Pepper’s Story: Justice for a Forgotten Victim

Published by Lindsay Pollard-Post.

PETA and other Virginia animal shelters have just submitted to the state the numbers of animals they received, found wonderful homes for, reunited with guardians, had to euthanize, or were able to release back into nature in 2011. Because numbers can’t begin to tell each animal’s story, let me describe one of those animals: Pepper.

PETA’s emergency fieldworkers are on call 24/7 and leap into action even when that means getting up in the middle of the night to drive long distances in response to calls about suffering, abandoned, neglected, and abused animals. Since we refer healthy, highly adoptable animals to traditional, well-trafficked animal shelters, the animals we focus on with our hands-on work are the most abused, neglected, and underserved, usually the “unadoptables.”

Like Pepper.

For months, PETA tried to engage local law-enforcement officials to take action on a monstrous woman who kept a terribly neglected and miserable dog named Pepper, who needed urgent veterinary treatment, penned in her backyard. When PETA found her, Pepper had been languishing in the filthy backyard cage for years and had slowly deteriorated, yet the woman—a nursing assistant—couldn’t be bothered to provide her dog with basic vet care and dignity.

Finally, PETA obtained custody of Pepper and whisked her to a veterinarian, who determined that Pepper was suffering from dehydration, “severe emaciation” (the veterinarian’s exact words), a severe eye infection that caused both of Pepper’s eyes to ooze discharge, a chronic hematoma (blood pocket) on her left ear, chronic dermatitis, a raging flea infestation (more than 500 live fleas were picked off her body), extremely worn-down teeth from biting at her own infected skin, toenails on all four feet so curled inward that they were embedded into the skin (causing an infection), a large mammary tumor, and cancer. For Pepper, euthanasia was a sweet release from the painful existence that she’d endured for so long. PETA’s fieldworker stayed with Pepper as she peacefully slipped away from this world.

PETA filed cruelty charges against Angela Williams, Pepper’s owner. This month, there was a small measure of justice meted out for Pepper when a judge found Williams guilty of cruelty to animals. The judge said that the woman’s treatment of Pepper was as inexcusable as it would be to know that one of her patients had had bed sores for months and do nothing about it.

How we wish that Pepper’s heart-wrenching case was unusual! PETA’s caseworkers take in scores of animals who are in equally miserable, and even worse, condition almost every single day. For many of these suffering souls, the only kind thing to do is to hold them, make a fuss about them, tell them that they are loved, and let them slip away.

How You Can Help Dogs Like Pepper

If a dog is kept penned or chained in your neighborhood, please take action. Urge the homeowner to allow the dog indoors and make him or her a part of the family. Offer to take the lonely dog for walks. Report abuse and neglect. Get the dog fixed, vaccinated, and dewormed. Look for other medical needs. Together, let’s help wipe out the cruel practice of tossing dogs in the backyard and forgetting about them. Please push for anti-chaining legislation in your city or state.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind