She Was “Doing Something With the Dog.”…I Believe it’s Called “Petting.”

Yesterday I had to be in court in Tyrone, PA, on two charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct for my failed attempts to help this Bellwood, PA dog. Read my previous blogs for more info, or get caught up on the case here: http://dogsdeservebetter.org/papoliceabusepower.html

Since these were just summary charges (think traffic tickets—only more annoying—and majorly trumped up at that), I chose to act as my own attorney.

In hindsight, it’s a good thing I didn’t go to law school; then I would have no excuse for the way I get chewed up and spit out in the courtroom.

This is the best pic that shows how truly close to the road she was. Yep, right beside it.
This is the best pic that shows how truly close to the street she was. Yep, right beside it.

They couldn’t find any reason at all to convict me on trespassing (It wasn’t for lack of trying), as I had photos of the dog standing smack-dab beside the curb of the street.

The magistrate had to drop that charge.

The cop had no direct knowledge of anything that happened that night. Just the word of his ‘witness.’ And this is what they spend tax-payer dollars on…arguing?

He claimed that he called my house to discuss the situation with me before filing charges to get my side of the story, but that is untrue. He said there was no answering machine, but we have two. One takes a message if no one is on the phone, and the other picks up if we’re on the other line. Either way, if you call our home, you will hit an answering machine. He never called, never left a message.

I showed the above photo to the officer to point out how close to the street the dog was, and asked how I could possibly be trespassing with her on the curb.

He said that I could have taken the photo from BEHIND THE DOG.

I’m not even lying about that. Seriously! 

How could I POSSIBLY take THIS PHOTO from BEHIND the dog? Bwahaha.

I had to educate the officer on the law with regards to photographing dogs, and, well, anything in the public domain. It is allowed by law as long as it can be photographed and is visible from public property.

This officer thought I had to have the owner’s permission to photograph the dog. Not true.

I’m pretty sure I had the dog’s permission to photograph her, though. A dog who has spent her life tethered is happy for just about any kind of attention that isn’t doing her physical harm. She was sweet, a bit shy, and so attention-starved (and food-starved) it made me sad.

In order to make me sound more criminal, the officer claimed that his witness told him I was “Doing Something With the Dog.”

He made sure to repeat this twice, to ensure that the judge knew just how ominous my behavior was.

I believe that is called “Petting,” Officer.

“P-e-t-t-i-n-g.”

Here’s the definition in case you run into it again: To show affection through caressing or stroking: i.e. to pet a dog.

On the disorderly conduct—which I like to call “arguing without a purpose”—it was my word against the word of his witness, which is why I saw no point to going to court in the first place.

Good Lord! What she accused me of doing was so ridiculous and over the top that my husband Joe couldn’t contain himself any longer and started cracking up.

Which of course made me want to crack up too. But I know that judges get pretty irate when people laugh in their courtroom, so I tried to keep a handle on the cackling.

She even accused me of threatening to call Children in Youth (or whoever it is, I’m not sure who she said) about her kids having dirty clothes. I would imagine all kids would have dirty clothes in the summer…that means they’re playing. I never even noticed.

I do remember telling her kids that I felt sorry for them that they had to grow up believing this was any kind of way to keep an animal. And I don’t regret that for a minute.

Based on her testimony, either A: I had a blackout and turned into Darth Vader for no apparent good reason, OR B: she was lying through her teeth.

I’m going with B.

Keep in mind, this woman was NOT the dog owner. She was the neighbor across the street. I don’t know her from Adam, don’t care to know her, and I would have no reason to talk to a stranger.

In fact, one of my issues is that I’m incredibly shy in person, and have a very hard time talking to people I don’t know. Logic would tell you that no single woman would go up to a group of four people, two men and two women, and start verbally accosting them out of the blue. Why?

Calling them names? How do you call people names you don’t even know. Wouldn’t you need to at least be angry at them before you took that step?

On and on it went. When I had the chance to question her, she denied the things I knew to be true.

