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Recently, a sixteen-year-old high school student in British Columbia contacted me and asked me to help him help chickens. “First off, I would like to thank you for running in this election [for the Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party] and standing up for both animals and our environment,” he wrote. Then he requested my support for his petition, “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,”  against the brutal treatment of factory-farmed chickens, which references the Canadian Coalition for Farmed Animals as its source.

Canada factory farm chicken

Canadian factory farmed chickens. Hell on earth, and methane pollution in the atmosphere

As an animal advocate, I could not resist this appeal on behalf of billions of chickens. Ned’s petition is stellar. It reviews the condition of more than ninety percent of Canada’s egg-laying hens, detailing how these creatures are trapped in cramped wire “battery cages” for their entire lives, forced to exist in spaces smaller than an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper.

These conditions are not only cruel, Ned writes,  but they deprive hens of their natural behaviors of nesting, perching, dust-bathing, stretching their wings or even walking around, and the consequences can be dire. Chickens are fouled and sickened by urine and feces falling down from cages above them. Their feathers fall out and their skin is damaged. Their muscles waste from lack of use, their bones and skeletal systems become brittle, and their spinal cords deteriorate, leaving them paralyzed. Dying and dead chickens litter the cages and are often cannibalized by their surviving cage-mates.

“This is how millions of hens spend their entire lives in Canada, and yet nothing has been done to stop this,” Ned’s petition concludes. “We need to ban battery cages in Canada and make it mandatory for chickens to be raised in a free run or free range system. This is the humane and Canadian thing to do. … Please, for the sake of our animals and our people, do the right thing.”

I read through and signed the petition and agreed to promote it. Soon after, I connected with Ned by telephone and bombarded him with questions. What had driven this teenager’s desire to help chickens? And why had he chosen petitioning the government as the best way to achieve his goal?

“Oh, because at home we always ate free run eggs and one day I just asked my mom why. She gave me some information about battery cages, and when last October’s election was called, I looked at the platforms of all the different candidates, because I thought battery cages, and the way we treat chickens aren’t right, and that led me to your party, the AA/EV.”

“I’m a bit of the odd man out,” Ned admitted. “My friends also followed the campaign, especially about the legalization of pot issue, but I’m the only one who volunteered. And the petition came after the election, because petitions are important tools to achieve results. Look at Europe! Switzerland banned battery cages back in 1992!” Western Europe is way ahead of Canada in animal welfare, Ned and I agree.

And, because we also agree on the intelligence of chickens, and their right to live full, natural lives, I invoked the veganism I assumed we shared.
“Oh, I’m not vegan,” Ned said.

Not vegan? I was taken aback. How could someone so knowledgeable about chicken nature and culture, someone so compassionate about the treatment of animals, justify eating them?

Ned’s explanation was forthright. “We humans are animals, too, and animals have been eating other animals for centuries. I believe that if we treat them right and they live a full life, then there’s nothing wrong with eating them.”

There was more. “Hunting them is better than the food industry,” Ned said. “They live in the wild, and die without fear.” That’s certainly true, but it still implies that humans have the right to end a healthy animal’s life whenever they wish to. Which begs the question: what about veganism?

“I completely support and understand it,” Ned said promptly. “In fact, I’m considering it.

Not promising to do it, just considering it right now.”
How about committing to one meatless day a week? I suggested. It needn’t be a Monday; any day of the week would suffice, making it more convenient and easier for him to honour his commitment.

Ned did not hesitate. “I agree to one meatless day a week, starting next week,” he pledged. “And I also agree to take notes and let you know how I’m doing.”

Ned Taylor

Ned Taylor with Abbey

I can’t wait to hear, and not just because each of Ned’s Meatless Days will save an estimated .54 animals, for a grand total of twenty-eight each year. It’s because I’m confident that this challenge will be so easy for him, and so satisfying that he’ll not only embrace it for life – his life and the lives of animals he cares for so deeply – but that he’ll find ways to reach out to other young people who’ll be inspired to follow his example. When they do, their Meatless Days will add up to thousands of animals saved from the horrors of factory farming and the terror and anguish of slaughterhouses.


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Speaking out about Syria, student debt, climate change….

Speaking out about Syria, student debt, climate change….

The Syrian crisis? crushing student debt? the critical state of the environment? our crumbling infrastructure? (Un)affordable daycare? We debated all these issues in this just-published YouTube of the Toronto Danforth All-Candidates Rogers Television debate. Present: incumbent Craig Scott, NDP; Julie Dabrusin, Liberal; Chris Tolley, Green Party; and me, Elizabeth Abbott, Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party.

Please watch, even if you are not in Toronto Danforth riding. These issues are of national/international concern.

Canadian factory farmed chickens. Hell on earth, and methane pollution in the atmosphere

Canadian factory farmed chickens. Hell on earth, and methane pollution in the atmosphere

Canadian factory farmed misery - Meat your Hamburger.

Canadian factory farmed misery – Meat your Hamburger.

AAEV Elizabeth Abbott 2

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I’m running for Parliament in Canada’s October 19th election as a candidate for the Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party – AA/EV – for the Toronto-Danforth riding. Though the AA/EV is one of Canada’s tiniest political parties, I represent billions more beings than my fellow candidates. These beings include not just the thousands of voters and residents of Toronto-Danforth but also Canada’s billions of animals: our wildlife; the dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, birds and other creatures we live with as companions; the unlucky members of those same species imprisoned in facilities that torment them in the name of science; and the billions of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lambs, goats and fish condemned to factory farms where they endure brief, wretched lives that end in terror in slaughterhouses.

factory farming I carry the interests of so many creatures on my shoulders!

I also advocate for the well-being of the environment whose destruction humanity – and other political parties – seem bent on permitting, by failing even to acknowledge – much less address – the biggest contributor of all, the factory farming that continues to gobble up Canadian family farms.

They do not protest against how the effluvia from factory farming pollutes neighbouring land and the waterways it seeps into. Nor, when discussing health care, do they express alarm that before slaughter, the tormented and sick animals are given antibiotics – 80% of antibiotics are used for animals, only 20% in human health care – and so everyone who eats their flesh is also exposed to antibiotics, leading to the widespread resistance to these once wondrous drugs that threatens to leave us unprotected against diseases that were once easily manageable. Nor do they cry out against the hormones given those animals to boost and hasten their growth and slaughter and that, in the humans who eat them, are linked to breast and testicular cancer, among others. Nor do they worry about the pesticides the animals ingest in their feed that is grown with many carcinogenic chemical pesticides.

That’s the tip of the iceberg of what I stand for, and doesn’t even glance at the economy, the TPP, health care, immigration, terrorism, privacy, Bill C51, democracy itself in Canada. silence

Yet in an upcoming television All-Candidates debate on Rogers TV, we are each allowed exactly one minute to introduce our programs. How is that possible? A one-minute speech is no more than 140 words, and I’ve taken nearly triple that already.

And then last Sunday in church, reciting the Apostle’s Creed, I had an epiphany. That creed, (King James version) which encapsulates the core of Christianity and even wraps it in a bit of narrative, is 110 words! If Christianity can be expressed so succinctly, so can the world-view that has driven me to enter the political arena.

My creed: I believe in a world where humans respect, protect and enhance the environment they depend on and share with animals and plant life, and where progress is measured not as macroeconomic units of growth but always in terms of justice, equity and sustainability. Humans are inextricably linked by biology and ecology to non-human life, and when humans harm other life forms, they harm us all, not just physically and emotionally but also ethically and spiritually.

Our best science shows that the economic course that humanity is currently pursuing will—left unchecked and unreformed—result in drastically altered ecosystems and catastrophic events far worse than we are already witnessing and enduring around the world.

I believe in Canadian sovereignty and mourn its sacrifice at the altar of globalism via the TPP and previous cross-border deals, increasingly crafted in secrecy from voters but not from special interests, including lobbyists.

TPP silence (And, if I speak as fast as the speed of light, I can also include) I believe Bill C51’s acceptable features are far outweighed by its potential to silence dissent, invade privacy and crush ethical whistle-blowers and animal advocates like myself as “terrorists.”


It’s (barely) do-able. Perhaps, in the capable hands of the folks who produced the Book of Common Prayer version of the Apostles’ Creed, mine could be reduced to one minute, articulated without rushing. Until that happens, I’ll zip along as fluently as I can, and rely on answering questions – I’ll have 30 seconds for each! – to elaborate on my world vision.

Thank you for speed reading for the most crucial of causes: animals and the environment.


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I’m running for Parliament to shout out Inconvenient Truths

For all the electioneering chatter about the environment and about greening Canada, there’s a huge element missing in the discussion and the political pledges—the inconvenient truth about animals and factory farming. I’m running for Parliament in the upcoming October 19th elections to tell those truths, and to speak out on behalf of animals.

animal rights correct human wrongs

Have you, too, ever wondered why even green-oriented politicians avoid or (at best) give glancing attention to the 650 million farmed animals slaughtered every year? Do they take their direction from former American Vice-President Al Gore, whose wildly influential documentary An Inconvenient Truth omitted to flag methane as the single greatest contributor (18%) to global greenhouse gas emissions and also failed to urge us to eat less meat as a way to save the planet?

Poppyo and I at vigil Jan. 2013the-horrors-of-factory-farming-21349353Why did Gore do that? In trying to figure out how such a convincing environmentalist could betray his own mission, I imagined a conversation in which Bill Clinton, whose near-fatal heart attacks had by then converted him into a vegan, grilled his friend and colleague Al Gore on that very issue.

Bill Clinton: Let’s talk about the illogic of claiming to be a Green Guy who cares about the environment when you don’t even mention animals! Sure, you laid it on thick about the other major villains—fossil fuels, the destruction of the world’s forests, and so on—and you challenged people to make small personal changes that would add up to big differences to stop climate change. And you called it a moral issue, not a political one. But you left out the mother of all inconvenient truths—the human treatment of animals and what that’s done to the environment.

Hey, don’t shrug your shoulders! You know the facts as well as I do. (He scrolls quickly on his tablet.) Just to refresh your memory: Factory farming is a major generator of greenhouse gases. Let me put it even more starkly. Sixty-five percent of human-related nitrous oxide comes from manure, and has 296 times (that’s 29,600%!) times the Global Warming potential of Co2. And factory farms account for 34 percent of all human-induced methane—Can’t you just smell those toxic cow farts?—and methane is 23 times (or 23,000%!) as warming as CO2! Then there’s the ammonia, most of which comes from these same factory farms. Besides the agony it causes the animals who are forced to breathe it in every day of their short lives, that ammonia is also responsible for widespread human illness, including respiratory disease.

Canada factory farm cow               Baby cow killed for cheeseloverCanada factory farm hamburger

Shall I go on? How about the irony that 33 percent of the world’s global arable land is devoted to producing crops to feed animals that are raised to be killed and eaten?

Al Gore: Stop! You know why I glossed over all that, Bill. It was a strategic decision. I figured that if I could convince people that climate change is a looming disaster but assure them that they can fight back against it by making small changes in their behaviour, then maybe they’d do it. But asking people to drive a hybrid car and to turn off the lights is a far cry from asking them to urge their government to make drastic changes to the way their food is produced. Come on, Bill. You’ve always told me to watch out that the agro-industrial lobby doesn’t clobber me and to make sure that I keep my eye on the pulse of the people, who are every bit as carnivorous as I am!

Bill Clinton: Sighs. You’re right, Al. How could you ask government to take on corporations like McDonald’s and all the other fast food outlets that are such wonderful customers of factory farmed animals?

kfc-scary-photo-3That imaginary conversation contains several Truths, all of them about political expediency and will. The thought of promoting the most Inconvenient Truth of all is so daunting that even the greenest-oriented political parties dismiss it, leaving it to Canada’s tiniest party – the Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party – to enter the political fray with the most urgent message of all.

I am carrying that message to voters in my riding, and that message is resonating. Everywhere I go, people stop to encourage me and, often, to tell me stories about their personal epiphanies about factory farming. I’m winning! I won’t win a seat in Parliament, but I’m winning the battle to force the winners to confront my Inconvenient Truths.

When you go to vote, don’t vote for me,” I tell my audience at political rallies and meetings. “Vote, instead, for Canada’s millions of farmed animals, for animals tormented and trapped in useless laboratories, for our wildlife, our endangered species, our domestic animals, our marine animals. On voting day, remember that an X beside my name is a promise to millions of animals that finally, someone is speaking out for them and is committed to protecting them and to preserving the environment they share with us.”

