Category Archives: Animal Issues

🐝Be a good neighbor to wildlife: Create a garden fit for a queen (bee🐝) this spring!

By Melissa Rae Sanger

bzzzzzzz … photo: PETA

Last spring, I decided to let native wildflowers take over a small area of my lawn. I was giddy with excitement and hopeful that my little garden would be a haven for insects and other wildlife in a neighborhood where manicured lawns and landscape pavers are the norm.

I even painted a sign that said, “Pardon the weeds. We’re feeding the bees.”

One day, a neighbor approached me about my beloved bee garden. He said he would file a complaint with the city if I didn’t remove the flowers. Worried I’d get in trouble, I went out and mowed everything, tears streaming down my face.

I’ve since learned that I was within my rights — and that although growing wildflowers may have annoyed one human neighbor, it was a lifeline to a multitude of wildlife neighbors who lived and fed in the foliage. This spring, I’m going to replant the flowers, and I encourage everyone else who can spare even a sliver of lawn to grow wildflowers, too.

Pollinators, including bees, birds, bats, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and lizards, are nature’s life force. Their fate is inseparable from our own. They affect 35% of the world’s crop production through pollination, the quintessential synergy that enables the transfer of pollen so that plants can reproduce. They deserve a healthy, vibrant habitat in which to flourish for their own sake, and in doing so, they help us, too.

But these precious pollinators are struggling. Many factors are to blame, and one of the most pervasive problems is habitat loss. Although tidy, over-fertilized lawns appeal to some, it’s time to reconsider the barren, lifeless lawnscaping we’ve come to accept as standard.

Removing “unwanted” plants, such as dandelions and clover, also removes vital sources of shelter and food for insects and other animals. So what might look like a healthy lawn is devoid of the biodiversity that’s necessary for the survival of wildlife. Plus, grass isn’t really “green” if it’s drenched in lawn chemicals and fertilizers and guzzling gallons of water all summer.


Growing wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly plants like basil, rosemary or sunflowers is better for the environment and will attract local and migratory butterflies, birds and bees. The secret is to provide a variety of native flowering plant species to create habitat, food and shelter for all.

If you do choose to keep some grass, consider participating in “no mow May,” which fosters habitat by allowing grass to grow for the entire month of May. Less frequent mowing also saves water by helping grass become more drought-resistant and decreases emissions from gas-powered equipment.

Should you find yourself with uninvited “guests” in your garden or home, there are many ways to deter them without harm. For example, you can fill your garden with plants such as bee balm and lavender, which act as natural rabbit repellents. Placing cinnamon sticks, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves or dried peppermint leaves will help send ants packing.

A growing number of cities and states are recognizing the need to protect wildlife with legislation that promotes pollinator-friendly landscaping. But bees and other wildlife can’t wait — they need our help now, wherever we live. What we choose to do with our home’s outdoor space has an enormous impact on animals who depend on it for life.

If my neighbor complains again this summer, I’ll share the facts instead of reacting in fear. Who knows — maybe one day he, too, will see the beauty in bees and butterflies floating above a sea of purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans and decide to transform his own yard.

🗻The Iditarod is True March Madness!🗻

By Jennifer O’Connor

Boycott the cruelty! photos: PETA

Running a marathon and finishing it is a remarkable accomplishment. But imagine running four marathons a day for 10 days straight. Throw in biting winds, blinding snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures. Unfathomable, isn’t it? Yet that’s exactly what dogs used in the Iditarod are forced to endure. Many don’t make it to the finish line alive.

No records were kept of dog deaths in the Iditarod’s early days, but the Anchorage Daily News reported that “as many as 34 dogs died in the first two races.” Since then, at least 116 more have died during the events. The number of those who die during training or while chained outside is impossible to estimate. Kennel operators and breeders aren’t required to report how many dogs die at their facilities. Before last year’s race even began, multiple dogs were injured and one was killed during training.

So many exploiters of the beautiful husky dogs!

