Backyard Dogs

The Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund has made major grants annually since 2016 to support the many programs of PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department / Community Animal Project.


The Community Animal Project has worked for more than 20 years around PETA's headquarters in Virginia and also in North Carolina -- to stop animal homelessness at its roots by spaying or neutering more than 200,000 animals at low or no cost in indigent and underserved communities. It provides hands-on help and educates by example to provide backyard dogs with food, water, and shelter; and works to restrict and ban dog chaining its service area.

WaPo Cover Photo - 8 nov 2021

PETA‘s Community Animal Project was the subject of two November Washington Post pieces: the feature A Dog’s Life by Pulitzer-winning journalists writer Gene Weingarten and photographer Michael S. Williamson; and the Post’s View Opinion: Why do people mistreat their dogs? Because they can.

Breaking the Chain Title Image

The documentary film Breaking the Chain, executive produced by Anjelica Huston, was released September 1, 2020 on all major digital platforms.

This documentary takes viewers into the field with Daphna Nachminovitch and the Community Animal Project 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.


The Project has provided testimony and public education since 2016 in support of Virginia statewide legislation to protect backyard dogs.


PETA's Community Animal Project successfully worked during Virginia's 2020 legislative session to pass SB 272 in the House and Senate, mandating shelter in temperatures of 32° F or lower or 85° F or higher, or during a severe weather warning. The bill, which also increases the minimum tether length from 10 to 15 feet, builds on 2019 SB 1025 which PETA also championed. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on April 9, and it went into effect on July 1, 2020.

Jenny and dog COVIDCrisis

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, PETA’s Community Animal Project organized a dog and cat food drive from its Norfolk, Virginia headquarters, to serve the poorest communities in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.

Project staff have long provided animal supplies and services to the neediest families in the region – and scaled up to meet the crisis need, making extra donations to local food banks and delivering directly to area residents’ homes.

Backyard Dogs

The Project's services for low-income residents of Virginia and North Carolina include: 

  • Sterilizing over 10,000 companion animals per year.  Many of the surgeries are performed free of charge.
  • Educating dog owners about proper care, and encouraging them to bring dogs inside - with approaches ranging from one-on-one conversations, to billboards along major highways, to televised public service announcements.
  • Delivering sturdy dog houses, straw insulation, and donated food for backyard dogs.
  • Securing the release of backyard dogs when owners are unable to provide minimum legally required care.
  • Partnering with a network of local shelters and rescue groups to re-home former backyard dogs, and hosting an annual Poochella adopt-a-thon.
  • Working with local jurisdictions to draft regulations to ban or restrict backyard dog chaining and penning.

The Project has also conducted hurricane relief work in its home region, and in Texas and Puerto Rico.


In 2013, Greg adopted Itchy, a senior dog who was rescued by PETA after at least seven years penned outdoors.


In 2018, Greg's surviving family adopted Christopher, who had been penned outdoors for at least two years before PETA rescued him and partnered with the Virginia Beach SPCA to rehome him.