The following is a guest post by PETA intern Ashley Rose.
When I agreed to accompany PETA’s fieldworkers on one of their daily trips to find and help chained dogs and other neglected animals in rural Virginia and North Carolina, my ride-along partner, Vicki—a seasoned pro—warned me that I’d likely encounter some animals who were in very bad condition. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I don’t think anything could have fully prepared me for what I saw and experienced that day.
Almost all the dogs we helped were suffering from flystrike, a maddening and painful condition in which flies bite dogs until they’re bloody and sometimes lay eggs in the wounds, producing maggots who eat away at the dead tissue. A pit bull who wasn’t even a year old was suffering from what appeared to be ringworm, a fungal infection that invades the hair and hair follicles. Her hair had fallen out in a circular pattern, and parts of her skin were covered with scabs and sores. And one house we visited had a raging flea infestation. All four dogs on the property—Zeus, Angel, Shocker, and a puppy named Pixie—were teeming with fleas from head to toe. Zeus also seemed to be suffering from anemia, and Angel was very thin.
At every stop, Vicki and I gave each dog a good meal, washed out their algae- and debris-filled water buckets and refilled them with clean water, treated the dogs for fleas (including using a flea comb and soapy water to give them some immediate relief from the itching), applied ointment to their ears and gently rubbed it over the rest of their bodies to dissuade flies from biting, removed trash and other dangerous material—such as broken beer bottles—from their living areas, sprayed for flies, gave a chew toy and treats to each dog, trimmed their nails if needed, and gave them as much love and attention as we could.
One dog named Smokey was badly matted, so we gave him a good brushing and removed most of the mats from his fur. We gave five dogs lightweight tie-outs to replace their heavy chains and allow them a little more freedom to move around. We brought a male cat named Panther back to PETA’s Sam Simon Center to be neutered on one of PETA’s mobile clinics and also picked up Sparkle, a 5-month-old female dog who was in dire need of spaying because loose unneutered male dogs were running around the trailer park where she lived. She was severely depressed and in need of love, and I soon made a connection with her. I cried when I had to leave her.
It was a day filled with all kinds of emotions—from joy at seeing dogs contentedly gnawing on their new toys to heartbreak at learning just how wretched the conditions are in which these animals are forced to live. But ultimately, it was rewarding to know that we really had made a big difference for animals who have no one else to help them. And I’m forever grateful to PETA’s fieldworkers for going out there, day after day, to make life more bearable for these forgotten animals.
What You Can Do
Help shelter a “backyard dog” from the coming winter’s storms and frigid temperatures by sponsoring a PETA doghouse.