LAKE CITY, Michigan (ABC4) – If you haven’t heard of Lake City, Mich., clearly you’re not a fan of Christmas trees.
Located near the center of the “mitten” in Michigan, the tiny town of about 1,000 at the most, touts itself as the “Christmas Tree Capital” to locals in the area, due to its rich supply of trees produced each holiday season.
Apart from that, there probably wouldn’t be much reason to drop all your plans and head to Missaukee County on a whim, especially post-Christmas.
Salt Lake City resident Amy Meyer, however, found her reason to drop everything and head up to Lake City last week, after seeing footage of an abusive Jack Russell Terrier operation by one of the town’s residents.
The videos, captured by an undercover PETA advocate, were extremely upsetting to Meyer, an animal lover who also works for the organization.
“Watching the video, you can see these dogs are suffering from psychological damage from the isolation and deprivation they’ve had their entire life,” Meyer tells ABC4.com.
It’s tough to watch. Braving the extreme cold of the area, where it has been at or below freezing for all of January, the dogs were kept in chain-link cages outdoors, with their shivering whimpers serving as just a small indicator of their miserable condition. The water in their bowls had frozen over, forcing the dogs to punch at the surface with their snouts to get any liquid they could lap up.
Before they were eventually rescued, PETA states that temperatures in Lake City dropped to minus-5 degrees in the evening.
For Meyer, seeing the animals’ pain was enough. She dropped her plans and headed to Michigan to help spur the local authorities into action.
She arrived in the Missaukee County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, where she lead the final push of a sit-in that fellow animal lovers had been holding in the building over a four-day stretch.
While it may be difficult for some to imagine holding a demonstration, with little to do but make a presence with signage and demands, Meyer says it wasn’t that hard for the group. After the first day or so, the authorities at the Sheriff’s Office started requiring the protestors to leave at 5 p.m. to close down the building. Some, however, refused and were arrested for civil disobedience. It was worth it to the activists, Meyer says.
“Having watched this footage where these dogs are wet and cold, they’re just tiny Jack Russell terriers. They have no bed, they have no toys, and they’re just out in the freezing cold, and that was enough to keep everyone motivated,” she says. “They didn’t need as much as you might think to keep them motivated to stay there other than knowing that this is what it was going to take for these dogs to finally have safety and finally be somewhere warm and experience real comfort for the first time in their lives.”
The efforts paid off and finally, last Friday, with the help of officials from three other surrounding counties, the dogs were rescued from the cold.
PETA leadership commended the group, and Meyer, for their work.
“Thanks to Amy Meyer’scourage and selflessness, today, we can celebrate that these dogs have finally been rescued from the freezing cold,” says PETA Vice President Dan Paden in a released statement. “PETA hopes anyone moved by their plight will never buy from a breeder and always adopt from a shelter instead.”
Meyer acknowledges that sometimes, PETA activists can carry a bit of reputation among others, as much as they may also love animals. She says it’s not always necessary to create a visible demonstration or to travel cross-country to look out for the well-being of furry and scaly friends, it can be as simple as being a concerned neighbor to an animal.
If you see a dog chained up outside in the cold, it might be appropriate to knock on the owner’s door and politely ask about it, she states as an example.
“We can all do something and we should never ignore it when we see an animal suffering, none of us have to wait for this kind of extreme cruelty to come up to know that we can do something,” Meyer says.
And even though she went through the hassle of leaving life behind in Utah for a few days to make a trip to the bitter cold in Michigan at the drop of a hat, Meyer is satisfied with her choice and the result of doing so.
“My brief inconvenience to rearrange a few days of my life to go to Michigan was really nothing compared to what the dogs were going through,” she says. “And I was so glad that they’re not going through that anymore at this breeding operation.”