1. The young man, Zach, stated on our facebook page that his uncle is a Bellwood cop. Even though she said she was related to Zach in some way, neither she nor the cop would admit to being related or knowing anyone on the force who was related to them.

2. Denied that Zach almost physically accosted me, but she and her mother or whoever she was pulled him away. She did say he got about five feet away from me (when I walked up to him, yeah, I’m going to walk belligerently up to a young man I don’t even know and what, threaten to beat him up?) at which point in time she went up and ‘gently touched him on the arm to have him back up.’

3. Denied standing in the road, breaking the law of obstructing traffic, when I was trying to drive away. [PA 5507. Obstructing highways and other public passages. (a) Obstructing.–A person, who, having no legal privilege to do so, intentionally or recklessly obstructs any highway, railroad track or public utility right-of-way, sidewalk, navigable waters, other public passage, whether alone or with others, commits a summary offense.]

The magistrate wouldn’t give me the time of day about any claims that the charges were filed seven days after the supposed offenses in an attempt to ‘get even’ with me for inspiring so many phone calls about the dog’s condition to the Bellwood police.  The officer did admit to getting a lot of phone calls, but wouldn’t say how many.

The magistrate acted like I had no legal authority to be there, to take photos, or to advocate on behalf of the dog. He was obsessed with the fact that I didn’t call the police. I told him truthfully that it didn’t even cross my mind.

But I not only have the legal authority to advocate on behalf of any dog or child who is suffering, I have the moral obligation to do so. And so do you.

After twelve years of working with and for chained dogs, I have an expertise in the field of chaining and the cruelty laws that most people don’t have. I can look at a dog’s situation and tell instantly if the situation would break existing cruelty laws (if anyone bothered to uphold them), and if it’s worthwhile to even attempt to get the dog legal help.

That’s always a big IF.

What I didn’t tell him was that the reason it didn’t cross my mind is because my personal interaction with police has ALWAYS landed on the side of the abuser. 100% of the time.

(Make that 95%. I do remember one time a state policeman went to a home that had no doghouse in Cambria County, PA, and forced them to buy a doghouse. That was something, anyway.)

This is just another case in point.

The magistrate had absolutely no respect for me as an animal advocate or a human being. He acted like I was just a sheeple who is obligated to hand over every interaction on a dog’s behalf to authorities.

But I’m not, and neither are you. We have the power of the people to bring action on behalf of dogs. We don’t have to listen to those in positions of power who expect us to shut our eyes and obey.

Hitler thought that way too, didn’t he?

I broke no laws that night, and they trumped up offenses to punish me. That is the bottom line.

This fun time cost me $177. I assume when I refuse to pay they will have to continue doing this and my bill will continue to escalate.
This fun time cost me $177. I assume when I refuse to pay they will have to continue doing this and my bill will continue to escalate.

I received a $50 fine and court expenses in the hundreds. It cost me $177 for the two constables to come and pick me up at the Bellwood police station, handcuff me, and drive me to the magistrates office 5 miles away.

The total they expect me to pay is in the neighborhood of $470.

I informed the judge that I’m not willing to pay and requested jail time.

He refused. He said I have to wait until I’m in violation for not paying and they put out another warrant for my arrest. And then something about requiring an attorney. Which I won’t hire. So we will be back at square one again.

We took this photo of the dog yesterday while we were in Bellwood. She has straw in her house, and a new and longer tether. Minor improvements, but she's still dirty and her collar is too tight. I couldn't tell her weight as she didn't stand up.
We took this photo of the dog yesterday while we were in Bellwood. She has straw in her house, and a new and longer tether. Minor improvements, but she’s still dirty and her collar is too tight. I couldn’t tell her weight as she didn’t stand up.

It all gets very exhausting, but I firmly believe it’s necessary and I’m obligated to continue to practice passive resistance on behalf of animal activists the world over; and one Bellwood dog who still deserves better.

