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Open Letter from Tammy Grimes, Dec 17, 2007
On September 11, 2006, I rescued a dog that was dying at the end of a chain in a muddy yard in a small Pennsylvania town. I was subsequently arrested. A little over a year later, on December 14, 2007, I was convicted of theft and receiving stolen property.
The last year has been the most traumatic and the most inspirational of my life. I have been labeled a “terrorist" a "vigilante", "publicity hound" and an "anarchist.” I have been called a hero. I have been humbled by encouragement and well wishes from people all over the world. I have been attacked in person and in print in my small town, where the prevailing view is that it is fine and dandy to tie a dog to a tree or a dog house and leave it to pace back and forth for year after agonizing year, in skull-cracking cold or 100-degree weather, with nothing but parasites for company.
I don’t regret what I did. Not for one second. And when it comes to rescuing dogs and changing minds and laws, I’m just getting started. Here’s why.
The dog at the center of all this, a dog we would eventually name Doogie, had been lying in the mud and rain for three days, chained to the dog house he had been attached to for years. He was unable to stand and was pawing the air in desperation. His owners chose to go four-wheeling all weekend and to work on Monday instead of getting him the vet help he needed and deserved, but most importantly was entitled to by law. A distraught neighbor had called animal control repeatedly over the course of the three days. But as so often happens, no “humane” officer called back. No one ever showed up. (Surprised? Trust me, it happens all the time, and not just in my town.) The frantic neighbor eventually reached out to me and to Dogs Deserve Better.
What I did next set in motion a chain of events that would eventually garner national attention, the wrath of some, the support of others, and an agonizing trial during which I had to listen to lies and mischaracterizations for three days: I removed that dog’s chain and I took him to the veterinarian. It was all very clear to me as I lifted the emaciated, wet dog into my van. I had been in animal rescue long enough to know that I would probably be labeled the villain while the dog’s caretakers wouldn’t even be questioned for leaving a suffering dog on the ground for three days, not to mention all the years they tied him to a shabby box in the yard; letting his toenails to grow so long they were curling back toward his pads, denying him vet care when he most needed it.
But I also knew that what I was doing was morally correct. It was the compassionate thing to do. It was the only thing I could do. Time was of the essence. A dog was suffering. I felt he was dying.
In court, it became increasingly clear that our 'humane officer' left me "holding the bag", which in this case was a bag of bones. He had been offered the dog by me as part of what should have been a cruelty case against the caretakers 2 times on September 11th, but ignored me both times. On the witness stand the officer, in an attempt to cover his own hide, stated he told me and the vet assistants not to remove Doogie from the vets. This is absolutely untrue, and if he had done so I would not have been put in the position of choosing between Doogie's skin and my own.
So, now I’m guilty. Ah yes, guilty of caring about a dog that had been left to die. Guilty of putting myself and my reputation on the line because I can’t stand to see suffering. Yes, call me guilty.
At Dogs Deserve Better, we see dogs in horrific situations every day. Sometimes these sad animals are neurotic or aggressive from years at the end of a chain. Sometimes, they are half-starved or have collars embedded in their necks. Sometimes they are dead. So, why go out on a limb for one old dog? Why take a moral stand in this one instance? Why challenge a law, when Dogs Deserve Better has stuck to the letter of the law in almost 1,000 rescues to date?
The answer is simple: because it was the right thing to do. Because our laws regarding personal property and animal welfare are contradictory and archaic. Because Michael Vick can't kill his dogs, but the Arnolds can. Because, at the end of the day, I knew I simply couldn’t live with myself if I walked away from that dog and left him to suffer there in the mud.
Doogie blossomed after we got him medical care and showed him a warm bed and a little love. He not only walked again, but actually ambled around with a spring in his step. Imagine. A dog that for many years could not take more than a few steps before being yanked back by a chain, was trotting around a yard and enjoying soft hands and a warm home!
