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Gone, but not forgotten
The animals of Virginia lost a great friend with the passing of Debra Griggs.
The animals of Virginia lost a great friend with the passing of Debra Griggs. In addition to rescuing dogs, she was a tireless fighter for the rights of animals in the Virginia legislature. As President of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, she also campaigned to get the Department of Agriculture, which oversees “shelters,” to revoke PETA’s ability to take in and kill animals. In a letter, she reminded the State Veterinarian that:
PETA takes in approximately 2,000 animals every year; yet by their own admission, they have only 3 rooms in their office building designated for animals. Instead of sheltering and finding homes for the majority of those animals each year, PETA puts to death about 95% of them and, based upon your own 2010 report, most of those animals are dead within 24 hours of being taken in by PETA.
It would appear that PETA is “using” its status as a “shelter” to the great detriment of animals in the Commonwealth and, in doing so, insulting the many shelters in Virginia staffed by faithful employees and dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly every day to find loving homes for the companion animals in their care.
Despite all her many accomplishments, of which there were many, one of her greatest achievements was getting Loudon County, VA, to rescind its breed ban. There was a time when the Loudoun County pound was no place for a little dog, even one described as “lovey, “wiggly,” and “gentle.”
Animal Rescue of Tidewater, Debra’s organization, sued the pound over its breed-discriminatory policy of automatic killing. Her attorney summarized the consequences of being a little dog who looked a certain way at the hands of Loudoun County pound staff:
Your Honor, on June 19, 2007, a 12-week-old brown and white puppy entered the Loudoun County shelter and was given number 43063. The puppy was killed by the shelter, never having been given a chance to live, never having been given a name. Why?
Contrary to state law and contrary to local law, puppy number 43063 was never put up for adoption and was killed for one reason and one reason only: Puppy number 43063 was identified by the shelter as a pit bull mix. On the puppy’s pre-euthanasia report, the official reason for euthanasia is typed in as ‘breed.’ Let me repeat that. The recorded reason for why puppy number 43063 was killed under current shelter policies was ‘breed.’
That reason at some point was crossed out in ink and ‘behavioral observations’ was written in its place. Behavioral observations. The shelter’s canine behavior assessment for puppy number 43063 notes that the puppy, ‘Approaches the front of the kennel seeking evaluator’s attention. Happily greets evaluator. Is sociable. Initiates gentle, physical contact. Wanted to be in evaluator’s lap. Moves closer for further attention. In evaluator’s lap playing. Wiggly. Leans against you. Bouncing around. Very lovey.’
Tragically, the little dog’s life was stolen from him — killed despite being wiggly, wanting to sit in your lap, bouncing around.
Debra gave him a name: Lovey.
Tragically, too, Animal Rescue of Tidewater lost the case, and the policy would continue for years. But Debra refused to give up and ultimately prevailed. In 2014, “that policy was [finally] overturned by the county Board of Supervisors, immediately allowing pit bulls and pit bull mixes to be adopted from the shelter for the first time in nearly 50 years.” Shortly after that, Loudon County placed over 90% of dogs for the first time in its history.
When it comes to matters of faith, I am decidedly agnostic. But I like to imagine that little dog patiently waiting, for 16 years, on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. I like to imagine Lovey’s little tail wagging, his body wiggling, as he sees her approaching. I like to imagine him running up to greet Debra as she crosses. And I like to imagine their embrace.
Gone, but not forgotten.
Please raise a glass with me in honor of Debra.
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