Freedom from Chains as a Lesson from Martin Luther King Jr.

I saw “Selma” on Friday, the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s (and so many others) march on Selma, Alabama which was a turning point in the fight for racial equality in America.

As I sat in the dark theater watching whites beat blacks to death and employ German Shepherds as attack dogs to cause them even more fear and pain, I sobbed for the cruelty that humanity is capable of. I asked myself (as I seem to do so much lately), “Why? Why? Why? I just don’t understand.”

I don’t understand why humans are so cruel to others and to animals. I don’t understand why those in power (of any color) torture and abuse those without power. I don’t understand why they can’t see that a living, breathing being is suffering and why they think it’s in any way ok to keep them down and abused.

In the days of the slaves, the white oppressors convinced themselves that the blacks were ‘happy.’ They liked living that way.

Every oppressive regime or government says the same thing about the oppressed. “They like it. They’re happy.”

But they’re not. Every oppressed people longs for freedom, and ever oppressor refuses to grant that freedom. Freedom doesn’t come without a fight.

Our fight for freedom for chained dogs is this very same fight. The only difference is that these non-human animals don’t speak with a human voice, so we must become their mouthpieces.

I picked this dog up who couldn't stand, took him to the vet, and refused to return him to the owners who left him lay like that for three days. I was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. I didn't care. He was worth it.
I picked this dog up who couldn’t stand, took him to the vet, and refused to return him to the owners who left him lay like that for three days. I was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. I didn’t care. He was worth it.

Chained dogs still speak. A dog who is laying on the ground, unable to stand, but looks at you with pleading eyes; these eyes beg for help. That anyone with eyes and a heart can understand.

A dog who is chained against his will and against his nature barks for freedom. He paces, whines, cries, and eventually gives up on life. All this is visible if you but open your eyes to see.

The dogs’ oppressors don’t see/won’t see. They tell you they are ‘happy’ out there. Sound familiar?

They’re not.

What is the biggest lesson chained dog advocates can take away from Dr. King and those who marched with him?

WE MUST GET MORE ACTIVE.

No one will GIVE the dogs freedom without being forced. And the only way to win the freedom which should be theirs already by moral law? Through the use of the collective voice of the many.

Dr. King went to the president time after time for help. He was told to be patient. He was told it wasn’t yet time for his issue. To sit down and wait his turn.

King refused. He gathered his troops (blacks and whites—all willing to die for the cause) and they marched. Some did die and some were gravely injured. But they marched anyway, for they understood the cost was necessary in order to win rights for the many.

When do we march? When do we feel strongly enough about the plight of the chained dogs to STAND UP AND DO SOMETHING?

To go EN MASSE to the site of a chained dog and DEMAND THE DOG’S REMOVAL FROM THE CHAIN? THEY CAN’T ARREST 50 PEOPLE, CAN THEY? WILL THEY KNOW THE WIND IS TURNING THEN? YOU BETCHA.

The bottom line is that lawmakers and authorities will not help the dogs until we MAKE THEM DO IT. They will stand with those in power who tell them the dogs are ‘happy’ out there.

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Will we make the dogs wait another century for freedom? How long must they wait?

2ndprotest5

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The Emotional Distress to Humans Who are Forced to Watch a Dog Chained in the Cold

Gideon was rescued last winter by an Ohio humane society, and transferred to DDB
Gideon was rescued last winter by an Ohio humane society, and transferred to DDB

A cold spell is sweeping the nation, and I watch sadly as people frantically beg online and to authorities for help for chained dogs left out in frigid temperatures near them; knowing that for most help will not come.

Will these dogs die this time, this winter, today?

Would a more appropriate question be not WILL THEY die but HOW MANY will die this time, this winter, today?

And when these precious and helpless creatures DO die, frozen to the ground on their chains, neighbors who have watched the dog suffer (but were too afraid to take matters into their own hands) will bear the guilt of the dog’s death in addition to their own feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and anger at a system that’s let them down and the dog down.

The choices for a caring neighbor forced to watch a dog try and fail to survive in sub-freezing temperatures will become 1. take the dog, aka PROPERTY OF ANOTHER, into their warm homes or the vet’s office and risk being arrested for it, OR 2. to protect themselves and stand by and watch the dog die at the end of the chain.

Some choice.

The heartless and soulless humans who left these dogs—dogs who depend on them for empathy and kindness—out on that chain in frigid temperatures to die will not suffer a moment’s remorse for their actions. That I can guarantee you.