Even the most energetic dog wouldn’t choose to run 100 miles a day while pulling a heavy sled through some of the worst conditions on the planet. Along the 1,000-mile route, dogs’ feet are torn apart by ice and rocks. Many pull muscles, incur stress fractures or become sick with diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers. Aspiration pneumonia—which can develop after dogs inhale their own vomit—is the number one cause of death on the trail. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules says that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.”

Mushers have tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. Dogs have tested positive for opioids.

Mushers appear to be oblivious to the misery the dogs endure. Last year’s winner shared a disturbing video during the race of dogs covered in snow and ice in the blistering wind with, as he described it, their faces “totally entrenched in snow” and their eyes “all frozen shut.” One musher lamented that chipping frozen urine off the dogs’ penises was an unpleasant but necessary task. While dogs pull and pull, mushers can ride and sleep. Mushers have tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. Dogs have tested positive for opioids.

Life off the trail is equally grim. The vast majority of dogs spend their seemingly interminable days tethered on short chains with only barrels or dilapidated doghouses for shelter. Most kennels are never inspected by any regulatory agency. Dogs who aren’t fast runners or who simply can’t run for days on end are discarded like defective equipment. Dogs used in sledding have been shot, bludgeoned to death or abandoned to starve, or their throats have been slit.

Urge sponsors to abandon the race!

The Iditarod isn’t about honoring Alaskan culture or tradition. It’s about money and unearned bragging rights. How can anyone justly take pride in an event that causes so much suffering and death?

🍅New vegans are sprouting up every day🌸 – what about you?🌹

By Heather Moore

Rose’s Cece waiting for dinner! photo: R.T.

Has your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier already fallen by the wayside? Did you forget about your pledge to participate in “Veganuary” before breakfast on January 1? If so, don’t be discouraged. It’s not too late. Interest in vegan living remains high, including among more than a third of U.S. adults, according to a Wakefield Research survey. More and more people are realizing that they can lose weight, reduce their risk of suffering from life-threatening diseases, help animals and combat the climate crisis and other environmental problems by eating vegan foods rather than animal-based ones. I suspect that’s why a record-breaking number of people — one every 2.4 seconds — signed up to take part in Veganuary on January 1, 2023, alone. If you lost your resolve to go vegan earlier in the year, now’s a good time to march into a vegan way of life.

I went vegan 31 years ago. I still remember an amusing conversation I had with an acquaintance a few years later. When I told him how long I’d been vegan, he exclaimed, “Wow, you must really like salad!” I explained that although I enjoy vegan versions of chicken, tuna and egg salad as well as potato salad, pasta salad and, yes, leafy green salad, vegans eat much more than “salad,” including veggie burgers and other foods from vegan-friendly companies.

There are plenty of tasty foods to eat after you ditch meat, eggs and dairy. These days, new vegan products are coming out left and right. Ben & Jerry’s, for example, recently introduced two more vegan flavors — Lights! Caramel! ACTION! and Oatmeal Dream Pie. Both Babybel and Laughing Cow now make vegan cheese rounds, and Boursin is selling dairy-free spreadable cheese. Lindt unveiled tasty oat milk chocolate bars, and Hellmann’s is one of the many mayonnaise manufacturers that offer a vegan variety. MorningStar Farms teamed up with Eggo to produce the vegan Chik’n & Eggo Liège Style Waffle Sandwich, and Beyond Meat, the maker of the popular Beyond Burgers, has also started selling vegan Beyond Steak and other animal-free products.

Wholesome foods like fruit, veggies, beans, nuts and grains are versatile vegan staples, and there are simple ways to incorporate vegan foods into your daily routine. For breakfast, skip bacon and eggs and eat tofu scramble and tempeh bacon, oatmeal with almond milk and blueberries, toast with nut butter and fruit preserves or a fruit smoothie. At lunch, have curried chickpeas rather than chicken flesh or vegetable fajitas instead of meat-based ones. For dinner, enjoy spaghetti and marinara sauce with vegan meatballs, black bean and corn chili, veggie sushi or lentil and spinach soup, or whip up some stir-fried vegetables or a hearty vegetable risotto. It doesn’t take much effort, even if you, like me, aren’t crazy about cooking.

If you haven’t already gone vegan, don’t wait another minute. It’s easy, and you know it’s the compassionate, environmentally friendly, healthy choice. If you want more information, tips and recipes, PETA offers a free vegan starter kit …
Vegan baking cheat sheet. PETA

🙏Remember the earthquakes’ overlooked victims and survivors🐕🐈‍⬛🦜🐎🐈🐕‍🦺

By Michelle Reynolds

As we open our hearts and wallets to the victims of the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, let’s not forget about those who often go unmentioned: Animals.

Before the earthquakes began, animals were reportedly behaving strangely: Seemingly panicked birds were flying erratically, and dogs howled. Although unsubstantiated, these claims aren’t surprising. Observational studies of many different species have shown that animals’ ability to sense earthquakes before they occur is superior to that of seismology equipment. Animals are intelligent in ways that we’ll likely never fully understand, and tragedies like this have a significant impact on them, too.

Beloved dogs, cats and other companions were curled up in beds and on rugs when their worlds were shattered. Due to the scope of the devastation, many stray animals, who were already struggling to survive on the streets, are in danger of starving to death before rescue teams can reach them. Animals trapped on farms, including working horses and donkeys, and wild animals also suffered when the ground beneath them split open and the buildings surrounding them collapsed. Many are now displaced, injured or searching for their loved ones. All are traumatized. These victims, too, need reassurance, kindness, shelter from the bitter cold, food, water and medical care. Local animal protection groups are inundated with calls for help.

PETA’s Global Compassion Fund is providing a network of animal organizations throughout the area with financial support, and PETA U.K. is on the ground in devastated Kahramanmaraş. Working with shelters and volunteers, they’ve been able to rescue many animals, including 40 birds who were trapped in a pet shop basement that was teetering on the brink of collapse. The team transports injured animals seven hours to the closest open veterinary clinic in Adana before heading back. They’re also delivering food and water to animals who’ve been without both for days. This disaster occurred while just across the Black Sea, PETA Germany and its partners in Ukraine continued to carry out vital rescue efforts there, helping abandoned and injured animals on the front lines of the war. For months, these heroes — organizations and brave volunteers — have been risking their lives to save animals from battle-torn areas and transport them to a temporary shelter in Poland, partner shelters in other countries and foster and adoptive homes. They’ve come to the aid of animals hit by bullets, left behind by families forced to flee and carried to the borders by heartbroken guardians in the hope that someone will give them a better life. Rescuers have saved thousands of animals so far. Those in Turkey and Syria will also likely need help for several months.

As we each determine the best way we can help following this tragedy, let’s give all the victims the consideration they deserve. And as the images of tents and piles of rubble fade from our television screens and news of the earthquakes falls from the headlines, let’s not forget them. Let’s continue to do what we can and continue to ensure that our kindness includes all kinds.

❤️You’re My Swan and Only Valentine! How Animals Show Love❤️

By Melissa Rae Sanger

IMG_20180106_092011 (1)
Best friends: Lilac and Cece! CECELIA/ICT file photo.

Love is in the air. And in the water, forest and desert, too. It’s fundamental to our very existence, transcending species and habitats.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s admire how animals who mate for life, from busy beavers to serene swans, say, “I love you.” In many ways, they’re just like us.

Eurasian beavers primarily eat nutritionally deficient bark, so they need a lot of it in order to survive. A lifelong pair shares the responsibilities of bringing in branches, maintaining their abode and raising their babies. Dam, that’s impressive!

Gray wolves. Photos: PETA

Family comes first for gray wolves, whose packs typically include a mom and a dad (the alpha couple) and their offspring. As part of a tight-knit family, each member accepts their designated role within the group and pitches in around the den, ensuring the safety and stability of the pack.

Gibbons are the only species closely related to humans who maintain lasting, monogamous relationships. A pair proclaims their love (and defends their territory) from the treetops, singing in perfect harmony. Take note: If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day idea that’s a bit more unique than vegan chocolate and flowers, make like a gibbon and serenade your sweetheart (with your feet on the ground, of course).

Crows are known for their remarkable intelligence, and they’re devoted family birds who stick to their special someone like velcrow. Whenever you see a small group of them foraging for food, you’re observing a family: a mom and a dad, that year’s babies and any older siblings who haven’t yet established their own territories. Life is just better when shared with your soulmate!

Shingleback lizards are an anomaly. These scaly monogamists form bonds that are uncommon in the world of lizards. Partners remain together for life and beyond. When one dies, the other may linger for several days, tenderly nudging their dear departed.

Sandhill cranes boogie down when seeking a partner. As part of their courting ritual, they perform elaborate dances, kind of like Ren McCormack in Footloose. Though the scene in their nests may look a little different from the one at a high school prom, once they dance their way into each other’s hearts, they remain there for life.

Coyote in snow.

Once a coyote meets “the one,” they become partners for life. Coyote mothers prefer to be alone while giving birth and sometimes stay in their den for more than a week with their pups. Dad faithfully guards the den, protecting the family. Couples separate only at death, breathing new life into the old expression “’Til death do us part.”

With their curving necks interlaced to form a beautiful heart, mute swans are a traditional symbol of devotion. These birds exhibit a tremendous level of commitment and loyalty to each another, and their “divorce” rate, around 5%, is much lower than that of humans. They’ve even been known to die of a broken heart when their partner passes away.

These fiercely loyal couples form lasting and loving relationships, sing and dance together, establish families and care for their offspring. Their lives are just as complex as our own — and they deserve to be treated with compassion and respect.


From PETA:

Delicious and vegan! Art: PETA

Valentine’s Day is all about love. It’s the perfect day to show animals just how much you care about them — and there’s no better way to do that than by going vegan!

From candy to crafts, here are some of our favorite ideas for a perfectly vegan Valentine’s Day:

❤️1. Make vegan chocolate-covered strawberries.

Follow these easy steps:

Melt vegan chocolate chips in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. Make sure you stir them every few seconds so they don’t burn!

Dip whole strawberries into the melted chocolate.

Lay the chocolate-covered strawberries on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Put them in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

Share them with people you love! (But don’t give any to your animal friends, because chocolate is poisonous to them.)

🐩2. Make your animal companion a sweet treat or a fun toy.

Our animal companions need love, too (not just on this holiday but every day). So do something extra-special for them by either making your dog a tasty treat or making your cat a fun and easy DIY toy.


❤️3. Watch an animal-themed movie with someone you love.

Make a big bowl of vegan popcorn, grab a cozy blanket, and cuddle up with your animal friends and your family.

❤️4. Give out vegan Valentine’s Day candies.

Looking for cruelty-free candies so that you can share the love with your friends?

Try these sweet treats:

Smarties Love Hearts
Candy Rolls
Brach’s Jube Jel Cherry Hearts
Chocolate to the Rescue Bar
Ring Pop Cupid Packs
Sjaak’s Dark Chocolate Hearts
Sjaak’s “Bear Hug” Dark Chocolate Gummy Heart


❤️5. Make and give out animal-themed Valentine’s Day cards.

Who doesn’t love getting a valentine? Grab your paints, colored pencils or markers and make your own animal-themed valentines — or check out these premade ones, above.


Pineapple belts and banana wallets: This ain’t your father’s leather!

By Scott Miller

Buy vegan pocketbooks, totes, wallets, shoes, belts, boots. So stylish! And cruelty-free! Art: PETA

I was shopping at Target last week. I needed a belt. Nothing fancy, just a nice, simple belt I could wear with a pair of jeans. When I got to the menswear department, I thought, “Eh, all they have is leather.” But no, the labels said otherwise. Faux leather has come a long way. Curious, I checked out a few other big retail stores, including Gap and Old Navy. Many of their belts were made of vegan materials, too. And they looked great.

When it comes to fashion and function, men who still use skin to hold up their pants are out of the loop. It’s easier than ever to find vegan leather belts, wallets and bags that look and feel the way you want them to.