I have no illusions about my life’s work. I know some people will never get it. I know some people think “it is just a dog.” I know some people consider me the representation of all that is evil because I have compassion for animals and because in one isolated incident, where the clock was ticking and life was ebbing, I took someone’s “property” -- property that the owners had for all intents and purposes abandoned on the ground like a used-up piece of junk. But I don’t care what my detractors think because I now know that I have more support, more friends, more allies, than I ever dreamed possible.
The support I have received during the last year has made me stronger in my convictions and more steadfast in my work. I know that the vast majority of reasonable, educated, compassionate people believe that it is barbaric beyond imagining to chain a dog for its life. I know that anti-tethering laws will continue to be passed in states, cities and counties across this country. (“No-brainers” a recent news article called these laws.) And I’m going to work harder than ever to make sure that happens.
Five years ago, when I started Dogs Deserve Better, people laughed in my face when I talked about laws against chaining. Today, three states have passed laws that severely limit the practice, as have hundreds of cities and counties, some banning chaining altogether. I know that I will see the day when our society sees tying a dog to a doghouse for 15 years as abhorrent as eating a dog.
Oh yes, make no mistake: times change and morality and compassion eventually triumph over ignorance and stupid, blind habit. Slavery ended. Women got the right to vote. Wife beating is no long accepted. You don’t see a lot of kids working in mines or sweat shops anymore. Even dog fighting was made a crime.
I can’t help but think about Rosa Parks. We can be sure she never regretted refusing to budge from that Montgomery bus seat. And though I may never be as brave as she was, I’ll never regret taking a half-dead dog from someone’s yard.
In memory of Doogie. May he rest in peace.
Tammy S. Grimes, December 17, 2007
PA state reps Geist and Stern need to hear from their constituents on this issue. If you are in the Blair County PA area and are in their district, please start calling, writing, e-mailing them asap. We need them to understand HOW MUCH we need things to change here, and that we expect them to support HB1065and stand up for dogs who are left to die on the end of a chain.
Hon. Richard Allen
Hon. Jerry A. Stern
Robert C. Jubelirer
Tammy Grimes, founder of Dogs Deserve Better, was arrested September 11, 2006 for helping a dying chained dog named Doogie who could not stand in East Freedom, Pennsylvania. Below are the details of the case, with photo and video documentation.
Tammy's statement: "I made a hard decision; I could not have lived with myself or looked myself in the eye if I were such a coward as to leave Doogie lying there dying on the ground for fear of what would happen to me. I see this case as a travesty against justice...the true perpetrators of a crime are the people who left Doogie to lie there dying for three days without doing right by him. I am very saddened that we live in a society where people have to be afraid to do the right thing, to help those in need, whether that need be human or animal. Arrests such as mine are a pitiful statement for America, and I ask all dog lovers to stand with me to insist that all charges against me are dropped and charges of animal cruelty are instead placed against the Arnolds of East Freedom, PA. The Arnolds who left Doogie to die. This video truly speaks for itself, and for Doogie. I did what was morally right; I stand by my decision to help him and will be proud of it until my dying day. No one can take that from me."
Here is the background info:
We got a call from Kim Eicher in East Freedom 9/11/06, crying because Doogie hadn't gotten up since Saturday. She had been calling the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society since Saturday to no avail. We told her we aren't law officers, and she needed to call the Humane Officer. We told her to make sure she left a message, very clearly, about the problem. Then we got another call about the same dog, from another person who passes him every day. At that point we called Kim back to see if she'd heard from the Humane Officer. She had not, was very, very upset and we were very worried about him, so we promised her we'd go out and see what we could do.
