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A Glimpse Into the World of Forgotten Dogs

Written by Helena Soh | February 4, 2014

When my supervisor offered me the opportunity to take PETA’s social media team from our sunny Los Angeles digs at the Bob Barker Building to freezing-cold Virginia to help chained “backyard dogs,” my initial reaction was one of intimidation. It’s true that the task of promoting PETA’s work on Facebook and Twitter requires looking at some of the most heartbreaking images known to humanity, but usually there’s a computer screen between us and the horrific abuse that we’re seeing. The idea of witnessing animal suffering in person was something that I wasn’t sure I was ready for.

Backyard dog puppies

PETA’s fieldworkers do whatever it takes, in whatever weather conditions, to help make life a bit better for neglected and abused dogs, cats, and other animals in the area around PETA’s HQ, the Sam Simon Center, in Norfolk, Virginia. Parts of this area are among the poorest in the country, so PETA’s fieldworkers often deal with animals in horrible conditions. And because it’s still legal in many areas to keep dogs chained outdoors 24/7, PETA staffers have been visiting some of these dogs for years. While the fieldworkers always encourage people to let their animals live indoors and make them a part of the family, they are also pragmatic. The straw that they deliver won’t freeze in the winter, as blankets do, and the doghouses that we provide protect dogs from the bitter cold of winter and the sweltering heat of summer.

I was assigned to ride with Heather, who told me that we’d be spending the day in Halifax County, North Carolina (about two hours southwest of our Norfolk office), and that we had about six or seven cases to work through. It’s hard to put into words what I witnessed on what, for her, was an “average work day,” because we saw so many animals in need. But these are just a few of the cases that struck a chord with me:

  • Buster, a 10- or 11-year-old dog, has lived outdoors in a small pen all her life, with virtually no contact with anyone. When we pulled up, she was running and jumping for joy, and as we approached her pen, she threw herself against the fence to get closer to us, even sticking her head through the holes. Her water bucket was completely frozen over. We dismantled the fence, which was so old that it had tree roots growing through it, so that her guardian would have access to her in case of an emergency and also so that he would be able to start walking her, an idea that he seemed receptive to. We gave her a proper doghouse, treats, fresh water, and a leash and bowl, and I showered her with as much love as I possibly could. Given her enthusiasm and love of cuddling, one would never suspect that she’s had so little contact with humans. I will remember her and the joy on her face forever.

Buster Dog Before

Buster Dog Pen

Buster Dog After

  • Across the street from Buster, we found a sweet pit bull who was chained to a doghouse, with her two puppies scampering around her. Their guardians weren’t home. We went over and discovered that the area was strewn with broken glass (most likely because the mother dog had been rummaging in the trash out of boredom). PETA fieldworkers had clearly been there before because there was a bag of straw sitting in the carport that the dogs’ guardians hadn’t bothered to open. The mother dog had been biting at her tail, and it was bloody. All three of them were so undernourished that their ribs were showing. Like sweet Buster, they were severely starved for attention. We dewormed them, picked up the glass, and gave them straw and food. The mother dog was so ravenous that she was unable to focus on anything but filling her own stomach, but the puppies eagerly lapped up my affection along with the treats. Legally, there wasn’t much else we could do—we had to leave them. As I wiped away tears, Heather wrote a note and left a card for the guardians to let them know that we had come by and asking them to contact us for additional assistance. Words can’t describe how frustrated I felt as we pulled away while the puppies watched us with pleading eyes. That image will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m so thankful that PETA’s fieldworkers will be back to check on them regularly.

Mom Dog and Puppies

  • This is Boy Boy, who had nothing but massive, slobbery love for us. He lives tied up to his PETA doghouse in the freezing North Carolina winter cold and expends his pent-up energy by running back and forth and around in circles. We gave him fresh straw to keep him warm, treats, lots of hugs, and a leash for his guardian, who, after some discussion, agreed to start walking him around the neighborhood. This particular area seemed to know the PETA van very well. Many people approached us, asking for help with this dog or that cat.

Boy Boy Dog Before

Boy Boy Dog After

  • Although this sweet boy’s name is Vicious, he is anything but. We gave him fresh water, straw, and lots of treats, and we got him off his heavy chain and gave him a 15-foot lightweight tie-out instead. We encouraged his guardian, who also had another pit bull tied up on the other side of the yard, to check the dogs’ water frequently, and we provided other tips on how to care for them as well. I wanted to take this boy home with me, and I still think about him often. I’m so relieved that PETA will continue to check on him and provide him with whatever comfort we can.

Vicious Dog Before

Vicious Dog After

One of the most heartbreaking revelations that we had on this trip, as with so many issues that PETA works on, was just how many animals suffer like this. It’s sad enough to witness one case, but there seems to be an unending stream of them. And then I also realize that I’ve only gotten a tiny glimpse into the world of a neglected “outside dog” during my two days in the field, whereas they spend all year long living in these conditions, and it prompts me to ask, “What more can I do?”

If YOU would like to do something, you can share this video about all the ways in which PETA’s Community Animal Project helps animals:

And you can donate to PETA’s doghouse project in order to give a lonely “backyard dog” a doghouse today.