Animals aren’t fabrics; leather is someone’s skin. And because its source — usually cows or alligators, even dogs or cats — is rarely indicated on labels, it’s hard to tell where (or whom) it came from. Most of it comes from developing countries, including India and China, where environmental regulations are lax and animal welfare laws are either nonexistent or rarely enforced. In the U.S. and many other countries, animals killed for their skin first endure the horrors of factory farming, including extreme crowding and deprivation as well as castration, branding and tail docking without painkillers. At slaughterhouses, workers routinely cut animals’ throats and even skin or dismember them while they’re still conscious.


Kind people love cruelty-free fashion: Alicia Silverstone posed nude to promote vegan leather. Nobody good is getting naked for animal-skin tote bags. Many modern men’s accessories are made of high quality microfibers or polyurethane. For those with more upscale tastes, the vegan leather industry is trailblazing an organic path: Black Nopal makes men’s belts using cactus, and allTRUEist makes them using corn.

All natural, state-of-the-art leather produced without suffering or slaughter is now made from apple, mushroom, pineapple, coconut, stone, waxed cotton, grain, flowers, orange, paper, leaves or tree bark. Indie brands like Paguro and revelo manufacture belts out of recycled tires. Watson & Wolfe and Corkor sell vegan leather belts made of cork. And for gearheads, Couch sells vegan belts made of the same seat vinyl used in the 1978 Chevy Camaro LT.

Guys who carry their money in wallets made of the skin of sentient beings should cash in on humane, vegan leather instead. Tree Tribe vegan leather wallets made from bananas, VeloCulture creates them using upcycled bicycle inner tubes and Hempmania crafts them from … you guessed it.

No one dies for cruelty-free backpacks, satchels, weekenders and fanny packs, so they hold your stuff without the baggage. ASHOKA Paris and Matt & Nat create cool men’s vegan leather bags from recycled plastic bottles, Gunas makes them from mulberry plants and high-end Minuit sur Terre uses grapes.

Fellas, you’re just a shopping trip or Google search away from compassionate and fashionable style. Because sometimes you just want a nice, simple, cruelty-free belt.

🍾It’s Veganuary! Resolve to do more than lose weight in 2023!🍾🥔

By Heather Moore

Get educated – and change your life! Art: PETA

Let me guess: You’re resolving to lose weight in the new year, right? You want to fit back into your favorite jeans, the ones that have been stashed in the back of your closet for nearly a decade. You’re planning to eat better in general, and you hope you’ll reduce your risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes and cancer, too. Good for you! You can accomplish all these things — and more — just by going vegan.

By observing “Veganuary” — the international campaign that encourages everyone to stop eating meat, eggs and dairy, at least for a month — you’ll not only get healthier but also help protect animals from suffering, combat the climate catastrophe and other environmental problems and conserve resources. You might even spend less on groceries, since plant foods tend to be more affordable than animal-derived ones.

That’s not bad for someone whose primary goal was to drop a few pounds!

You won’t be alone, either. About 6% of people in the U.S. are vegan. The number of American vegans increased by 300% (about 9.6 million people) between 2004 and 2019, and more vegans are sprouting up every day.

Last year, a record-breaking 629,000 people from 228 countries and territories took part in Veganuary. Many of them are still vegan. People often accomplish even more than they expect when they first go vegan. New vegans, for example, tend to lose weight without even trying. That’s because, in general, vegan foods are typically low in saturated fat and calories, in addition to being naturally cholesterol-free.

Vegan foods also tend to be high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which help boost your metabolism, so you burn more calories. On average, vegans have lower body mass indexes than vegetarians and meat-eaters do, and vegans are considerably less likely to suffer from diet-related diseases.

Eating vegan foods spares animals, too, obviously! It’s estimated that each vegan saves nearly 200 animals every year. Animals are sentient beings with unique personalities and likes and dislikes. They value their lives just as we value ours and grieve when they lose a loved one.