We do have the power of the people, and we are in the beginning stages of changing the world for animals. Those of us currently on the front lines must stand strong in the face of ridicule, abuse of power, and lies by those in control. It’s the only way change has ever been made in this world.

We taped the hearing yesterday, but I haven’t yet had the courage to listen to it and subject myself to their lies and abuse a second time. When I do so, if it is of decent quality and it makes me laugh, I’ll share some of the best parts with you all.

I believe in the power of laughter to uplift and renew. If I couldn’t laugh at the stuff that happens to me later with my husband Joe, I don’t think I would have lasted nearly this long.

My favorite funny of this whole incident so far has been the dog owner calling me “an old fat whore hog” on facebook. Obviously, it doesn’t get much more offensive that that, but it’s so damn funny, that sometimes I just roll laughing thinking about it.

See, I told you protesting was fun! Look at me laughing and enjoying myself. Hopefully you want to join me next time now that you can see just what kind of good time can be had by all.
See, I told you protesting was fun! Look at me laughing and enjoying myself. Hopefully you want to join me next time now that you can see just what kind of good time can be had by all.

On the bright side, my husband Joe made the four hour drive to support me yesterday, proudly wearing his shirt with the Dogs Deserve Better emblem. He has been at every single hearing or difficult situation within driving distance that I’ve had to face down since we started dating five years ago. I will never be able to express how much his support has meant to me through all this.

And, an adopter from Blandburg, PA, Taylor Hinckley, came to the hearing to support me. She gave me the below card and a photo of the dog she adopted from Dogs Deserve Better.

Just when I feel so diminished and down and out from the abuse the system hands out to me for speaking up, God sends an angel to lift me and remind me that I have value and have had many successes on behalf of those without a voice.

Thank you, to both Joe and Taylor for showing me people can still be good. I needed that.

taylorhinckleynote

Lizzie is the dog in the front.
Lizzie is the dog in the front.

Dog out in the Cold? What to Do, what to Do…

Well, folks, we’ve hit THAT time of year. What time of year would that be, you say?

That time of year—aka WINTER—where Dogs Deserve Better’s phones ring off the hook with people desperate for help for a freezing dog on a chain or in a pen next door.

This was my dog Sloan when he lived on the chain. And yep, it was perfectly legal for him to be left out in the cold
This was my dog Sloan when he lived on the chain. And yep, it was perfectly legal for him to be left out in the cold. Look at his sad puppy eyes!

What many folks don’t know or don’t understand is that in most parts of the U.S., it is still perfectly legal to force a dog to live on a chain 24/7/365.

Cruel? You bet your bottom dollar. But—in most cases—legal.

Dogs Deserve Better, and many other groups small and large, want to put an end to this (how shall I term it elegantly) BS.

There are laws in about 200-300 cities, counties and a handful of states that limit the amount time a dog can remain tethered—see this link for a listing of most of the current laws on the books. Note that there are fifteen states listed as having some kind of tethering laws on the books statewide, but most of these laws say only that you can’t CRUELLY chain a dog. Alas, in most cases of typical chaining, humane officers or animal control officers don’t consider the mere act of chaining to be cruel, rendering the law a rather useless addendum to animal cruelty statutes.

The best state law on the books comes from California, where one cannot chain a dog for more than three hours at a time, and even that’s supposed to be only to ‘complete a temporary task.’ Unfortunately, it’s still legal to affix a dog in California to a trolley line—a glorified tether—or throw the dog in a pen for life. That, I’m afraid to say, is legal pretty much anywhere.

I formed Dogs Deserve Better because I, like most of the citizens who reside in the U.S., was horrified that in 2002 it was still legal to chain a dog in America.

I had no idea that I couldn’t get help from authorities for the dogs I saw rotting away at the end of a chain when I moved back to Pennsylvania after my stint in the U.S. Air Force and finishing college in the MD/DC area. When I tried and was told repeatedly by an unsympathetic humane officer that there was nothing I could do about the suffering I was forced to witness, I felt anger, helplessness, hopelessness; and then finally determination to do something about it.

