The stories can be heartbreaking.
Dogs chained up, left in the soaring heat or freezing temperatures with no food or water.
But that doesn’t stop Baton Rouge native Jenny Teed from doing her job with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
And now viewers can get a look at what Teed and others with PETA actually face in a new documentary from executive producer Anjelica Huston.
“Breaking the Chain” follows the 40-year-old Teed and others in PETA’s Community Animal Project as they care for mistreated animals in impoverished areas of Virginia and North Carolina.
“It’s one thing to hear about the animal neglect and overpopulation crisis and another to see for yourself how dogs are left to shiver, pant, limp, and suffer in backyards, where they’re confined to wire cages or tied to pieces of junk,” Huston said. “This is what PETA sees every day, and I want everyone else to see it, too.”
Teed, who has been with PETA for almost three years, received an animal science degree from LSU in 2006. In Baton Rouge, she worked at Associated Veterinary Services, the Baton Rouge Spay-Neuter Clinic, Companion Animal Alliance and other Baton Rouge-area animal organizations.
When the 2016 floods struck the Baton Rouge area, she joined PETA’s animal rescue teams to find pets that had been left behind and take them to shelters to be reunited with their owners. She went to work for PETA in 2018 in Virginia as its manager of shelter operations and outreach.
“I love the work that I do now,” said Teed, a Central High School graduate. “It’s nice to work not only with the animals but also the people to try to help educate them on a better way for animals to live.”
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Loving the job doesn’t mean she likes what she sees and what the documentary shows — the chained dogs with no shelter suffering from the heat or cold, forced to live in filth and often poorly fed. The documentary is available on demand on Apple TV, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and several other platforms. See a trailer for the film at peta.org/blog/breaking-the-chain-documentary-watch/.
When the Community Animal Project learns about dogs, cats and other animals being kept in inhumane conditions, its members go out to encourage owners to provide better care or, if they won’t or can’t, to surrender the animals for adoption. They also encourage them to spay and neuter their pets.
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“We have no law-enforcement power, but what we try to do is educate people on how to better care for their animals and how to try to get them to bring them inside and make them a part of the family and make sure they have fresh water and food and toys, just some of the basics,” Teed said. “That’s pretty much our day, just going and checking on animals.”
Most of their time is in rural areas that have few shelters and veterinary clinics, Teed said.
“A lot of it is people who just don’t know and have grown up this way with dogs chained out their whole lives and don’t know anything different,” she said. “Some of it is people that just don’t care, flat out don’t care, and their animals are just ornaments in the yard or alarm systems — I’ve seen that a lot — or moneymakers, trying to breed them, just trying to get the most that they can out of them.”
One of the dogs Teed encountered was Molly, a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever that she saw chained behind a home with no shelter. Teed spoke to the owners about the need to provide shelter. The owners allowed her to come onto the property, and Teed visited many times over two years, bringing fresh water, hanging tarps to provide shade and unsuccessfully asking the owners to surrender Molly for adoption.
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Then, Teed visited and didn’t see Molly. The owners said the dog had died. Teed went to the yard, and Molly’s body was there, still tethered, lying in a pit the dog had apparently dug to seek relief from the heat. The owners let Teed take Molly’s body in for a necropsy, and the veterinarian determined she had died from a heatstroke. Authorities charged the owners with cruelty to the animal. Teed testified in court, and the owners were fined and banned from owning animals.
“Any time it goes to court, that’s the biggest thing, trying to make sure they’re not allowed to have any more animals to treat this way,” Teed said. “It was just appalling just to see the lack of care, concern. She was just a really wonderful dog. It happens far too often.”
The stories aren’t always so sad. There’s Brownie and Mack, dogs that were saved because Teed persuaded the owners to surrender them and PETA found the dogs good homes.
Teed said she hopes people watch the documentary with an open mind and consider assisting local shelters and contacting lawmakers.
“I think the whole purpose of this is to let people know this happens everywhere,” Teed said. “Within a 30-mile radius this happens in everyone’s community. It’s hard to kind of ignore it when you’re looking at the faces and you’re looking at the conditions that some of the animals are in. We need to strengthen some of these laws.”