The Puppy in the Recliner
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 PETACatalog.com. 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