An Open Animal Rescue Like No Other Before: When Love is the Motivation

I was, am, and probably will always be, the lone wolf type…which is often not a good thing when trying to make a difference in the world.

When I was rescuing chained dogs, even though I instinctively knew the more people I could get to stand together the more difference we could make, I struggled to bring that dream to fruition.

Yes, DDB had more success than had ever before been seen for chained dogs, but I dreamed of a day when a community would stand as one against a dog chainer, and INSIST, no, DEMAND, that the dog be given up to a better life. Where community pressure and love for the dogs would blow away any ridiculous notions of property rights as they applied to our animal friends.

Mostly, my stands for animals resulted in just me being arrested, and while that created a ripple, it didn’t create a wave.

But this week that wave was created on behalf of another animal: chickens caught in the brutality of factory farming, and—even though I had nothing to do with it—I couldn’t be prouder of the 500 people who took action on behalf of the animals.

THIS is how lasting change will be made…

By an entire community of people standing, in love, and for reasons of love, against those of ownership, hatred, disregard, and abuse.

The folks who participated in this action have my deepest respect, and my deepest thanks. Below, I highlight the words of Wayne Hsiung, leader of Direct Action Everywhere, as well as photos from his page.

Thank you, Wayne, and each and every one of the 500 people who stood by your side. You’ve done what so many of us have dreamed of.

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From Wayne Hsiung:

“Just a small handful of the powerful photos from yesterday’s #MassOpenRescue. We walked into a vile factory farm with around 500 activists, and we walked out with 37 lives.

• When we first walked down into the facility, a huge group of activists with white flowers were tasked with supporting us, as we confronted hell on earth. (Another group stood outside on the public road, to be our public face for the media.) This image shows the buffering effect that our support team had on us. We could literally look up and see that we had allies to back us, and to bear witness, as employees or police assaulted us.

• The police arrived within 30 minutes. I discussed with them the “right to rescue” – our statutory and common law right to enter animal abusing facilities and take victims out. They mostly refused to listen, and just wanted us to get out. But the fact that we had a legal basis for our actions gave them pause. And our rescuers continued their life-saving work as I negotiated with the police and owners for most of the next hour.

• Despite being commanded by the owner to leave animals behind, and in the face of extremely intense negotiations with officers who were armed and prepared to use violence to stop us, we walked out with 10+ birds, almost 1.5 hours after we first arrived. We walked right past a police line, with flowers in our hands and love in our hearts. We showed the officers the rotting, cannibalized birds in our hands, and they declined to stop us. So the last 10 birds got home, allowing us to rescue 37 in total.

• We had been promised—by the owner and the police—the right to resume our inspection and rescue any dying birds. But the owner took that off the table, and refused to allow the media to join us in inspecting the facility. I suspect they just wanted to separate me and other leadership from the rest of the activists, arrest us, then hope that eventually the other activists would dissipate in the heat of the sun.

• But that didn’t happen. The activists on site felt strongly that we had the right to remove, at least, the injured animals — and yes, perhaps them all — so we walked back on the farm, nonviolently with red flowers in one hand, and rescue packages in the other. And 40 of us were arrested as we descended on that police line.

• There are so many other stories to tell, but here are 4 of the most important. Thanks to each and every one of you who was at #ALC2018. You are the ones who saved these 37 lives, and garnered media attention across the globe.”

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Join Direct Action Everywhere to be part of history for animals.

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/