AAEV Elizabeth Abbott 2


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It’s a Dog’s Life at Slobberfest

More than a million people attend Slobberfests all over North America – from Lynchburg, Virginia, Erie, Pennsylvania, Redmond, Washington and Rochester, Minnesota, to Toronto, Ontario, to name just a few of them. Slobberfests honor and entertain dogs and their humans with such events as the “Peanut Butter Lick” favored by the Droopy Basset Hound Rescue of Western Pennsylvania, or the Canine Hot (Veggie) Dog or Ice Cream Eating Contests I witnessed in Toronto. The Best Canine Trick tested skills, but other competitions judged only nature’s endowments: the softest and roughest coats, longest and shortest ears or tails, the tallest and shortest dogs. One lucky dog could even aspire to be crowned Slobber King or Queen in the Pack Parade. Slobberfest 2015From early morning to mid-afternoon, hundreds of dogs roamed up and down the Board-walk with their humans, greeting each other and playing, and visiting the dozens of stalls where volunteers sold food, treats and dog-related paraphernalia, all for the benefit of scores of breed and all-breed rescues, or advertised services from dog-walking, grooming and boarding to invisible fencing, Smartphone Apps and basic fast food for hungry humans.

That`s what Slobberfests are all about: paying homage to dogs and their people, fundraising, networking and reconnecting with other dog fanciers. That’s what I did with Maureen Jennings, who gave the world Detective William Murdoch and the Murdoch Mysteries. As Maureen strolled along the Boardwalk with her dogs Murdoch and Varley, an elderly spaniel-daschund rescue, she noticed me perched next to a pile of my recent book, Dogs and Underdogs: Finding Happiness at Both Ends of the Leash, that I was selling at Slobberfest to profit Big on Beagles, an Assistance Agency for Beagles Experiencing Troubled Times.

dogs and Underdogs for Karen darkWe embraced and chatted, and then Maureen asked Murdoch in a commanding voice: “Murdoch! On a scale of one to FIVE, how do you rank Elizabeth’s book?” Her friendly Austalian Chocolate Labradoodle responded instantly, barking loudly five times and then wagging his tail hard as we praised him for his literary discernment. (Maureen was cheating. She had endorsed my book, and she must have mentioned it to Murdoch.)

Slobberfest was packed with dog rescues. Canadian Chihuahua Rescue and Transport (CCRT) was nearby, and among the little dogs being showcased for adoption there was a pair of Chihuahua brothers who could not be separated. Though this reduced their adoptability, it honored the depth of their relationship and ensured their emotional well-being. Chachi-and-Pablo-010-150x150

CCRT was founded in 1996, after a Texas breeder developed Alzheimer’s disease and forgot to care for her seventeen Chihuahuas, who deteriorated and needed rescue – and transport to wherever rescue was available. A Chihuahua lover from British Columbia had a crazy idea: “if only we could organize a network of volunteers who would foster and drive Chihuahuas to new homes!” Twenty-four hours later, dozens of people volunteered to do just that, and the crazy idea became the rescue’s foundational goal.

Back at Big on Beagles, a woman walking an Italian greyhound with a protruding tongue stopped to chat with me. The little dog was not yet three-years-old, a worn-out breeder rescued from a puppy mill in Kentucky. Her tongue lolled because the horrendous state of her oral health had left her with no teeth at all, and she also suffered from other health problems. But now she was happy and secure, and the Slobberfest she participated in would raise funds to rescue and care for other dogs still incarcerated in puppy mills throughout North America.

Big On Beagles has a hundred stories about the transformation of sad and often ailing dogs into contented and cared-for family dogs with slobbery smiles on their age-whitened faces. A few, too old and sick for adoption, live as permanent residents of Sheba’s Haven, which offers palliative care. Some of these were unloved underdogs chained outside at the mercy of the elements. A few were once-loved victims of their humans’ divorces or deaths. Others were abandoned or mistreated because they failed as hunters, like Sweet Emily, just beginning to shed her anxiety and skittishness in her foster home at Speaking of Dogs rescue. Sweet Emily failed hunterJust before closing time, Murdoch and Varley nudged Maureen towards me for a second visit. She’s a Slobberfest enthusiast, and walking with her dogs, and doing agility training with Murdoch are two of her life’s greatest joys. And because we were in a Slobberfest frame of mind, we discussed the veggiedog eating contest and the upcoming release of The Peanuts Movie, starring the beagle Snoopy.