By eating vegan foods, you’ll not only spare chickens, cows, pigs, fish and other animals used for food but also help prevent habitat destruction and mass wildlife extinction. Research shows that animal agriculture is the biggest threat to 86% of the 28,000 species known to be at risk of extinction. Scientists believe that nearly 90% of wild land animals will likely lose habitat by 2050 unless more people go vegan.

So give it a try. Why eat the same boring foods every week? There’s a whole world of vegan options for you to explore, including vegetable curries, veggie stir fries, falafel, seitan, tempeh and various grains, greens, fruits and legumes, that can all be prepared in a number of delicious ways. According to the multinational investment division of Bank of America, vegan food sales, including vegan meats and lab-grown meats, are set to grow to $300 billion by 2025.

There’s no need to wait two more years for vegan living to become even more popular. Let’s make 2023 the year we all resolve to go — and stay — vegan.

🎅Should you really give that kitten as a Christmas present?🎄

By Melissa Rae Sanger

Christmas file photo: Rose and Cece when Rose lived on Ward Street, in Worcester. Never give pups or kitties as spontaneous gifts. Discuss, plan, research … promise to make a decade+ long commitment to your new pet.

Earlier this year, we opened our hearts to a tiny black kitten with a white stripe down her back. She had been abandoned outside in the cold and was covered in fleas and fighting a nasty infection. After fostering her for a time, we decided to make her a permanent member of our family.

Little Rue is now about three months old, a glorious mixture of sweet and spicy with a touch of mischief. She gets into everything and seems to gravitate toward potential hazards — like our Christmas tree. It stands unadorned in the family room, waiting for lights and ornaments. We haven’t decorated it yet because Rue sees it as her personal jungle gym. I’m hopeful that she’ll soon grow bored of it.

I’m glad that Rue had some time to get used to her new home and that we had time to get used to caring for her before the busy holiday season. With all the enticements, excitement and expenses that the holidays bring, taking on the responsibility of caring for an animal can be overwhelming for families. For animals, being given as “gifts” or bought on a whim can be disastrous.

Among other things, Rue needed a new breakaway collar, food, vaccines and a spay surgery. Considering how costly Christmas is, I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for all of these during the holidays. According to Forbes, the average cost of caring for a cat in the U.S. is $900 annually. The cost for a dog averages $1,480 per year — and that’s just for basic, bare minimum care. An illness, a trip to the emergency veterinarian or another unexpected expense can quickly set guardians back thousands of dollars.

Holiday visitors, travel and packed schedules also make it harder for animals to adjust to a new home — and for their guardians to give them the attention and patient guidance they need. Although we’ll have more guests than usual over the next month, I’m confident that Rue is now comfortable enough in her surroundings to do just fine. And we’re familiar enough with her care routine—playing with her, feeding her, refilling her bowl with clean water, scooping the litter box, grooming her and cuddling her — that we’ll stick with it no matter how busy the holidays get.

Many animals given as gifts won’t be loved and cared for like Rue. They’ll be condemned to a miserable existence — imprisoned in a crate all day or chained outdoors. Or they’ll join the countless others who end up in animal shelters or abandoned on the side of the road to freeze or starve to death after an unprepared recipient discovers that caring for them is an unwanted responsibility.

Please, never give a living, feeling being to anyone as a “gift.” And if you’re emotionally and financially able to care for an animal family member for a lifetime (remember, many animals live well into their teens), make their introduction to your home a happy and successful one by waiting until after the hectic holidays are over.

You can still create a Christmas memory by gathering presents for your future family member, such as a soft bed, dishes, toys and treats galore, a collar, food and a litter box or leash. Wrap them up with a big red bow and leave them under the tree. You can even leave a note for the rest of the family explaining that you’ll be adopting an animal companion from the shelter after things quiet down.

As for us, Christmas will look a bit different this year: We won’t have any fragile ornaments on the tree (if we decorate it at all), we’ll be leaving ribbons off packages (too tempting and dangerous for a kitten) and we’ll need to be a bit more cautious with our spending. But these are all small sacrifices for having Rue spend Christmas (and every holiday to come) off the streets, safe and warm at home.