I myself come from a family of chainers. Granted, it was much more prominent in the 1960s and 70s than it is today, but, even then, I knew it was wrong.

This wasn't my hound, Maggie, but she lived a very similar and sad life at the end of her chain
This wasn’t my hound, Maggie, but she lived a very similar and sad life at the end of her chain

How can you look at a dog living on a chain and not know in your gut that it’s wrong?

Here’s a quote  illustrating this certain knowledge that I loved from this article: ““Even if you don’t know that not tethering is a law [in California], you’d have to be an idiot to not know that keeping an animal on a stake is so 1950s junkyard-dog,” Welsh said. “You have to be totally insensitive to put your dog in the backyard tied to a tree. If people see a dog tied to a porch, fence or stake, they should call us and we’ll go out.”

I grew up on a 108-acre farm in the tiny village of St. Augustine, in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. We had two dogs, Gally, a black lab, and Maggie, a beagle. Neither of these dogs was allowed to live inside the home with us, but Gally had it better than Maggie. He was free to roam the farm and find all kinds of trouble, including his penchant for dragging home dog food bags from parts unknown and rolling in dead animals to achieve a repugnant pungence that only he seemed to appreciate.

Maggie, on the other hand, was ostensibly a hunting hound, but to my knowledge she never left that chain until the day my brother lost her in the woods. Her’s was a sad and lonely existence, and I hope and pray that my work for those of her kind can begin to make up for what my family did to her by leaving her chained for life.

Worthless on his chain, before his rescue after ten years of hell.
Worthless on his chain, before his rescue after ten years of hell.

So, let’s say now you find yourself in the same quandary I did when I moved back to Pennsylvania in 1995 and bought a house only 1/4 mile from the dog you see above, ‘Worthless’. (No, I didn’t call him that, his owners did).

You are living next door to or seeing a dog chained in the cold—day in and day out.

Rain, snow, sleet, hail; heat, cold. None of that matters, the dog is still out there, alone, freezing, wondering what he/she did wrong to be ostracized from the pack, the family, and begging to get back in.

What to do, what to DO?

Here are some steps I recommend for you to follow, and maybe, just maybe, you will work some magic for the voiceless, suffering being whose only hope may very well be YOU.

alduschained
Aldus is another dog I rescued from a chain years ago; he was peeing blood in the snow, and no one seemed to even notice or care.

1. Research your laws and educate yourself to them.

As I said above, there ARE communities that do have laws limiting the time a dog may live chained. You want to educate yourself on your local chaining laws; because if you don’t, animal control will take advantage of the fact that you are uninformed and use it to blow you off.

Here are the links again to start your research:

This site has many of the time limit or ban laws listed on chaining, but most likely not all because some slip through the cracks: http://www.unchainyourdog.org/Laws.htm

This site has municipal codes of every kind for many cities in the U.S. They may have yours. https://www.municode.com/

If you find nothing on either site, contact your local city or county administration office and find out what your animal cruelty laws are, which would be in addition to your state cruelty laws.

In general, here’s the way laws operate: A state can have a law, say, a law limiting chaining to three hours a day like California. A county or city can then implement a STRICTER law, but NOT a looser law. Say, then, Los Angeles could come along and create a stronger law than the state law, banning the chaining of dogs altogether, but they couldn’t create a looser law, say one limiting chaining to ten hours a day. Does that make sense? So if you live in California, there’s a chance you have your state law, which is three hours, PLUS a local law which could limit chaining or penning even further.

2. If your State or Local Community has a Law Limiting Chaining.

If you have a state or local law banning or limiting chaining, you ARE AMONG THE LUCKY ONES! COUNT YOURSELF BLESSED. In theory, this would mean that you could call your local animal control and they would come along, issue a warning or have a little talk with the owner, and the dog would be taken inside or given up to animal control if the caretakers didn’t want to comply with the law. Happily ever after. (As long as someone goes along and rescues the dog from animal control, of course.) Unfortunately, this happy turn of events is pretty rare.