I become very depressed when a cold spell hits, and I feel immense guilt that I am sleeping all snug in my bed while dogs are dying out there in the freezing temperatures.

I personally feel the weight of each suffering dog on my shoulders and I feel like it’s all my fault that I haven’t succeeded in freeing every chained dog in America during my 12.5 years with Dogs Deserve Better.

This isn’t logical, of course, and I know that there’s no way I could have or should have been expected to personally free millions of dogs on my own. Yet I have a hard time releasing that guilt and just moving forward to the best of my ability.

I wrote a previous blog about how to go about helping chained dogs in the cold from a logistical standpoint, so I won’t go over all that again, but you can read it here: https://ofdogsandchains.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/dog-out-in-the-cold-what-to-do-what-to-do/

Today I want to talk about the emotional distress that caring humans feel when forced to watch a chained dog suffer in the cold.

Let’s face it, there’s something ‘off’ about anyone who puts a dog on a chain and thinks it’s acceptable under the best of conditions. Throughout history, those who oppress others (human and animals alike) have justified their actions and behavior with such ludicrous phrases as “he/she likes it out there. He/she isn’t suffering. He/she is happy.”

This is what we hear daily at Dogs Deserve Better when speaking to caretakers of chained dogs. “He likes it out there. He hates the house.”

Bullshit.

One wonders, are these people truly without emotions, or have they just blocked off emotions with regard to the oppressed in order to continue the abuse which—for whatever reason—is convenient and easier for them?

When it comes to dog chaining, I’m constantly asked by our supporters (with confused expressions) “Why do they have a dog at all if they’re just going to chain him/her outside?”

I think, outside of nefarious reasons for chaining dogs such as dogfighting, most people leave dogs on chains because it’s easier for them than bringing them inside to live.

Perhaps their father did it, and without a strong moral compass that tells them not to blindly follow in their father’s footsteps, they just continue the pattern without a thought to the suffering of the animal.

It’s true that living with dogs is akin to living with children. When you come home from the store, there is no guarantee you won’t see garbage strewn across your kitchen floor, or the chewed-up, missing limb from your coffee table.

You co-exist with dog hair, tell visitors to wear their shoes inside to save yourself embarrassment, and clean up poop/pee/vomit at inconvenient and annoying times and places.

But if you’re going to live with a dog, you must accept these conditions in exchange for the benefits of loving and caring for a fur creature that gives back as much as he/she takes.

Or, you can just take the easy way out and toss the dog out on a chain without a thought as to what the dog deserves.

I go up against people who chain their dogs way too often in court, and they will lie through their teeth in order to ‘get you’. Morals are not their strong suit, which is completely obvious given that they keep their ‘Best Friend’ on a chain in the backyard next to the garbage can.

Police and judges almost always (in my case, always) side with the dog abusers. Whether our society has evolved to a police state, or those in positions of power are just set on maintaining status quo and property rights is something that could be the subject of endless debate.

Whatever the case may be, there’s a good chance that if a caring citizen tries to get help for a chained or penned dog from authorities, they will be sorely disappointed.

If animal control or the police actually DO help you and make the owners take the dog inside tonight, great! Wonderful! Call it a day and go eat some pizza. You’ve done well, and the officer is to be commended.

If not, you are left with one heluva dilemma and one heluva load of emotional distress for which there is no end in sight. It’s disheartening, to put it mildly.

How can you possibly crawl into your bed tonight and know that the dog next door is struggling just to survive the night? That each moment through which you blissfully sleep is just one more moment of torture for a being who has done nothing wrong, has committed no crime, and wants nothing more than to be part of a home and family?

This emotional distress caused to caring neighbors is an extension of the abuse caused to the dog by those who chain, by police and animal control who turn a blind eye, and by judges who uphold owner’s rights to abuse both the animals and caring citizens.

Think about this. Say your home was broken into by armed robbers, and you had to watch as they beat your husband or wife, but you were tied to the chair in the kitchen and you couldn’t physically get up to help. You were helpless to do anything but watch as this beating continued, and someone you love was forced to endure pain beyond their ability to bear. It hurt you almost as much to watch it as it hurt him/her to endure the beatings.

Even IF this happened only once in your lifetime, AND you both survived, odds are quite good you’d be dealing with years of post traumatic stress disorder.

Watching a dog, a creature most of us love and feel an innate urge to protect, go through a similar torture every day on a chain for the 10-12 years of his/her lifespan and feeling helpless to do anything about it creates a similar post traumatic stress in neighbors.