Commenting is closed.
  • I’ve bought PETA dog houses and am glad to know that PETA is there to help the dogs that are so neglected. It’s hard to realize that communities will look the other way and not stop irresponsible people from treating animals that way. Of course, animals are considered property, and we seem to regard the ownership itself as more important than the animals, and so people get by with such mistreatment. I am really tired of the Internet PETA haters that claim PETA “kills puppies and kittens.” I have seen the pictures of those poor souls who were so sick or injured that euthanasia was the only thing that would help them. Sad that hatred for an organization that does so much good leads to the terrible lies.

  • Lori says:

    Thank you for this video. It shows what you guys are really doing out there to help and explaining why some animals have to be euthanized. I know you guys get a bad rep for that part. Showing the animals with bad medical issues on the video was hard to see, but was needed for people to understand. Keep up the good work. I’m glad you guys made it to Norfolk VA to help.

  • Terri Mller says:

    these animals deserve to be loved and care for, not to abused or torture in anyway. God put them down here to be loved and care for. animals have rights also, even tho they can’t talk, they need help that only we can give them. People that abuse them in anyway should be put in jail for life, or treated the same way they have done these animals. I would rather have an animal them some human beings, they are always there for you no matter what.

  • Diana Ossana says:

    I purchased a dog house for one of these dogs through PETA. Just knowing that there is one less precious one who must endure the heat and cold without shelter makes me better able to sleep at night. Thank you, everyone at PETA, for all that you do!

  • This video really says it all. So much suffering and all it takes is a little time and some very small changes to make a huge difference in the lives of the poor animals. just a lighter weight tie down and a larger more comfortable collar must feel so much better to a dog that is tied up all day every day. My heart aches for them and I wish I could take them all! I am so glad that PETA has the dog house program, i have helped to build a few and I want to build many more. I know that this really does make a difference in the lives of these dogs. I pray that the guardians will all start to pay attention to their dogs and cats and give them just the basic things like fresh water at least once a day in a clean container. just the small things that mean so much!!!

  • sue says:

    bless you for helping these animals. I pray more people like you are helping when they see animals out in the cold and suffering. Thank you

  • Rita Carraher says:

    Unfortunately I cannot afford to give you money, but I am in support of passing some kind of law stopping animals from being kept outside, cold, chained and unloved. People should not be allowed to own animals if they do this and think it is normal because it is not. An animals deserves love, attention and comforts of home just as humans do. If you don’t feel that way you don’t deserve to own an animal.

  • Why do people have animals when they treat them like that.Poor dogs. I would love to see the owners chained up for a few freezing cold nights, see what fun that is.

  • Gretchen Heieck says:

    Please help this stop! These people should be arrested.

  • Nancy says:

    It should be a lasw against the owners who clearly abuse these angels it brakes my heart to read their stories why the government hasn’t done anything about it they need us now before more die of abuse please if people come together to protest against animal abuse I Washington. And thanks you to all of you for the hard work and for being angels. To those dogs in need of love

  • raquel says:


  • Vicky Slay says:

    I was really moved by this touching video and will pass it on to others. I too throughout my life have met some beautiful dogs in sad situations. All you can do is talk to the guardians and try and make them change the living conditions. I am a strong advocate against animal cruelty and sign many petitions. I am also appreciative to learn about PETA’s Euthonation Program since a lot of people try to exploit that against PETA. Great work on your new job!

  • Manny says:

    I pray for these animals. I send them all my blessing and love. May the good spirits watch over them and protect them until we can save them and help them find a forever home.

  • Julie says:

    Surely this is NEGLECT…a water bowl frozen over!!! Truly you’d think we still lived in the Middle Ages and what is wrong with these people…why have a dog in the first place? This is sheer craziness. Hugs from Australia. Sad beyond belief.

  • Celia says:

    How can we get the law makers to pass laws to protect these animals?

  • K says:

    I agree. I am heartbroken. What can I do to help? Are you in need of volunteer field workers? I’d like to get out there and know that I am helping.

    • Contact PETA directly by phone & they will connect you to the proper person. I’m sure they can use you & the sooner the better. Also, if there is an animal shelter in your area, you can always volunteer there. Many shelters are just begging for help. ANYTHING, no matter how big or small, to benefit an animal will always be appreciated. Thanks for caring!

  • Sheena says:

    This just breaks my heart seeing these poor poor living animals being treated like this. No one forces them to get an animal yet some still do and them just abuse or neglect them? Why? I am with you all the way on your plight. I really hope the law can be changed one day to help
    These poor things xx

    • Margaret Chiodo-Keller says:

      As hard as it is to watch this video it must be watched to educate people about cruelty to animals, and the great work that PETA does. I have shared this video on my Facebook page.

    • Barbara Parker says:

      Some counties have laws u cannot tie out animals, or you can only tie then out for a certain amount of time, like 3 hours. Be an activist, go to your local reps or congressmen, find out what groups of your friends can do to get the local laws changed, to punish the owners & protect the animals. Make time, what better thing have you got to do.