BOOKS: Puddles on the Floor
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
(Actual publication date 11-5-08.)
Puddles on the Floor
by Lorena Estep
Tamara Ci Thayne
Crescent Renewal Resource (P.O. Box 23, Tipton, PA 16684), 2008.
22 pages, paperback. $15.95.
(Also sold as CD, $9.95.)
Puddles on the Floor is an exquisitely illustrated story for children about a beagle who is isolated outdoors on a chain after he is not properly house-trained. Artist Tamara Ci Thayne, known until mid-2008 as Tammy Grimes, founded the anti-chaining organization Dogs Deserve Better in 2001. Author Lorena Estep is her mother.
The book, a CD edition of the story, and several accessory items are sold with the dual purpose of educating children about dog care and raising funds and volunteer help for Dogs Deserve Better.
The story behind the story which deserves to become an illustrated book itself is why Thayne in the early 21st century had to revive a cause that was initiated by some of the founders of the U.S. humane movement in the mid-19th century, made some significant progress, and was recommended for intensified concern by the American Humane Association in 1937.
It is about time that something was done about the torment of the dog chained in a yard with no more than three or four feet of freedom, wrote an anonymous correspondent to the National Humane Review, published by the AHA, in October 1937. Steps should be taken to remove what is without question one of the blackest spots on civilization.
With Japan already invading China, and World War II close to erupting in Europe, the statement might have been dismissed as hyperbole. But the editors of the National Humane Review recognized the rising threat of war and what war would bring. Eagerly encouragiing humane work abroad, the National Humane Review naively hoped that the growth of humane societies in China and the passage of laws billed as humane legislation in Germany and Italy hinted that war could be avoided. They held this hope even as Japanese invaders overran the humane premises in Shanghai and Hong Kong, the German laws were used chiefly to kill animals kept by Jews, and the Italian legislation consolidated the Italian humane movement under Fascist authority.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the war in December 1941, the National Humane Review apologized for misreading the Nazis and Fascists, but reiterated optimism that teaching children to treat animals kindly might eventually prevent war and continued to teach against chaining.
The editors of the National Humane Review were keenly aware that how humans treat the animals closest to them, especially dogs, tends to set the limits for what they allow to be done to humans. This was a frequent theme in the speeches and writings of Massachusetts SPCA founder George Angell, especially, and was among the ideas that guided the formation of the AHA in 1877, with the dual missions of preventing cruelty to animals and children.
Most people will agree with our correspondent, the National Humane Review responded to the 1937 letter-writer. The matter [of dog chaining] is again referred to in the hope that it may receive attention of local humane societies. Warnings are usually effective, but an occasional prosecution, with publicity, keeps the subject before the public.
Those who believe that dogs have always been chained and that chaining dogs has always been considered socially acceptable may be surprised to learn that chaining could be prosecuted in 1937, occasionally was prosecuted in some states, and that egregious offenders were sometimes jailed.
The norms of animal keeping did not yet include keeping pet dogs and cats at home at all times. Neither were chickens commonly kept in battery cages, or pigs raised in close confinement, though these practices had been introduced in the early 1920s. Crating veal calves had not yet started.
In many ways American treatment of animals has deteriorated since 1937. Legislative initiatives against battery caging, veal calf crating, and keeping sows in gestation stalls, the movement toward no-kill dog and cat sheltering, and even efforts to reduce hunter control of wildlife policy are all basically efforts to restore the norms of 1937, when animals were not yet routinely treated like manufactured products.
Chaining dogs was among the more obvious symptoms of the trend away from respecting animal nature that eventually incited the animal rights movement to try to reverse the trend. By the mid-1950s most U.S. humane societies relied on animal control contracts for their economic support, and began to recommend chaining in lieu of allowing dogs to run loose.
No longer was prolonged chaining prosecuted, nor could it be prosecuted, after humane societies began endorsing it, until laws were passed defining it as beyond the norms of acceptable confinement.
Opponents of chaining, such as the late Virginia Gillas and the late Ann Cottrell Free sometimes slipped a few words into humane periodicals. National Institute for Animal Advocacy founder Julie Lewin in 1986 began a 17-year effort to pass the Connecticut anti-chaining law, adopted in 2003. Animal Advocates Society of British Columbia founder Judy Stone in the mid-1990s began winning anti-chaining ordinances.
But Gillas, Free, Lewin, and Stone worked mostly in isolation. Some major humane organizations opposed Lewin. Stone is still fighting the British Columbia SPCA in court, nearly eight years after she denounced the BC/SPCA for allegedly ignoring cases of cruel chaining, and was sued for libel.
Less than a decade later many major animal advocacy groups denounce chaining on their web sites, distribute anti-chaining literature, and endorse anti-chaining bills.
Tamara Ci Thayne, a single mother of two in rural Pennsylvania who began with a budget of nothing and still works with very little, reawakened awareness of chaining with imaginative tactics, tireless effort, and optimism that this is a cause that can be won.
Through her Valentine s Day door hanger campaigns, chaining herself to dog houses in public places each Fourth of July weekend, and her much publicized prosecution for rescuing a chained dog without a seizure warrant in 2006, Thayne has time and again reached beyond the animal advocacy community to ordinary people who care about dogs.
With dogs in about 40% of all American households, the highest rate of dog-keeping in the world, that s a lot of people. Only about one dog-keeper in 12 keeps a dog chained as a primary means of confinement, leaving more than 90% as potential allies.
Thayne has also emphasized that chaining, far from protecting people from dangerous dogs, is frequently a factor in deadly dog attacks. Chained dogs are often more territorial, under-socialized, and easily stimulated by passers-by and small children often are entangled in the chains of the dogs who kill or maim them.
Among the Dogs Deserve Better projects is Mothers Against Dog Chaining, mobilizing the mothers of children who have been killed or injured by chained dogs.
Puddles on the Floor probably will not advance the anti-chaining cause much: the buyers will mostly be among the persuaded, and we hope chaining dogs may be history by the time the readers grow up to keep dogs of their own.
Thayne s own story could inspire generations of young people to get involved and make things happen, especially when the chief obstacle is institutional indifference.