue states, “the OAS rescue was an epic narrative that extended over several years and featured small town politics, protests, assault, lawsuits, arrests, and a midnight escape, all played out to a nationwide audience.”

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend the book; the story is nothing short of astounding. I think you, too, will be left with the same burning question I am: HOW?

HOW could anyone do that?

I just don’t know the answer.

Interested in the book? Here’s the links to read more or buy:

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Kindle | Buy from Createspace and $1 Will be Donated to our Charity of the Year

When You Fight AGAINST Dog Breed Discrimination but FOR Human “Breed” Discrimination

You might be a Nazi.

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Debi Day, No Kill Nation founder, according to her own facebook posts, marched in Charlottesville.

For the longest time, I never realized that caring about people receiving equal treatment made me a liberal. I thought it made me human.

I’ve been even more confused when I discover that people who fight for equality for the animals are not by default standing on the side of equality for humans, too.

How can that be?

This weekend it came out that Debi Day, founder of No Kill Nation, was marching with the Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, according to Animals 24-7: “Facebook postings from Day herself and other ‘Unite the Right’ participants, including video of allegedly armed marchers, appear to put her prominently on the scene at one of the largest white supremacist events of the 21st century.”

The article goes on to state that “Day was also identified by the Miami Herald as one of the funders of a failed August 2012 attempt to repeal the lightly enforced 1989 Miami-Dade County ban on possession of pit bulls.”

Day and her organization, No Kill Nation, (a very ironic name given that she’s taken to marching around the country armed to the teeth) have also been financial supporters of the No Kill Advocacy Center. Founder Nathan Winograd was blindsided by the news, and has put out a very eloquent and heartfelt statement concerning his position and the position of his organization.

I have a very hard time understanding the dichotomy of Day’s two positions.

From where I’m standing, they appear to be exact opposites in nature:

Number 1:

NO, PIT BULLS SHOULDN’T BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST. THEY ARE EQUAL TO ALL OTHER DOGS. NO, ANIMALS SHOULDN’T BE KILLED IN SHELTERS. KILLING IS WRONG.

Yet, then…

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And then Number 2:

ONLY WHITE PEOPLE ARE WORTHY OF EQUALITY. WITH OTHER WHITE PEOPLE. ANYONE WHO PROTESTS THIS POSITION AND STANDS FOR EQUALITY FOR ALL SHOULD BE AT BEST THREATENED INTO SILENCE BY OUR WEAPONS, OR AT WORST, RUN OVER OR KILLED IN SOME HORRIBLE FASHION.

What. The. Hell.

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Love this saying. You can get these shirts all over the internet.

What kind of a disconnect must this woman be embracing if she doesn’t notice or care that her two positions are in exact opposition to one another? How can people advocate for equality for animals but not humans?

I will never understand.

What I do know is this:

It’s incredibly important that white people speak out now and let the victimized know we do not support what is going on in our country.

I am white. (Although I have been mistaken for other nationalities on occasion.) Even as a white person, I struggle every day with self-esteem issues. And yet, how can my struggles to feel good about myself compare to those who are treated so unfairly by racists in America? How must they struggle to feel they deserve to BE here in America, they deserve to feel good about who they are and the color of their skin?

I had a pretty shitty childhood, and grew up with a fair amount of abuse within my own family. My family imploded as a result, and I remember, even many years before I became vegetarian, my brother—usually when he was drunk—saying things like “We should kill all the gooks,” or “We should hold all the vegetarians down and shove meat down their throats.”

As young adults he and I would sometimes get into brawls over the things he said. Growing up in an angry, intolerant, yet supposedly ‘religious’ family, I WAS BORN INTO THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT ELECTED TRUMP.

But even then, I was the outsider to this family and way of thinking. Even then, I knew it was wrong to talk about other nationalities that way. Even then, I loved animals, wished I was vegetarian, but I was too selfish to give up my own pleasures (for many years).

Even then, I just wanted to get away from my own family. I struggle every day since Trump was elected with fear and depression over the way other nationalities (and women, and skin colors, and LGBTQ, and…and…) are treated in our country and my own feelings of powerlessness to stop it.

I can walk away from my family. I cannot walk away from my country.

I stand against all those of my race—MEN AND WOMEN, animal advocates or not—who do not accept other races or sexual orientations as our equals. I believe in fairness, and although I’ve learned along the way that life will never be fair, that is the ONLY morally acceptable position for anyone with a brain and a heart to embrace. Everyone deserves equality.

Anything else is unacceptable.

Let’s Call it What it Is, Rescue Ladies and Hangers-On: Jealousy

I’ve always considered myself a woman’s woman, but after the horrible cruelty I experienced at the hands of women in the rescue world—lashing out through their keyboards because they’re too cowardly to say it to my face—I really had to pull back and rethink.

I’m still rethinking, as a matter of fact.

And what I think is that I’d never again get involved in active rescue (beyond my annual foster pledge). Which one could argue is a shame, but I like to believe that I did my time—I spent 13 years on the front lines and taking abuse from all sides—and now we have new blood to take center stage.

During those difficult years, I all-too-often believed my abusers; believed it was me. There must be something wrong about me, off about me, too abrasive about me, too ‘radical’ about me, and maybe they were right—maybe I was just a horrible person.

Yet now I see the same thing happening to two other lovely ladies who are standing tall and making change for the animals, and quite frankly, it’s making my blood boil, and I’m compelled to speak out on their behalves. (Although they both did a fine job standing up for themselves.)

When it’s not me in the hot seat, when I can see the machinations behind the bullying more clearly, I can see exactly what it is:

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Jealousy. Pure and simple.

When it’s happening to you, you don’t have the freedom to say people are jealous of you, even if you have the clarity of mind to figure it out. It just makes you look narcissistic, which will already be one of their accusations against you and only further fuels the rage they spew.

But now that I’m not on the chopping block, I can and will call out jealousy when I see it.

And I’m seeing it now.

Two women who I am friendly with and hold respect for in the rescue movement put out posts in the last two days talking about the abuse and vitriol that is currently being heaped upon their heads.

Why? Because they’ve stood up and taken action. And people are jealous of that. Let’s call it what it is, folks.

Jealousy, pure and simple.

denisebitzOne, Denise Bitz, is the founder and President of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville, North Carolina. She used to be a rep in that area fighting for the chained dogs when I was with Dogs Deserve Better, so I got to know her through that work, finding her to be strong and ethical.

She’s done fabulous things since starting Brother Wolf, and the organization now, in addition to rescuing dogs and cats, has embraced veganism and right to life for ALL animals, proudly standing by that vision.

For this stance, she has been personally attacked, and even shamed for the way her body looks, for the fact that she’s not model-thin.

Last I checked, being a model was not a prerequisite for making a difference for the animals. Or most of us would not be here, now would we?

When I was being relentlessly attacked on social media, I was told over and over again to just ‘take the high ground. Continue on about my work. They would get bored and go somewhere else.’ But that’s not really true. There are some really sick human beings who become obsessed with destroying their targets, and these SOB’s continue despite you ignoring them.

If one has the money or the energy to take these sorts of people to court for defamation, you might spend many thousands of dollars and come away with little in the form of satisfaction or peace of mind.

How ugly your situation gets depends on the personality disorder of the person you’re dealing with. For those sidekick bullies, the ones just following the BIG BULLY, a strongly-worded letter from an attorney is usually enough to scare them off. But for the hard-core folks with major personality disorders—the leaders of the anti-YOU movement—not much scares them off once they sink their teeth into you.

Take the below, for example: this is from an expert analysis of a woman, a doctor, who harassed one of our reps (who also happened to be her patient) during my years with DDB. This doctor simply switched over to me (having never met me in person) once she was court-ordered to leave our rep alone. I’m sure she is still out there targeting someone today, because her analysis all but guarantees that fact:

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When you’re dealing with a psychosis of this magnitude, above, nothing short of a miracle and another poor SOB pissing them off more will sway them from targeting you.

Denise stood up to her abusers with grace and dignity, even showing compassion for them and not anger. I applaud and commend her, and hope that others will rally around her and her group in the face of others’ cruelty.