The condition goes completely undiagnosed because the caring human is too embarrassed to even talk about the pain in therapy or with those who aren’t out and out dog lovers.

Most neighbors of chained dogs become depressed from watching the suffering of the dog next door;  this is a completely NORMAL human reaction to being forced to watch abuse.

I’m spoken to hundreds of people over the years who cry when they describe the condition of their neighbor’s dog to me. They can’t sleep, they can’t eat, and are an emotional wreck from witnessing the abuse day in and day out.

Something must change.

'Worthless' (their name for him, not mine) on his chain in 2002
‘Worthless’ (their name for him, not mine) on his chain in 2002

Before I formed Dogs Deserve Better, I helplessly watched Worthless suffer on his chain for six years. I was obsessed with moving—anywhere else—so that I didn’t have to see his sadness and pain every day.

But I knew wherever I ended up there would just be another dog on another chain;  moving wouldn’t solve the problem of what was happening to Worthless and every other unfortunate dog like him stuck out on a chain for life.

I took action after I formed Dogs Deserve Better, and rescued Worthless from his chain.
I took action after I formed Dogs Deserve Better, and rescued Worthless from his chain.

If you too are suffering from the trauma of watching a dog on a chain, I am truly sorry, both for you and the dog. I know this same pain, and my heart is with you in suffering each and every day.

If you have tried every method of getting help for the dog—to include speaking to the caretakers and asking authorities for help— and nothing has worked, only YOU can decide if you will act in the face of possible harassment by authorities to save the life of the dog in this or another sub-zero cold spell this winter.

Want my advice? I say you only live once (that you know of, anyway) and even IF you get in trouble for removing a dog from a chain in sub-freezing temperatures, it would be the best possible reason to go down; you will always be proud of yourself for taking the courageous stand.

I picked this dog up who couldn't stand, took him to the vet, and refused to return him to the owners who left him lay like that for three days. I was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. I didn't care. He was worth it.
I picked this dog up in 2006, took him to the vet, and refused to return him to the owners who left him to die like that. I was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. I didn’t care. He was worth it.

I know, I’ve done it.

In states with Good Samaritan laws as pertaining to animals (the only one that I know of is Ohio, but there may be more…if you know, please enlighten me), the word is if you act to save the life of an animal you won’t be harmed. I’ve never heard of a case using it yet, but I would always get plenty of evidence before acting.

I recommend that IF you are going to act to save the life of a chained dog, PHOTO DOCUMENT, PHOTO DOCUMENT, PHOTO DOCUMENT. Take both photos and video of the distress of the dog and the outdoor temperatures and conditions before removing him/her from the chain, and either taking him/her into your warm home or to the vet, depending on how dire the circumstances are.

If you live in New York state and run into trouble for helping a chained dog in frigid temperatures, Attorney Matt Albert has pledged to represent you FREE. (Regardless, be SURE to take a ton of photos and video, so he has something to work with in court!)

If you live anywhere else and you are faced with a life and death decision with a dog, I pledge to help you raise the money for attorney’s fees if needed when you take the courageous and morally right actions on the dog’s behalf. I will expect you to provide me with photo and/or video evidence of both the temperatures outside and the distress of the dog.

The bottom line is: ensure you get your evidence, and you get GOOD evidence. Evidence makes all the difference; if not in the courtroom, then definitely in the court of public opinion.

In closing, as an ordained interfaith minister, I hold a firm belief that there are man’s laws and there are God’s laws. All too often man’s laws are in direct violation of God’s laws and go against the conscience of a person of strong moral character.

Please. If you live near a chained dog out in the frigid cold, take EVEN ONE BRAVE ACTION today. Gather your courage; go talk to the caretaker.

If he won’t let you take the dog inside and refuses to take the dog inside himself, gather up ten neighbors who agree that enough is enough and go back WITH A PACK OF HUMANS STANDING STRONG AND TOGETHER. There is safety and strength in numbers.

We are stronger together, and we must stand together in order to stop animal abuse.

I’ve found that the best cure for my depression in the winter is to take action on behalf of chained dogs. You’ll find it helps you too.

Thank you for caring about them.

Ezekiel was a dog who was shot in the head and outside a church in the frigid cold. We rescued him just as the shooter was returning to finish the job! Ezekiel got a wonderful home and family because we didn't give up on him.
Ezekiel was a dog who was shot in the head and taking refuge outside a church in the frigid cold. We rescued him just as the shooter was returning to finish the job! Ezekiel got a wonderful home and family because we didn’t give up on him.

