Since the Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund was established in 2016, PETA’s Community Animal Project has been a top grantee. The new film Breaking the Chain, premiered on all major digital platforms September 1, shows why.
Executive produced by Anjelica Huston, this documentary takes viewers into the field with Daphna Nachminovitch and her team, to meet just a few of the thousands of dogs and other animals they have served since PETA moved its headquarters to Norfolk, Virginia in 1996.
Greg and I began working with Daphna and her Community Animal Project team in 2013, when we adopted a senior dog named Itchy.
The PETA team had been watching over Itchy in Suffolk, Virginia since 2007, where his owners kept him in a garbage-strewn outdoor pen. Finally in June 2013, a PETA fieldworker noticed that Itchy’s persistent cough—the result of an untreated case of heartworm disease—had gotten markedly worse. After she told Itchy’s owners how serious this condition was, the owners finally agreed to relinquish Itchy to PETA – and he came to live with Greg and me on a fine August day. Despite Itchy’s years of isolation, he loved all people; he also got along well with our other dogs, and especially with our cats! Our vet was able to cure Itchy’s heartworm disease, and he lived out four golden years.
Then in April 2014, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk reached out to Greg and me about adopting two horses who PETA had just rescued from starvation. Although neither Greg nor I had horse experience, Greg was convinced that it was the right thing to do, and immediately agreed to the request. In June, after two months of intensive preparation, Greg and I brought home Henry, a thoroughbred former racehorse, and Caroline – and we commenced giving these two equines the care they required to regain health. I now continue to care for Henry and Caroline — along with Charlie, another rescued racehorse I adopted from PETA on my own in 2016 — and these horses continue to thrive.
In 2018, I worked with PETA’s Community Animal Project again to give Christopher a new home. Their fieldworkers had begun visiting him in 2015, at a home where he was crated outdoors and his skin had developed fungal and bacterial infections. PETA’s fieldworkers happened to arrive on an April day when Christopher’s owners were packing up to move, intending to leave him behind. PETA immediately secured custody of Christopher — and transferred him to the Virginia Beach SPCA, one of their partner shelters.
Two weeks later, with his recovery well underway, Christopher was among the dogs at PETA’s annual Poochella adopt-a-thon with Norfolk area rescue organizations. I fell in love with Christopher there, and brought him home two days later – where he joined my family which currently includes 10-year-old Marina dog plus my three PETA rescue horses and five cats.
PETA’s Community Animal Project does much more than rescue individual animals – it works to spare animals from suffering in many other ways. In the southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina region around its headquarters, PETA focuses on providing free and low-cost spay and neuter services to prevent unwanted animals from being born in the first place. Since 2001, PETA has sterilized more than 180,785 animals, primarily with its fleet of mobile clinics.
Greg and I began supporting this initiative in February 2014, helping to sponsor PETA’s first-ever 24-hour spay and neuter marathon, which was featured in the Breaking the Chain film.
Since 2016, the Greg Fund has continued to make regular contributions to support an array of Community Animal Project services — including TV ads and billboards that highlight the suffering dogs endure when they are chained or penned outdoors. These public service announcements have in turn helped to pass anti-chaining state laws in Virginia, and chaining restrictions in selected North Carolina jurisdictions.
I have also had the opportunity to spend a total of a week in the field with Daphna, Jenny Teed and other members of the team. Experiencing the frustration of having to remind more than one person that yes, dogs do need food and water every day. But then also experiencing the exhilaration of getting two dogs surrendered — and learning a few weeks later that they had been adopted to loving homes through PETA’s partner shelters.
I hope my friends take the opportunity to watch Breaking the Chain through Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, iTunes, Google Play, or Vimeo on Demand — to get just a taste of the field work PETA’s Community Animal Project does every day. As Anjelica Huston says, “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. This is what PETA sees every day, and I want everyone else to see it, too.”