If you have a state law and the law is blatantly ignored or broken and animal control won’t do anything about it, then you have to force the issue. Follow the steps listed below to take further action on behalf of the dog.

3. If your State or Local Community DOESN’T have a Law Limiting Chaining.

If you don’t have a state or local law banning or limiting chaining, BEND OVER AND KISS YOUR A@$ GOODBYE, cause you’re in for a rough ride. Bwahaha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

But it is dire, mostly for the dog; and for you too, if you’re hoping to get a good night’s sleep at all this winter.

By now you will have researched your state laws and at least know what the general cruelty laws say. At a minimum, all states have a law that roughly reads “a dog must have food, water, shelter, and veterinary care”. If the dog doesn’t have these things, or the dog is severely underweight or has some other malady or injury, you still have a shot at animal control or humane officers taking some kind of action on behalf of the dog.

I estimate—from my 13+ years experience in working to free chained dogs all over the U.S.—that about 20% of animal control officers qualify as ‘good guys.’ These are folks, men and women, who actually BELIEVE that chaining is not the way to keep a dog and doesn’t meet a dog’s needs, and even if they don’t have a law on the books, these people will go out of their way to creatively educate the owners or find that the method of chaining or the fact that they are chaining at all is cruel. I LOVE THESE OFFICERS!

If you’re lucky enough to find one of this 20%, you have a good chance of making real change on behalf of the dog.

Unfortunately, that leaves 80% that don’t qualify, in my opinion, as ‘good guys.’ These officers could care less about the dog, or even if they do have a dog at home that lives inside and they don’t personally believe in chaining, they uphold the letter of the law and refuse to make any waves or encourage people with chained dogs to do better.

Sometimes—quite often actually—these officers MAKE YOU OUT TO BE THE BAD GUY instead of the dog chainer, which is very upsetting to someone who just wants the best for a dog who lives in bad conditions.

4. Speak to the Caretakers About the Dog.

This step should come next IF YOU DON’T HAVE A TETHERING LAW. It is my opinion that this should be tried before calling animal control if there is no law to protect the dog, because once you call animal control, they will be pissed and you won’t have a chance of getting through to them.

This step takes a lot of courage; if you can make yourself buddy buddy up to the caretaker, you have a better chance of getting them to give you the dog, OR at least better the dog’s living conditions.

Sometimes, they simple say ‘take the dog, I don’t want him/her anymore anyway,’ and you can have what is literally the BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE BECAUSE YOU GET TO FREE THIS PRECIOUS BEING (have them hand write a transfer of ownership to you for your protection) and set him/her on to a better life.

Sometimes, they listen to what you have to say but show absolutely no interest in bettering life for their dog or allowing you to help or walk the dog.

Sometimes, they get crazy and scream and yell no matter how nice you are, and you have to hightail it out of there before things get too ugly.

The last one happens a lot.

But, no matter what, after this step you know where things stand, and you know if you can make any headway on your own.

Dogs Deserve Better has brochures you can buy at a low cost, as well as doorhangers, and posters. Check them out at our store, here: http://dogsdeservebetter.org/store.html

We also have a volunteer page with handout letters, brochures, and other items you can print out and take with you. That page is here: http://dogsdeservebetter.org/volunteer.html

5. Report the Dog and the Address to Animal Control or your local Humane Officer.

In all cases, if talking to the neighbors doesn’t work, report the address to your local animal control or humane officer. Even if they do nothing, (which is what happens in most cases), at least they go out and look at the dog, and then both the local authorities AND the owners know that citizens don’t want to see dogs living outside anymore.

I believe we CAN AND WILL change society by raising our voices. We can’t be quiet about it.

6. If Animal Control or the Humane Officer does nothing, here are the ways Dogs Deserve Better can get involved.

If you believe the dog’s situation is illegal, take photos and fill out this form: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/chainedaddresses.html. It is best if you give us a way to contact you so we can discuss the situation and help you to help the dog. However, if the photos are egregious and show definite illegalities (and you still want to be anonymous), we can find other local people to confirm and work with animal control to hopefully get help for the dog/s.

