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The Puppy in the Recliner

Written by PETA | October 13, 2009
The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights

For those of you who receive PETA’s quarterly magazine, Animal Times, you’re in for a treat (as always) when the latest issue hits mailboxes this month. If you haven’t gotten around to subscribing (it’s free with your PETA membership), here’s one of the many great articles you’d find—an exclusive sneak peek at PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk’s newest book, The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights. Don’t say we never gave you anything:


Man’s best friend isn’t, in many parts of the world. In Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China, among other places, dogs are kept in the burning sun in small cages behind restaurants, often with tin cans shoved over their muzzles and their broken forelegs tied behind their backs. They are “tenderized” by being beaten while alive and then strangled to death and skinned for their flesh. In Thailand, dog-hide factory trucks prowl the streets, offering to trade plastic buckets for live dogs, who will be slaughtered and made into bags, drum skins, and golf-club covers.

I grew up in India, where—although dogs are not eaten—mange-covered and starving stray animals are so common and so pathetic that they can’t help but capture your attention. In the pounds, death was courtesy of a crude electrocution machine that seared the animals’ skin and often set their fur on fire or via blows from men wielding billy clubs.

In Taiwan—which has a robust economy as well as a large Buddhist population—one would think that animals would fare much better. The reality is quite the opposite. In Taiwan’s pounds, death for dogs can come from live burial (digging a pit and throwing the dogs into it), electrocution, poison-laced food, starvation, or drowning. In April 1998, I rescued 11 dogs from the Keelung city pound’s drowning tank and extracted a promise from the minister of the environment to immediately stop drowning animals. The city administrators have been good to their word, but all these years later, animals in Sanchung, Tu Chung, and other cities continue to suffer, confined to cramped, filthy cages at severely crowded pounds. Pressure is still desperately needed to bring about reforms.

I used to harbor the illusion that all animals in Europe and North America were well-treated. But we have plenty of room for improvement too—to say the least.

A Baltimore, Maryland, rescue group called Alley Animals has seen it all, right here in America: animals with festering wounds from slingshots and bottles, cats with elastic bands embedded in their necks, kittens blinded and used as bait in pitbull fights, abandoned Easter rabbits, a rooster wearing a broken ankle leash, and even a green iguana—now the most common exotic throwaway pet, according to news reports.

Alley Animals operates simply and on a shoestring. When dusk falls on Baltimore, the group’s volunteers drive into the sprawling old city’s most rundown areas. Their job is to find the animal waifs and strays who creep out from their hiding places when the city grows quiet, knowing that they are less visible to juveniles armed with free time and a rock or a firecracker.

One evening, volunteer Alice Arnold and her partner for that night’s trip, Eric, were just leaving an alley after putting out food when Eric said, “Did you see that puppy?”

He pointed to an overturned reclining chair amid the trash, where a tiny head was sticking out ever so slightly, the puppy’s reddish-brown fur almost blending in with the color of the old chair in the alley’s black shadows. The stuffing had come out of the chair, allowing the dog to claim its interior as her shelter from a world that had rejected her.

Within a week of her rescue, it was obvious that the puppy—now known as “Stuffing”— was very intelligent and lovable. After a few weeks, Stuffing had gained weight, was paper-trained, and spent every night snuggled up in bed with her new human friend. Alice says that to look at her now, no one would ever guess that this happy little girl spent the first months of her life eating from trash cans and sleeping inside an overturned chair in a dark alley.

Most people don’t think that the problems of strays and chained “backyard” dogs have anything to do with them. But they do. The biggest nightmare plaguing domesticated animals in our society does not involve the wanton acts of violence directed toward them by cruel humans. Rather, it involves thoughtlessness by otherwise intelligent and caring people who simply do not understand what or who dogs and cats really are, and what they need to thrive.

Want to read the rest of Ingrid’s new book? You can order your very own copy at In the meantime, you can find out what you can do to help strays and other neglected and abused animals here.

Written by Alisa Mullins

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  • Patricia DeFillippo says:

    I cry for them every day of my life. I am so grateful for all the people at PETA and others who “get it” and really take a stand for the sweetest creatures on the planet. May God save the innocent aniamls and let the failed excuse for life in many humans finally be put to justice and more importantly become educated so this can stop.

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    Years ago I knew a sweet pampered cat named Messy. Messy was the queen of her household and had the best of everything except for her name. I asked her guardian about the name one day. Her guardian told me that one day she and her mom were driving in a rural area and the passenger in the car ahead of them lowered the window and threw a tied sack out of the car. Her mother swerved out of the way and avoided hitting it but the car behind them hit it. Both my friend’s mom and the driver behind them stopped grabbed the sack and opened it. It was full of kittens with one survivor. Messy had no injuries at all but was covered in the remains of her siblings. Her siblings were buried in the backyard the family gave them a funeral and Messy was taken to the vet and given a clean bill of health along with all vaccinations. My friend was 3 years old at the time and she started calling the kitten “Miss Messy.” By the time she was old enough to think about changing the name the cat was answering to it so they just left it. Messy lived to be 20 years old.

  • darla says:

    Its very sad to know these humans can be so cruel and heartless human beings.I wish they all would die a horriable deaththe sick peoplethat isnot tomorrowbut TODAY!You can’t reason with these types of peoplebecause they are too sick minded and believe their lies within their hearts are justified.VERYVERY SAD!!!!

  • Mia says:

    Wow that was a fantastic article. I hope the book is as informative and raw as what I just read. It’s almost shocking to know how many people are completely oblivious to animal suffering around the world. There should be more books commercials and websites dedicated to informing the public about reality.

  • Elise says:

    I have known about Alley Animals for years and donate money whenever I can. It’s amazing how may animals can be helped by a small group of people with huge hearts and very little money.

  • lynda downie says:

    Thanks Ingrid for raising awareness of the many ways animals are abused across diverse cultures.

  • Brien Comerford says:

    I hope that all religious people finally realize that harming God’s creatures is a very egregious affront to the Creator.

  • simara says:

    good blog a million and one reason why to be VEGAN s