That’s what Slobberfest is all about: unabashedly celebrating the bond between canine and human, the immeasurable satisfaction of rescuing dogs in need, and the joy of living with them afterwards.

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A few years ago, I flew from Toronto to Ohio to pick up a dog I’d adopted after falling in love with him on Petfinder. My Bonzi Billy Beagle was at the Columbus City Center mall, where Beagles’R’Us was holding an adoption event with the help of eager high school volunteers. After I introduced myself and met my whirling dervish of a little dog, two of those students regaled me with questions.
“You’re from Toronto? Do you know the cast members of DeGrassi: the Next Generation?” I hung my head. “You don’t? Not even one?” They were crushed. Their shared dream, they told me, was to graduate from high school and join the DeGrassi crew or cast, and live happily ever after.

If only I’d known then that years later, I would be able to tell them: “Yes! I know a DeGrassi actor, and it was our dogs who introduced us. Her name is Imali Perera, and she has the distinction of playing two characters: the massage therapist Svetlana, and the nurse, Mariel.”

I met Imali years in the dog park where she was tossing Frisbees to Quincey, her sleek Doberman Pinscher. Quincey was one lucky dog! Imali was such a dedicated dog mom that she never walked her less than three times a day, two of those times for an hour or more. Quincey accompanied Imali everywhere, and knew her commands: sit, stay and come.

As a child, Imali had acquired a life-sized toy Doberman on a family road trip to California. She dragged “Dobie” everywhere with her, and vowed that when she grew up, she would adopt a real Doberman. That happened in 1993, when she was a third-year opera student in Montreal. On a visit to her hometown of Calgary, Imali convinced a Doberman breeder that she would be the best kind of caretaker for the female puppy named she named Quincey.
Together they flew back to Montreal and every day, Imali and her growing puppy played Frisbee or chased snowballs in a nearby parking lot and then explored a monastery garden that brought rural tranquility to the city. On the streets of Montreal, Quincey also learned the street smarts she never forgot: Sidewalk Good, Road Bad.

I met them years later, when Imali was an emerging stage, film and television actor and Quincey was a mature, sweet-natured and muscular dog who bounced alongside my dogs, none of whom could keep up with her. Imali and I talked Dog Dog Dog, with occasional digressions into my current book project and her career path, which at that time did not include DeGrassi.

Then Imali moved away and I never saw Quincey again. She died, I learned years later, of a congenital heart disease common in Dobermans and since then, Imali has never again had a dog. “I really wanted to be a good parent to her,” she says. “I would never want to give a dog less than I gave Quincey.”
Professional success comes at a cost, and Imali no longer has a dog to greet her at the end of an exhausting day’s filming. There is too much work, too many long hours, too much traveling.

The gig that most fascinated me, of course, was DeGrassi: The Next Generation. “Oh, do I have stories for you!” Imali chuckled. If only I could let those girls in Ohio know! I can only hope that, if they are still obsessed with DeGrassi, this blog will come their way.

Here’s a story about Imali’s onscreen adventure with Drake, now a famous rapper but then just Little Jimmy Brooks on DeGrassi, a basketball star transformed into a paraplegic during a school shooting that mimics the real-life massacre in Montreal’s Dawson College. Trina, his girlfriend, is also paralyzed from a rock-climbing fall.

In the episode where Imali plays the massage therapist Svetlana, Jimmy consults a doctor about his inability to achieve an erection when he wants to make love to Trina. Penis erectile dysfunction is common with paralysis, the doctor reassures Jimmy, and recommends massage therapy for relaxation.