❤️Warm your heart and theirs🐾🐾 — help get dogs out of the cold this winter!🌨️🌨️

By Melissa Rae Sanger

IMG_20180106_092011 (1)
Lilac and Cece – warm and safe INDOORS! Cats need to be at home, too, never outdoors. This is so important – especially in wintertime when outdoor cats seek warmth under car hoods – by the warm engine – and get shredded to death. photos: R.T.

A soul-crushing sight met PETA fieldworkers one frigid February day: Minnie, a black pit bull who had spent her short, miserable life chained outside, was dead. Her bone-thin body was still tethered to a tree when they found her. Five other dogs on the property were chained, penned or both, like prisoners, but they were still alive, barely. All of them were malnourished and severely neglected.

After months of advocating for their release, PETA finally persuaded the sheriff’s office to remove the survivors: Zeus, Duke, Sandy, Duchess and Billie, who became known as the “Bertie 5.” A court granted PETA custody, and for likely the first time in their lives, these dogs got to live indoors, sleep on soft beds, receive veterinary care and grooming, play with toys and be treated with respect and compassion.

Although the Bertie 5’s days of misery and neglect are over, countless other dogs are still languishing in backyards across the country without adequate shelter, food or water. This winter, they’ll endure frostbite, hunger and dehydration—and almost worse than that, the cold shoulder of those who are supposed to care for them.

As we curl up under a cozy blanket, their frostbitten feet, ears and tails will go numb. As we take a sip of hot tea, their water dishes will freeze over. As we set the table for dinner, they’ll go hungry.


Keeping dogs outdoors is cruel at any time of the year, and it can quickly become deadly when temperatures drop. All 50 states have laws that prohibit cruelty to animals, and it’s a crime to deprive an animal of food, water or shelter. If you see a dog in imminent danger (entangled, shivering, thin or lacking water or adequate shelter) or continuously chained even though it’s illegal in your area, please notify the police or animal control officials immediately.

In situations that are not illegal or immediately life-threatening, there are things you can do to ease an outdoor dog’s suffering:

Work with the dog’s owner, not against them. Many people will welcome help but may get defensive if you approach them accusingly. They may be unaware that leaving a dog chained outside poses risks like frostbite and hypothermia. Nicely explain to them that they must provide necessities — including shelter, food and water — and offer to help.

Encourage them to bring their dog inside, and provide transitioning tips. If they resist, suggest keeping the dog in the kitchen (offer to provide a baby gate), the laundry room or an enclosed porch, even if just overnight.

At minimum, dogs forced to live outdoors need a sturdy, elevated doghouse with a flap over the entrance to keep out the wind, lined with a good amount of straw. Some animal protection organizations offer straw bedding free of charge. Keep in mind that blankets and hay absorb moisture and can quickly freeze. A doghouse with icy bedding is even more dangerous than one with no bedding at all.

Many people don’t realize that dogs left outside require extra food in the winter, as they burn more calories trying to stay warm. Advise the dog’s owner to provide extra rations. Dogs can die of dehydration if their water freezes, so it must be checked frequently.

Ask for permission to visit and play with the dog and to take them for walks. Treats and toys, a gentle pat on the head and words of reassurance can warm the heart of a forlorn dog chained alone outside.

Humans domesticated dogs, so it’s our responsibility to meet their needs, including companionship, joyful experiences such as playtime and walks in the park, and protection from illness, hunger and harm. Dogs chained outside may never experience such care unless a compassionate person gets involved.

One of the best ways to help dogs this winter (and beyond) is to get the cruel practice of chaining banned in your community. Kind people across the country have lobbied successfully for tethering bans, and you can, too. Contact PETA if you need help.

It is everyone’s obligation to step in and help make life bearable for cold, lonely dogs this winter. You may be their only hope!

Lilac and Jett having some fun in a friend’s front yard last winter. Bigger, healthy dogs can frolic in the snow when it’s cold outside, but be with them and make sure they come in doors, into warmth, after 10 or so minutes. If the area’s been salted, gently wipe their pawpads with a soft cloth soaked in warm water.- R.T.