P.S. Here’s our volunteer page link where we have lots of free stuff you can print out to hand out in the neighborhood. http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/volunteer.html

Sarah Palin Brings a Knife to a PETA Gunfight

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about the current fight between PETA and Sarah Palin, whose son Trig is pictured standing on the family dog.

Here’s just one of the links to stories if you haven’t seen them: http://entertainthis.usatoday.com/2015/01/05/sarah-palin-versus-peta-dog-debate-could-continue-deep-into-2015/

I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m not unbiased about Sarah Palin. She frankly makes me crazy, as she should any living and breathing American who has the least amount of concern for animals. For a short time I became so obsessed with her (and not in a good way) that I bought three books about her, just because I couldn’t figure out how someone like her could actually be in a national dialogue about the presidency. In the end I only read one and gave them all to the local library.

In this case Sarah—in her infinite wisdom—posts the photos of Trig standing on the dog like it’s a good thing.

Peta’s Ingrid Newkirk, of course, immediately fires back the following statement:

“It’s odd that anyone — let alone a mother — would find it appropriate to post such a thing, with no apparent sympathy for the dog in the photo….PETA simply believes that people shouldn’t step on dogs, and judging by the reaction that we’ve seen to Sarah Palin’s Instagram photo, we’re far from alone in that belief,” Newkirk said.

To which S.P. replies the below, which rambles on about Obama, the Iditarod, fishing, and leather:

But Sarah’s weak arguments just bring a knife to a gunfight against PETA. The sad truth is that PETA, by their own admission, has killed thousands more animals than Sarah Palin ever has (2013 stats alone).

If Sarah were smart (eh-hem) and actually did any research before speaking (eh-hem again) she would know she had plenty of ammunition against PETA in one recent story alone: PETA is caught on video allegedly stealing a little girl’s dog Maya from her own porch, then by their own admission kills her (a perfectly healthy dog) without explanation and in violation of state law requiring holding periods and notification of Animal Control.

They did bring the family a fruit basket when the truth came out.

It’s shockingly the one time you see PETA with nothing to say.

http://hamptonroads.com/2014/11/man-says-peta-took-his-dog-porch-killed-her

In fact, according to their own state records, PETA euthanizes up to 90 percent of the animals it takes in.

This hypocrisy on the part of PETA makes me just as crazy as S.P. does; and quite frankly, I’d say maybe they’ve met each other’s match.

Do your research, Sarah, if you’re gonna brawl with PETA.

I don’t, can’t, and will never understand how PETA can continue to kill up to 90% of the dogs and cats that cross their paths and yet still say hypocritical things like this about other people’s actions: “It’s odd that anyone — let alone a mother — would find it appropriate to post such a thing, with no apparent sympathy for the dog in the photo….PETA simply believes that people shouldn’t step on dogs, and judging by the reaction that we’ve seen to Sarah Palin’s Instagram photo, we’re far from alone in that belief,” Newkirk said.

What. The. Hell. PETA?

Where was your sympathy for Maya or the thousands you took in promising others you would care for them only to give them the stick as soon as you got them to your van or your facility?

Ingrid, I’m far from alone in my belief that you need to stop the killing of animals in your care. Myself and most others in the animal rights and rescue community “simply believe that people shouldn’t pick up stray dogs and cats and animals off peoples porches and kill them instead of finding them safe and loving homes.”

Stop. It. Just Stop.

Stop with the rhetoric, the hypocrisy, and the killing. You can’t advocate not to harm animals on one hand and kill them with the other.

When you kill more animals than Sarah Palin, it’s time for policy change, PETA.

P.S. The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies (VFHS) has asked the Attorney General to open an investigation into PETA’s theft and killing of Maya, a “happy and healthy” dog. http://www.nathanwinograd.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Letter-to-AG-Mark-Herring-Final-12-28-14.pdf

Someday, even a rural PA judge will understand that dogs are not lawn ornaments, but living beings worthy of our advocacy

On January 5, 2015, I sent the below letter to Blair County Magistrate Fred Miller, in regards to my case advocating for this dog. To read the history of the case, visit our web page at http://dogsdeservebetter.org/papoliceabusepower.html

doglo3

Blair County, PA Magistrate Fred Miller;

Yours is the second letter I write today, the first being to a 10-year-old girl in California who spent her holiday season raising money for the rescued chained dogs of Dogs Deserve Better. I thanked her for her loving and giving soul, and encouraged her to continue to be a voice for the dogs throughout her life, as they truly have no voice of their own.

