It was late at night, and the PETA fieldworkers had driven for nearly two hours to arrive at a home in rural North Carolina after receiving a frantic call on PETA’s after-hours pager. They could tell right away that the dog needed emergency veterinary care. A distraught woman had called PETA after checking on a puppy named Justice, whom she had given to friends several months earlier, and realized with horror that his new owners had never loosened or changed his collar. It was now deeply embedded in the growing dog’s neck, causing a gruesome wound.
PETA’s fieldworkers gently loaded the puppy into their van, being careful not to jostle his injured neck, and rushed him to the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic, where the collar was cut off and the wound cleaned and bandaged. Despite what must have been excruciating pain, Justice never stopped wagging his tail.
This case may seem shocking, but it is just one of thousands of cruelty cases that PETA investigates every year. The vast majority involve so-called “backyard dogs“—dogs who live outside 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of dogs across the country spend their entire lives within the radius of a short chain or cramped pen. They are stuck outside and simply forgotten.
PETA goes on daily missions to deliver doghouses, straw bedding, food, toys, flea and heartworm medication, and more to neglected dogs in impoverished areas surrounding our headquarters, the Sam Simon Center, in Norfolk, Virginia. Staffers and volunteers often find animals suffering from untreated illnesses and injuries—and even deliberate starvation. Embedded collars like Justice’s, while horrifying, are common. Fieldworkers have also found dying dogs riddled with maggots and dogs suffering from heartworms, parvo, mange, infected wounds, and other serious, sometimes life-threatening, medical problems.
Even though it is illegal, countless backyard dogs don’t have so much as a cardboard box to shelter them from the wind and rain. PETA fieldworkers have found dogs shivering during snowstorms with only a piece of plywood propped against a fence, a card table, an overturned barrel, or a shell of an air-conditioning unit—or nothing at all—to protect them from the elements. During the winter, these dogs can suffer from exposure or frostbite or become dehydrated when their water bowls freeze. During the summer, a lack of access to water or shade can be fatal when the temperatures soar.
Justice was one of the lucky ones. He was surrendered to PETA and has been adopted into a loving home where he now lives indoors and sleeps on a bed (or a lap!) instead of a cold, hard patch of dirt. But countless other dogs are still out there, waiting for someone to notice them, to care about them, to save them. Here are some things you can do to help these forgotten dogs:
- Offer to take neglected dogs for walks. Stop by for visits and take treats and toys.
- Offer to provide a doghouse and straw bedding if the dog doesn’t have them.
- Offer to build or repair a fence so that the dog can be released from a rope or chain. If that isn’t feasible, provide the dog with a running line so that he or she can exercise more freely.
- Let guardians of backyard dogs know that dogs need proper food and shelter, fresh water, heartworm and flea medication, exercise, and regular trips to the veterinarian.
- Call your local humane society or animal control to report neglect. If possible, take pictures and write down dates and times when the dog goes without food, water, or shelter.
- Work with your local legislators to pass restrictions or a ban on chaining, as more than 200 jurisdictions around the country have done.
Visit PETA.org for more tips and information.