She writes: “The nasty comments, allegations, rumors, falsities that continue to be perpetuated by a VERY SMALL group of people in Asheville including the two mentioned above…I want to make sure that everyone is crystal clear here….their hate stems from a very simple place. From my personal stance on veganism and our organizational stance on veganism. The hate attacks, orchestrated attacks on Facebook, etc. all started at the same time we started promoting veganism. And you will see subtle hints of this from them—like Sue mentioned in the screen-shotted comment ‘Denise won’t eat the dog food because it’s not vegan.’

I know our veganism makes you uncomfortable. And for that, well, too bad. I am not going to apologize for being a kind, compassionate person, leading an organization that is a reflection of my values NOR am I going to apologize for having a beautiful Board Of Directors who not only embraces our core ethic of Uncompromised Compassion but lives it everyday. And if you don’t want to hear compelling stories about animals—all animals—from our organization and just want to hear about dogs and cats, then maybe it is time to move on. There are plenty of other “animal welfare” organizations out there that do not promote veganism as a moral baseline.

Our work for the dogs and cats will not only continue, but get stronger every year. But so will our work for the farm animals. And yes, when we tell you a story about a calf that we rescued from the veal industry and a pig who came from a factory farm that gives you the warm fuzzies, we are also going to ask you to give them the same consideration you give your dogs and cats. And please don’t eat them. Because they all want to live. There is no humane way to take another beings life. And you can live a healthier life by embracing this lifestyle of compassion. ‘I will not stay silent so that you can stay comfortable.'”

So well said, Denise!

reginaquinn.jpgAnother woman I consider a friend (but have never met in person), Regina Quinn, is going through similar harassment for taking a really strong stand for animals in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. In fact, when I watched some of the videos she was making—and how much she was putting herself out there—I cringed, because I knew what was coming for her: online abuse by those who became jealous of her efforts and willingness to put herself on the line, and legal trouble because authorities can’t stand a woman doing their jobs for them. They find a need to put her in her place, to remove her from their territory.

Both of these things have since happened to Regina, and I’ve watched her struggle so greatly in the past few weeks.

My heart goes out to her, because I know what it feels like. I share her pain and heartbreak.

She wrote an amazing bit on Facebook I’d like to share in part with you: “I have much to say to the rescue community—some of it good, some bad. 
These past few months have been my greatest and my worst.

The greatest has been realizing my own potential, trusting in my faith and knowing anything is possible if you believe in yourself and let that higher power in to guide you. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished when you truly believe in your mission and purpose on this earth.

We are living in trying times, families against families over the presidential election, religion and values. 
We are as a rescue community working together to save lives each day and at the same time cutting each other’s throats in the name of self righteousness and ego.

The very justice system we claim to be just is crumbling before us and many of you are falling with it. 
Through the ages there have been people who have risen above the masses, took risks to make change, spoke out when their lives were at risk, took chances not from a self-driven need to be acknowledged but for humanity and justice for all.

I decided four years ago that I wanted to be a part of the change. 
My dedication and appreciation comes in the form of knowing I am being driven by a divine power that cannot be seen, only felt. 
How many of you have that inside you? 
I have lost fear in the light of following a purpose driven life. 
To me being a voice for animals is being a voice for you as well. 
No living creature deserves to be ridiculed, stereotyped, judged, abused, neglected, or used for profit.

I want to ask why anyone in the rescue community would go against, bash, discredit, defame a person willing to take a stand for their freedom? The judgment I have received from some of the rescuers here in VA is staggering.

We as humans kill what we fear, destroy what we don’t understand. Someone like me makes those type of people who are lacking in faith and confidence uncomfortable.

I am trying very hard to do what’s right yet people continue to get in the way, bringing false claims and hearsay to the table and pounding forks and knifes with a hunger to destroy my mission.

I am here to tell you that you will not succeed. 
The negative people, the corrupt systems to which we live in every day are the obstacles I will continue to overcome.

For those of you who say you stay out of “the drama”, it is your resistance to standing for what’s right that instead continues to fuel the drama.

For those who seek to destroy, I hope one day you will lose your fear and stop using others to make yourself appear a better person than you really are. Examine yourselves and find your own faults and stop pointing the fingers at those who are willing to make a difference in this world.

I appreciate being liked but its not the purpose of why I’m here. 
I’m here to force change. 
Either you’re with me or against me. 
Just realize every time you get in my way, you are preventing more progress for the animals I am here to help.”

