The first thing that everyone notices about Ellie is her unmistakable smile. Her silly grin stretches from ear to ear. But it wasn’t always that way: The black-and-white dog spent years locked inside a filthy chain-link cage in rural Virginia with her sister, Gigi.

dog rescue

Unfortunately, in many areas, keeping a dog chained or in a pen 24/7 isn’t illegal, so PETA’s Community Animal Project fieldworkers did what they could for Ellie (then named Princess) and Gigi to make their lives better. They visited regularly, replacing the dirty drinking water with fresh water, providing them with food and flea treatment, and cleaning their pen. They were met with resistance from the dogs’ uncooperative owner every step of the way, but they continued to visit and help Ellie and Gigi.

Everything changed one hot summer day when the fieldworkers found the dogs perched on the roof of their PETA-supplied doghouse. Their pen was so filthy that they were reluctant to stand on the ground. ☹

peta dog rescue

Fieldworkers called the police, who charged the dogs’ owner with cruelty to animals. Officers later went back to the property and found Gigi dead. When a necropsy revealed that she had died from advanced heartworm disease and severe parasite infestations, animal control confiscated Ellie, and a judge awarded custody of her to PETA.

Her former owner was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation and was banned for life from owning any other animals.

Ellie’s nightmare was finally ending. As with most of the animals PETA rescues, staff members took her to the Virginia Beach SPCA—a high-traffic, open-admission shelter. From there, she was adopted by a couple whose other dog, Reba, is also a Virginia Beach SPCA adoptee.

PETA dog rescue

Now, instead of sitting forgotten in a squalid pen, Ellie romps with Reba, cuddles with her dad on his lap, snacks on her favorite treat—bananas—and, flashes her signature mile-wide grins.

Check out the video of her heartwarming rescue:

Together, we can help more “backyard dogs” like Ellie! Check out our guide to helping dogs in your own community!