If you believe the dog’s situation is not illegal but want our opinion, take photos and fill out this form: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/chainedaddresses.html. For this we will need your contact information to get back to you.

If you believe the dog’s situation is not illegal, but know like we do that it is immoral and cruel, then fill out the form, and you can remain anonymous. We will mail educational information to the dog’s caretakers in hopes that they will do better for their dog. http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/chainedaddresses.html

Robin and I protesting the abuse of dogs at the Olympic Animal Sanctuary last November
Robin and I protesting the abuse of dogs at the Olympic Animal Sanctuary last November

7. If the situation is really illegal and the dogs are in bad shape but animal control and/or the police are not helping, get us photos right away and we will put public pressure on the officials. Or, create your own facebook page or post about the dogs with the photos, and ask us to crosspost it for you.

I’m working a case right now on our Facebook page with skeletal dogs that a citizen posted photos of. (It’s a status, so it may not be there if you don’t click it tonight. https://www.facebook.com/dogsdeservebetter?pnref=story) I networked with the citizen, downloaded the photos, got the numbers for animal control and the police in Corpus Christi Texas, and put them on our facebook with requests for calls. People are calling like crazy! It can and does work.

DDB’s volunteer and rescue coordinator Robin Budin usually oversees these cases for us, and we have a good deal of success with them. There is strength and power in numbers, so we all have to stick together! If dogs are suffering and nothing is being done, good photos of the situation can compel people to make the calls on behalf of the dogs. When law enforcement receives enough phone calls about a situation, often something is done.

If you are in this kind of situation and need immediate help for a dog or dogs that are in bad shape, e-mail Robin at volunteer@dogsdeservebetter.org. Make sure to send photos and your contact information so she can help you.

8. Make an End Run Around Cruelty Laws by Reporting Noise Violations

Most dogs left out in the backyard on a chain or in a pen bark. A lot. And then they bark some more. Why? Because they are cold, bored, lonely, sad, angry, frustrated, hopeless, helpless, injured, dying, praying you’ll notice them. You get the picture. If the dog is in distress, odds are good that he or she is barking.

Most cities and counties have noise ordinances, where you can’t make a ton of noise after say 10:00 p.m. Check your locality for the ordinance that is in effect there, and use it to your advantage.

If nothing else has worked, this could be the way around the situation. With enough noise violations, the owner will either have to take his/her dog inside, or relinquish the dog to animal control. If that happens, and you care about that dog, PLEASE go get him/her out of animal control! With owner surrenders, they are authorized to kill the dog very quickly, so if you care about the dog enough to make a stink on his/her behalf, then go rescue him/her from animal control and either find a group to take the dog or adopt him/her yourself.

It is worth your while to adopt that dog and give him the life he never had before; you will have no better feeling than seeing this dog sleeping on your couch or his own dog bed this holiday season. I promise you that.

9. Work on Chain-ging Laws.

I almost forgot this step, and aside from helping one single dog starfish style, this is the most important step! If your city or county doesn’t have a law, take on the task of creating and getting one passed. Laws get chain-ged by citizens like you and I that take it on and don’t stop until we succeed. The state level is very difficult, but the city and local laws are not AS hard to get passed. Visit our Get Laws page for many good articles and suggestions for you. By chain-ging a law, you help many many dogs as opposed to just the few you manage to salvage from a backyard situation. http://dogsdeservebetter.org/laws.html

Yep, it’s that time of year, folks. Let’s not go into it unprepared this year. Good luck, and please be a voice for the dogs near you. They need our help, and we are often all that stands between them and certain death at the end of a chain.

I got to unchain Sampson last year in the snow, and it is one of the best feelings you'll ever have, to free a dog. Nothing like it!
I got to unchain Sampson last year in the snow, and it is one of the best feelings you’ll ever have, to free a dog. Nothing like it!