Today, as one on the sidelines trying to cheer for those doing the work, I want to say “BRAVO! HEAR HEAR!” to these two women, and the many others out there who are going through hell at this very moment because you stood tall for the animals.

They cannot say it, but I can.

YOU BULLIES? YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS of their success.

When a woman stands tall in her beliefs and finds some success, suddenly she is attacked and becomes a target for others’ cruelty.

Every human being (at least all but the very highest of us) feels jealous of the success of others. It’s what we do about that jealousy that matters. When I feel jealous of someone else, I recognize they are succeeding in an area in which I’d like to succeed, and take stock of how much effort I’m willing to put into being a success there.

If I’m not willing to put in the effort that they do, then I have no one but myself to blame for not being as ‘famous’ or successful as these other woman. I know that I have no right to go after them online to make myself feel better. None whatsoever. Neither do these women. Denise and Regina pointing out their bad behavior is not playing the victim. They are standing up to their abusers.

I always considered myself a woman’s woman, but the way I’ve seen women treat each other in this movement is truly shameful, and I hang my head for those who seek to do harm to our sisters.

Jealous of what someone else is accomplishing for the animals? This is a clear sign for you to take action to improve your own life by doing more for the animals, too. When you do that, you’ll be so busy building something that matters that you’ll have no time or desire to do harm to other women.

And you’ll be ashamed that you ever did.

If you’re a woman who’s participated in these attacks, even orchestrated them, and have had a change of heart, I urge you to apologize to the one you hurt. It is so freeing, for you AND for her, and gives you good karma points to boot. God knows we could all use more of those.

PA Senate Passes Anti-Tethering Bill, Six Years to the Day of my Doghouse Wedding on the Capitol Steps

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Sonny, freed from a PA chain, attended my wedding on the Capitol Steps, June 20, 2011.

Today is the Sixth Anniversary of the day I persuaded my husband to marry me while chained to a doghouse on the Pennsylvania State Capitol Steps, and I couldn’t have asked for a better Anniversary gift:

I just learned that Pennsylvania chained dogs are set to be the recipients of an anti-tethering law as part of Libre’s Law, HB 1238! Someone pinch, me, please.

Today HB 1238 passed the full Senate, after passing the House back in April. Now it’s on to the Governor’s Desk, where it’s rumored the bill will be signed into law.

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Mojo, one of hundreds of chained dogs I was blessed to free as part of my work with DDB.

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Our Doghouse Wedding on the PA Capitol Steps, June 20, 2011

Most of the folks who worked so hard to pass anti-tethering legislation when I was living in Pennsylvania were not part of the effort that pushed the law over the top. I moved to Virginia in 2011, and although Dogs Deserve Better’s volunteers have continued to be part of grassroots efforts to pass a law, I was simply an advocate after 2013, which was the last year we held a Chain Off on the PA Capitol Steps.

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Ming, another dog chained on a PA porch. She was rescued in 2008 by DDB.

But this victory belongs to all of us, from the suffering dogs to the folks on the ground floor to the folks who brought it home.

I don’t personally know a lot of those who finished up, so I don’t want to thank anyone by name, because I’d be sure to miss a ton of people. Just know that you have my immense gratitude. All of you. Always and forever. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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Worthless, his real name, lived on a chain 1/4 mile from my home. I watched him suffer every day for six years. I suffered with him.

I founded Dogs Deserve Better in 2002 in Bellwood, Pennsylvania, because I saw chained dogs all around me, and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t believe this kind of treatment for our ‘best friends’ was legal, but it was.

I decided I would take a stand against it, even if that stand was alone.

Now, 15 years later, enough people in Pennsylvania have stood together to convince lawmakers that chaining a dog for life is not only cruel and inhumane, but needs to be against the law.

Honestly, I’m not sure I ever thought I’d see this day.

And I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet.

But what so many of us have fought for has come to pass.

