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Save a Dog, Go to Jail

tammy-grimes.jpgThree months ago Tammy Grimes, the founder of Dogs Deserve Better, was found guilty of theft and receiving stolen property. Her crime? Rescuing a weak, sick dog from a stranger’s backyard.

On February 22, Grimes, age 43, who lives near the East Freedom, Pennsylvania home where the dog was chained, will be sentenced. What’s more, the District Attorney is lobbying the judge to order Grimes to pay for the trial out of her own pocket, after local criticism that the case was a waste of taxpayer money.

DogTime is in the process of trying to reach the District Attorney for comment.

The dog’s owners, meanwhile, haven’t been charged with animal cruelty, although Grimes argues they broke Pennsylvania law by not taking their ailing dog to the vet.

The situation doesn’t exactly surprise Grimes, who founded her nonprofit to publicize the cruelty of chaining dogs. “It’s the general attitude around here,” she says, noting that tying dogs outside for long hours at a time is common, but animal cruelty charges are rare.

Unchaining Doogie
Grimes was called to the backyard in East Freedom in September of 2006, by a tearful neighbor. The neighbor explained that the dog, who’d spent his life chained to a doghouse in the backyard, had been unable to stand for three days. For each of those three days, she’d called the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society for help, and gotten no response.

When Grimes arrived she found a skinny Shepherd mix lying on the muddy and feces-caked ground, making feeble attempts to get up. The house was empty. So she took a few photos and a video, undid the dog’s collar, and took him straight to the vet.

He was diagnosed with painful back spurs that made it hard for him to move, and showed signs of malnourishment and dehydration, as well as bald spots and sores. Grimes quickly found a safe foster home for the dog, whom she renamed Doogie.

Paying the price
That night, police officers showed up at Grimes’ house and ordered her to return the dog to his owners. When she refused to tell them where the dog was–offering instead to hand over her photos and video for a cruelty case against the dog’s owners–they arrested her.

Grimes was released on bail, returned home that night, and began working on her defense the next day. She drew strength from knowing that Doogie was beginning the only happy part of his life.

A week after his rescue, he was up walking around, and discovering what life lived inside a house with a family was like. Eventually he gained 15 pounds. He lived five more good months before eventually succumbing to his infirmities.

As for Grimes, she doesn’t regret a thing. She’s also determined to bring as much negative attention to the DA, judge, and humane society as it takes to convince them to start protecting animals. She’s posted her video on YouTube, is sending letters to rescue groups, and doing whatever she can to highlight the plight faced by so many dogs.

As she wrote to her supporters on her blog: “I stood for Doogie because he couldn’t stand for himself.”

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