We are all these helpless creatures have.

In this regard, that little California school girl is the polar opposite of your Bellwood police force and the woman brought to bear false testimony against me—this solely amounting to ‘punishment’ for having the courage to stand as a voice for a tethered and mistreated dog in the town of Bellwood in June, 2014.

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 road she was. Yep, right beside it.

You claim that you convicted me of disorderly conduct because I admitted that the argument between the woman and I might have bothered those passing by.

Yet, what you SHOULD have asked yourself and those in the courtroom was “Would the sight of a suffering animal have bothered those passing MORE than someone arguing on said dog’s behalf?”

As citizens of a free country we are committed to speak on behalf of children and animals. In fact, I would go so far as to say we are morally obligated to do so under the laws of God if not the laws of a fallible mankind.

Given that an extremely-distressed Bellwood resident practically begged me to advocate on the dog’s behalf that day, I would wager that 90% of Bellwood citizens would be MORE distressed at having to witness the abuse of the dog than my verbal stand on the dog’s behalf when accosted by neighbors.

Thoughtless and irresponsible tacks such as yours and that taken by the Bellwood police officer (who was never present at the scene AND only charged me AFTER receiving 100 phone calls about the dog’s welfare from social media posts) continue to cause me disappointment in the moral evolution of our country.

People in positions of power such as yourselves could present a moral front line against those who seek to quell free speech and the advocacy of those without a voice.

Instead, you have repeatedly chosen to put forward and convict citizens on ridiculous and frivolous charges as a means to repress and chill courageous actions in speaking out about the abuse of our animals in this society.

For that, I can only say, “Shame on you.”

2ndprotest5

I requested jail time in lieu of a fine as my ‘punishment’ that day in the courtroom. You informed me that I had to first refuse to pay, at which point I would be dragged back through the court system and found in criminal contempt.

I received a $50 fine, $179.96 in court costs, and $177.80 for two constables to put pink handcuffs on me and drive me the eight miles to your office from my protest vigil in front of the Bellwood police station.

My inclination is to refuse to pay both the fine and the costs, and left to my own devices that is surely what I would do—despite what would happen to me in the end.

As Thoreau states in his essay on civil disobedience: “Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

But this disinclination to pay the court costs is causing my husband distress and thereby causing me problems in my marriage. My husband is a retired Air Force veteran who has stood by me time and time again while I am harrassed by authorities such as yourselves; I believe that he should not have to suffer for my refusal to pay court costs.

Again, Thoreau states, “But, if I deny the authority of the state when it presents its bill, it will soon take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without end. This is hard. This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly…Thus, a state is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength.”

Based on this, I have made the decision to pay you the court costs and the costs for wearing pink handcuffs, but NOT the $50.00 fine. Therefore I am enclosing a check in the amount of $357.76.

In lieu of the $50 fine, I again request jail time, and I hereby waive all rights to an attorney. Please inform me by return mail where to report to jail to serve my sentence, and I will be there.

In closing, although I remain disappointed in your ability to see both the truth AND the justness that is required of man in order for our world to evolve, I have recently been given hope that not all judges are without the vision to see clearly by another you may have heard of—Judge Judy.

On a recent episode of her court show, she took a dog from one ‘owner’ and gave him to another who had provided the proper care and loving environment for the dog. She stated that although dogs were still considered property, they were living beings and if the bad caretaker would not treat the dog as he needed and deserved, then she would give ownership to the woman who did treat the dog as a being worthy of loving care.

Someday, I would wager even a judge in rural Pennsylvania will understand that dogs are not mere pieces of property to treat as lawn ornaments, but living beings worthy of our time, devotion, and advocacy.

In closing, I attach the criminal arrest reports for BOTH the dog owner and the property owner (who is presumably the husband of) the lying neighbor across the street, so you can indeed see on which side of right you are currently standing. Between these two men there have been at least 40 charges, ranging from Statutory Sexual Assault, Aggravated Assault, Deviate Sexual Intercourse with a Child, to Assault of a Person with a Mental Disability.

These are charges that were placed against the dog owner in the past. He pled out of most of them.
These are charges that were placed against the dog owner in the past. He pled out of most of them.
These are past charges brought against the owner of the house across the street, where the 'witness' lives. Note he pled out of most of them.
These are past charges brought against the owner of the house across the street, where the ‘witness’ lives. Note he pled out of most of them.

Well done.

I look forward to your jail sentence by return mail.

Sincerely,
Tamira Ci Thayne, Founder and CEO, Dogs Deserve Better