Enter Svetlana, who massages Jimmy so effectively that soon the sheet he is lying under swells up – thanks, Imali laughingly recalls, to a piece of foam held in place with gaffer tape. Jimmy is mortified and, as Svetlana pretends not to notice, attempts to hide his erection. Afterward, he returns to the doctor. “Svetlana gave me a woody even though I’m not even attracted to her,” he complained. But as the doctor anticipated, the incident liberates Jimmy’s libido, and he and Trina go on to enjoy sex together.


When she first read the script, Imali had anticipated a lot of laughter on set. That didn’t happen. Instead, the scene was played matter-of-factly, without a single titter.
But now she’s reading another narrative – my book, Dogs and Underdogs: Finding Happiness at Both Ends of the Leash – and whenever she encounters a canine character she and Quincey used to know back in our dog park days, long before I ever dreamed that I’d meet a cast member of DeGrassi, Imali Perera laughs out loud!

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Dear Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: You’ve airlifted your two Yorkies back to their American homeland because, as Australia’s Agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce warned you in no uncertain words, if you didn’t arrange for them to “bugger off,” he’d order them seized and euthanized. You understood, albeit a bit late, that Australia’s laws about importing dogs are very strict and that in violating them, you risked fast-tracking Pistol and Boo over the Rainbow Bridge.

Make no mistake: the Australians weren’t bluffing. They are very proud that Australia is free of the deadly rabies virus, and they have worked hard to keep it that way. To refresh your memory, here is a link to what that means in terms of bringing a dog into their territory – and as it makes clear, even dogs rigorously screened in the U.S. must spend a minimum of ten days in quarantine.

The UK only modified its stringent regulations about dogs entering in 2012, in deference to EU standards. Back in 1968, dog-loving actors Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband Richard Burton, opted not to sneak their two Pekinese and two Yorkshire terriers into London while Burton filmed Where Eagles Dare near London. Instead, they rented the 1,200 foot Bolivian luxury yacht Beatriz where Cuthbert, George, Oh Fi and E’en So could tough it out while waiting for periodic visits from Elizabeth and Richard, whose primary residence was a hotel suite.

Don’t think that the English authorities trusted the famous couple not to sneak the dogs into London anyway. A Port of London policeman was assigned to make bi-hourly checks to confirm that the dogs were still on board. Fortunately for all concerned, they were.

The cost for avoiding but not evading the UK’s strict regulations was not cheap. The Beatriz cost $2,400 a week for two months, the equivalent today of $16,187.72. For the Taylor-Burton team, this astronomical sum was a price well worth paying to ensure the safety as well as the proximity of their four dogs.

But this triumph of glamorous entitled film stars over heavy-footed authorities all but obliterates something bleaker: that throughout the world, infected dogs are the carriers of the almost always fatal rabies disease. As they succumb to it, crazed and dying, they bite humans, and those humans, too, will die a horrible death.

Seasoned travelers know that as a rule of thumb, the easier it is to legally transport dogs into a country, the likelier it is that that country has an elevated rate of canine rabies. That’s why, if only they could speak, those dogs would thank Johnny and Amber for calling attention to their plight, no matter in how roundabout a way!

Unlike Australia and Antarctica, other continents are afflicted with rabies, with Asia and Africa the hardest hit. Several animals are carriers, but homeless dogs are a primary conduit for the virus. The majority of the 55,000 people who die each year from rabies, about forty percent of them children less than fifteen years of age, have been bitten by unvaccinated and usually free-ranging dogs.

Because of rabies and the fear that it will spread, an estimated twenty million dogs – 38 dogs every minute – are killed every year in jurisdictions that rely on mass culls, usually in the form of massacres, as the way to stamp out the rabies virus. But massacres don’t work. Vaccinations do. If at least 70 percent of a dog population is vaccinated, the rabies virus will die out.

That’s why Australia requires all arriving dogs to be vaccinated and then blood tested to ensure the vaccination provided adequate rabies anti-body levels. It’s a tightly scheduled regimen, and anyone traveling to Australia with their dogs has to begin it six months earlier, in their home country. By failing to do that, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard offered the world’s dog-loving media the opportunity to speak out for all the dogs who aren’t blessed with caring human families. That includes the millions of homeless dogs who will die because they have not been vaccinated, a few of whom will become infected and sow terror and panic in officials who will retaliate against all dogs and kill as many as they can.

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