When we arrived, we took photos and video of Doogie. We initially thought he was dead, as he was not moving and his back was to us. We found out that the people were not home to talk to about him, so I made the decision that I would not leave him lying there on the cold wet ground for one moment longer, and I would accept all consequences of my decision.
has agreed to testify as to the animal cruelty perpetrated against
Doogie. She cried the whole time we were there, you can hear her on
The vet documented his general negligent condition, low weight, sores, missing fur, and took xrays of his back and hips. He determined that he has very bad back spurs that are causing him a lot of pain and are most likely responsible for his inability to walk. He also saw an undetermined mass near his hip on the xray. He gave him a shot for pain plus some B vitamins for energy, so that perhaps he could have even one good day or a few good hours. He wrote a letter stating his condition.
As we got to the vet, the CPHS Humane Officer Gotshall was just leaving, and he stopped us. He was about to go out to the residence. When he found out we had Doogie with us, he was not happy. I volunteered to take Doogie back and he could pick him up instead. He refused that, and stated that I should get him the vet care he needed, and to call him afterward on his cell.
When I later called him, he did not answer, I left a message asking him what he wanted me to do with Doogie, he never called back.
Shortly after we got Doogie to my home, situated, bathed—had to, the stench was too bad—and fed and watered an Officer Flaig called from the Freedom Township Police Department (Freedom, isn't that ironic?). He wanted me to return Doogie, which I refused to do. I explained that I had video and photos documenting the animal cruelty, and the neighbor was willing to testify; why didn't he pursue that as they were the perpetrators of the crime, and should be charged? He refused, and was not interested in seeing my evidence.
He and three other police vehicles arrived at my home at approximately 9:30 p.m. As I refused to hand Doogie over to be returned to death on a chain, and would not tell them where he was, I was taken into custody, transported to the East Freedom police office, and charged with theft, receiving stolen property, criminal mischief, and criminal trespass. I was released on $50,000 unsecured bond and ordered to appear at a preliminary hearing September 21, 2006.
I was treated like a common criminal, especially by Chief Reilly, who called me a 'freakin' idiot', 'incompetent', and I overheard him telling Officer Flaig that if I ever came near his dog I would have a slug in my a**. Again, there was no interest in any evidence that the dog had been abused or criminally neglected. As far as they were concerned, the dog's safety or condition was not even an issue.
I was released after seeing Judge Aigner, where Chief Reilly asked that I be not given bail but incarcerated for my failure to cooperate. It was 2:00 a.m., and I had no ride home, over 30 miles away. I had to walk to a local all-night store to call and get a cab, because there was no concern over how I would get home. Their attempt to dehumanize me didn't work. I held my head high and still do. I looked Chief Reilly square in the eye at every opportunity. I will not be broken.
Here's what I need from you all. View the videos and photos. I think you'll agree with me that this is NOT acceptable in ANY way in any kind of civilized society. We cannot allow this kind of animal abuse. Period. Not ifs, ands, or buts.Insist that all charges against Tammy Grimes are dropped and animal cruelty charges are instead filed against the Arnolds of East Freedom, Pennsylvania. Pass along the photos and the video, or a link to it, as much as you possibly can.
Doogie laying on the ground, neighbor crying in
Doogie after vet at Grimes house:
I could never look myself in the eye again, much less sleep at night, had I left Doogie there dying, shivering in the dirt.
Please, contact ALL media with these photos and videos. Get justice, for Doogie and for me. Do NOT allow this treatment of those who are here to help, and who actually care. Call the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society and tell them you expect them to stand with me against this kind of abuse, and that you expect them to return phone calls for dying dogs the same day.
Doogie laying on the ground, neighbor crying in
Doogie after vet at Grimes house:
Officer Flaig: Cell 814.201.0149 (Apparently cancelled cell phone)
Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio, Esq.: 814.693.3010
Freedom Township Police Headquarters: 814.695.8545
Central Pennsylvania Humane Society: 814.942.5402; firstname.lastname@example.org
Humane Officer Paul Gotshall: 814.942.3780
All national media! Make sure to send them links to the video, it's very compelling. Don't stop until there is Justice for Doogie and me! Any help with legal fees to get a competent attorney would be much appreciated.
Tammy S. Grimes