Here’s the part of the law that addresses chaining, from the Humane PA PAC site:

Tethering:

The legislation also places reasonable limitations on the continuous tethering of dogs outside including the following:

  1. Bans tethering a dog outside without providing for its basic needs as defined under Section 5532.
  2. Creates a presumption that the dog has been neglected as defined in section 5532 if the following are present
    1. The dog is tethered for more than 9 hours within a 24 hour period.
    2. The tether is not secured to a well-fitting collar with a swivel and by a tether of less than 10 feet or three times the length of the dog whichever is longer.
    3. The dog does not have access to water and an area of shade.
    4. The dog is tethered for longer than 30 minutes when the temperature is over 90 degrees or under 32 degrees.
    5. Excessive waste in the tethered area.
    6. Open sores or wounds on the dog’s body.
    7. The use of a tow or log chain or choke, pinch, prong, or chain collar.
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Senator Alloway, who worked on anti-tethering in PA when I lived there, was still on the front lines and pushing this new anti-cruelty bill. Thank you, Senator!

Special thanks to Libre, whose suffering opened hearts and allowed compassion and morality to enter where many hearts had been previously closed. https://www.facebook.com/whochainsyou/videos/1102998583152075/

They say a picture speaks 1000 words. Below are photos of just some of the people who lobbied, chained up with me, and spoke out during the years I worked the front lines in PA. And just some of the dogs who would have died at the ends of their chains without DDB advocating on their behalf and gaining their freedom—because there was no law to protect them from this abuse.

Thank you, everyone, thank you.

I’m sobbing, I’m so grateful.

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The PA Steps, June 20, 2011. Over 40 People Chained to Doghouses on Behalf of Chained Dogs.

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The woman who owned Adio threatened to shoot me when I went back to remove his doghouse

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Austin, freed

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Bandit, freed

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Banshee, freed

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Beck, freed

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Buddy, freed

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Chia, freed

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Dallas, freed

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Delilah, freed

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Doogie, freed

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Dusty, freed

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Levi, freed

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Magnum, freed

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Max, freed

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Bear, freed

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Sonny, freed (he came to my wedding)

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Mimi, freed

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Barney, freed

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Hunter, freed

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Senator Dinniman with his copy of Capitol in Chains

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Shaggy, freed

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Sloan, freed

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Happy Anniversary, Honey.

capitolbookcover16loP.S. In 2010, I spent 52 days chained to a doghouse on the PA Capitol steps trying to get our bill through. I failed. I wrote a book about those long days on the chain, and hopefully soon I will get to update it with the passage of this bill into law. If you’re interested in reading about that experience, here’s the Amazon link to the book. https://www.amazon.com/Capitol-Chains-Days-Doghouse-Blues/dp/0692744738/

Bubba Gets an “A” for Effort on his Veggie Burgers, but a “Back to the Drawing Board” on his Flavor and Texture

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So I was wandering the aisles of the grocery store (in search of Beast Burgers, if you must know, nosey!) when I happened upon such an extraordinary sight that I stopped dead in my tracks.

Bubba made a veggie burger? When did that happen?

I was so intrigued that I had to go back and take a pic, because…well, Bubba made a veggie burger.

That sentence alone is all you need to explain it. And, it’s fun to say, too. You know it is.

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I took note and then continued on my search for Beast Burgers. Alas, I was to be disappointed in the fact that my local Safeway didn’t make room for The Beast on its shelves. How rude!

But they did have Bubba Veggie Burgers. And I did think that Hell would freeze over before I ever ate a Bubba burger again….

So you see where I’m going with this.

(Full disclosure, I haven’t eaten meat for nigh on 15 years…so I can’t honestly say if I ever ate a Bubba burger in the first place. But I ate plenty like them in my time, I’m sure.)

So I seyz to myself, “Self. If Bubba can make a veggie burger, then by gum you owe it to him to man up and taste one.” Yep, that’s what I said.

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So I bought a pack.

Now, if’n we’re talkin’ price, Bubba beats Beast by the Barrel-full. I got 4 Bubba burgers for $4.00 at Safeway, and only 2 Beast Burgers for $6 at Wegmans. That’s a big difference.

For me, though, it all boils down to whether I want to have a burgergasm or not.

And I’ve decided that yes, yes I do.

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So I tried the Bubba. I fried the Bubba. And I added A1 Sauce to the Bubba—to be fair—because that’s what I do to The Beast.

And what’s good for The Beast is good for The Bubba. (Ha. See what I did there?)

But here’s the problem with The Bubba, and so many like them:

They think we don’t really want a burger that tastes like a real burger. But we do.

At least I think we do…

I can’t speak for every vegan or vegetarian. I can really only speak for myself, but I know that I want a burger that tastes to me like the old burgers tasted. The ones that were full of poor dead cows. THAT, I want no part of anymore.

But folks like Bubba just don’t seem to understand that. They think that vegans and vegetarians all come from another planet, where everything tastes like vegetables and we WANT everything to taste like vegetables; in fact, we’re tickled pink about it.

I mean, if I’m being honest, probably the healthiest vegans DO mostly want that. I get it. I wish I were that enlightened.

But I’m not.

I want my burger to hold the texture, mouthfeel, and taste of a real burger. For me, the Beyond Burger, Beast Burger, and Beastly Sliders have come closest to that goal, and I could gobble them three times a week and still want more.

Most of the folks I know who no longer eat meat do it because they don’t want the animals to suffer, not because they only want to eat vegetables for the rest of their lives.

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Bubba’s Burger fell apart. And it was smushy.

Bubba, I’m sorry to inform you, but the longer I cooked your burger, the mushier it got. The pic looks kinda pretty, but inside it was just not firmly burgerific. At all. And when I put it on the bun, it promptly oozed out the sides and toppled onto the plate.

Tsk tsk. That’s a No No, Bubba.

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I think you’ll enjoy Bubba’s story as much as I did, because in reading between the lines, he might be saying “What the fuck am I doing making this stupid veggie burger. Trump would hate it, and so do I. Screw those board members who are making me do this. I hate my life.” Or something of that nature.

He pretty much confirms my theory that he thinks one can just throw in any old veggie stuff, smush it together, and Voila, the vegans will be happy.

I also think Bubba’s got some complaints headed his way when folks throw his burger on the grill (as instructed), and it all falls through the grate and onto the fire. Because it doesn’t hold together, Bubba! It just doesn’t hold together!

So please, go back to the drawing board on the taste and texture thing, my bubbalicious friend. I beg of you. Hire a vegan chef, that’s my recommendation. They’re the guys who know what we want and know how to make it for us.

And then I promise I’ll come back and buy a second batch. And probably a third and fourth.

What I AM especially heartened by with Bubba’s effort at Veggie Burgers, though.

Take heart, Bubba. I am still giving you an “A” for effort, because I’m super impressed that you have made the attempt to create a veggie burger at all.

Oh, and I’m gonna slap on a second “A” for being Gluten Free! Most veggie burgers aren’t, and that puts them out of the running for my favorite burger before we even hit the starting gate.

I for one am very encouraged that even the large animal carcass purveyors can see the writing on the wall.

Maybe they know veggie burgers will be easier to grow and cultivate in the Zombie Apocalypse (after all, cows don’t run that fast, and would probably make good zombie meals, too), OR they know that there are enough people with hearts in this world who will eventually decide THEY DON’T WANT TO CONSUME THE FLESH OF COWS WHO ARE CHOPPED INTO PIECES AND SKINNED WHILE THEY ARE STILL ALIVE.

No. No they don’t.

Don’t believe that happens to the animals? Surely you’re not that naive. Read this article, which is short, well-written, direct, and to the point: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anna-pippus/meet-the-former-slaughter_b_10199262.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003

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Note how the Beast Burger holds together, and gets all nice and burgery….yummm. Yum.

For those of you who like to compare ingredients

I know you’re out there. And you’ll ask if I don’t give it to you. Here you go:

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The Bubba Veggie Burger, above.

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The Beast Burger.

In the end, although I had a bit of fun with it, The Bubba Burger wasn’t awful. I’ve had much worse in the flavor department, and I’ve even had worse in the texture department. I think it needs work to have any staying power in the marketplace, and I hope Bubba puts in the effort. After all, the zombies WILL eat all the cows, that you can be sure of…so he will need an alternative ready and waiting for those not blown up by the nuclear bomb to partake of.

I plan to finish the pack, but I won’t be buying more unless I find that improvements have been made. I prefer my burgergasms, and I’m willing to pay more for them if need be. Curse you and my addiction, Beast Burger!