Scotlund's Latest Notes From The Field
It never gets less painful to witness the horrific suffering that animal abuse inflicts on the helpless victims – this truth I know, having personally rescued thousands of miserable animals leading excruciating lives during the more than twenty years I have been in the field of animal protection. I was reminded of this fact again days ago in the sweltering summer heat of Mississippi, where we rescued a number of dogs from very dire conditions in three separate seizures.
That feeling of being lucky enough to offer the first gentle touch, the first trustworthy embrace to an animal who has endured years of abuse and neglect is indescribable. I can tell you that it never diminishes and that it’s this feeling which drives me and all of us in animal protection work to do what we do with our lives. Again last week in Mississippi, I was filled with that feeling of gratitude and awe as we rescued severely starved and abused dogs, embracing them with kindness for perhaps the first time in their lives. I would like to share with you my experience from just one of the recent rescues.
In Charleston, Mississippi, I went with the director of our Hope Animal Sanctuary, Doll Stanley, to help Animal Control Officer (ACO) Kevin Hodges respond to a report of a suspected dogfighter. I had no idea what we were going to find when we walked up on this sad, neglected property in search of dogs bred to fight. What we encountered was a sight of such profound misery it is difficult to describe – dogs that may have originally been intended to fight were clinging to life. Chained to tiny six-foot enclosures in collars so tight they had to be cut off, they were emaciated and dehydrated to the point that they could barely stand, their skeletons entirely visible. Some had fresh wounds, all had visible scars, and their hair was partially worn off, either from being chained or caged in despicable conditions or eroded away by mange.
Approaching these dogs, who had clearly never been shown kindness nor mercy was a testament to the inherent innocence and beauty of animals. While chained, they were terrified, barking and lunging. Aware perhaps that they could not escape whatever inhumane treatment they had endured, they desperately tried to protect their six-foot-in-diameter world. Once the chains were cut, these dogs relaxed, curled up, and accepted help – immediately forgiving the abuse they had suffered.
One unchained dog, a little white-haired sweetheart we later named Esmeralda, regarded me with extreme trepidation. As I gently called to her, she came towards me shyly, stopping to lie meekly ten feet away. She looked at me with both apprehension and hope. I slipped a collar around her neck, but when I encouraged her to walk with me, she simple could not. Instead, I scooped her up in my arms and she rested against me as I carried her to safety and a new life.
All the dogs were confiscated and taken for immediate vet care – tragically, even with the very best care, two of the most severely neglected dogs died that night, and a third, the sweet Mona Lisa, is clinging to life as I write this. All of the surviving dogs are being held at a confidential location, away from the vet clinic and sanctuary, for their security.
That was only one of the rescues on July 28th. After these dogs, and the others rescued that day receive veterinary care, my promise to them is a better life. We will seek assistance from partner shelters in order to place them in loving, forever homes, and we will make sure their lives are never again so tortured and hopeless. Please take a minute to watch this rescue for yourself in this video.
My promise to you, as president of In Defense of Animals, is that we will continue to build the most effective and comprehensive Companion Animal Campaign possible. Together, with your help, we will be there to open the cage doors and stop cruel puppy mills from profiting on misery. We will continue to seize and rehabilitate dogs from dog-fighting rings and cases of abuse and neglect. We will continue to work to clear animals from hoarders and over-burdened shelters and we will expand our work to address the underlying problems leading to pet overpopulation. Together, I know we can accomplish a great deal and save many lives.
That feeling of giving the first touch of compassion to an abused and neglected animal, the first embrace of kindness, is euphoric and profound. I know that everyone of you can feel it too. By acting on your own innate compassion and through your continuing support, I know you’ll feel the thrill I do on each and every rescue of which I am blessed to be a part.