Transcript of Meryl Streep’s Powerful Golden Globes Speech

January 8, 2017

As delivered by Meryl Streep upon acceptance of being awarded the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award:

Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.

Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.

Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.

O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.

 

Advertisements

What About Us?

What About Us

In late December 2008, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office seized approximately 189 dogs, multiple chickens, cockatiels, and cats from a breeder in Ballantine, Montana. In the animal cruelty charges brought against the breeder, Yellowstone County made their case, in part, on the finding of 13 dead dogs on the breeder’s property. The number of dead dogs found on the property was reported in almost every Billings Gazette article related to this story published in 2009 and after. Approximately 279 articles were published in the Billings Gazette in 2009 related to the breeder and the charges brought against her.

What was NEVER published in 2009 in the Billings Gazette, NOR ANYTIME SINCE was the number of these seized animals that died brutal deaths while in the custody of Yellowstone County.

FIFTY-SEVEN

In less than 8 months in 2009, FIFTY-SEVEN (57) animals died brutal, horrific deaths while in the custody of the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office. As a volunteer who dedicated approximately 6 – 8 hours a day during the operation, I had no idea that many animals were losing their lives and to my knowledge, none of the volunteers did nor did the public.

As a matter of fact, in an article published in Yellowstone Valley Woman magazine months AFTER the operation was over, the author wrote that only one dog died after the rescue and the County employee/manager of the Metra operation was quoted as saying to the author, “I thought we might lose five to ten dogs, and we only lost one. It was a miracle.”

When government fights for YEARS to keep public documents from being released, when private citizens have to take their local government to court to view public documents that the local government has refused to release through discovery AND the Freedom of Information Act, only one conclusion can be drawn: they are hiding something.

PUBLIC DECEIT

In 2009, multiple volunteers who worked with the dogs and a member of the public brought suit against Yellowstone County for numerous violations and causes of action related to the 9 1/2 month operation overseeing the seized animals. One of the counts brought against Yellowstone County is Public Deceit. Only as a result of the Plaintiffs’ legal pressure has Yellowstone County privately disclosed a number of FIFTY-SEVEN (57) animals that died while in their care; FIFTY-SEVEN. To be clear, these are not deaths attributable to the breeder, but rather due to the negligence of Yellowstone County and its employees.

Why is no one accountable for their horrific, brutal deaths? Why were the deaths of these animals concealed from the public in 2009?

To the Plaintiffs, their lives mattered.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

When it comes to the government, financial records are public documents.

This seems to another issue Yellowstone County does not the public to know about.

Four years and counting for a trial date.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.   ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Voices of Love and Joy

A brief overview of a long story:

Kapsa Shady Lane Kennels in Ballantine, MT was raided December 30, 2008 by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office. The seized animals (approximately 200 English shepherds, Pugs, and mixed breed dogs, a number of which were about to give birth, along with 3 cats and several birds) were taken into custody by Yellowstone County and sent to Metra Park arena (local fairgrounds) and Moore Lane Animal Hospital where they were cared for by volunteers while the case of animal cruelty against Linda Kapsa was played out (approximately 9 months).

On July 9, 2009, Kapsa pleaded no contest, and after a spay/neuter clinic the majority of dogs would soon be released for foster and adoption. ONLY on condition that the volunteers caring for the seized dogs receive first choice for adoption of the dogs for which they had been caring did Kapsa enter the plea deal. Judge Watters, the presiding judge, acknowledged and agreed with the condition.

National English Shepherd Rescue (NESR), a nonprofit organization based out of Ollala, WA, was selected by Yellowstone County to oversee the adoption/fostering of the dogs. NESR has had a long standing feud with Kapsa and worked with Yellowstone County for months prior to the raid.

During the 8 – 9 months in which the seized dogs were housed at the fairgrounds in horse barns, Penny Ronning volunteered more than 1,500 hours, spent more than $2,000 for the daily care needs of the dogs and was highly praised as one of the top dog handlers during her many months working with the dogs.

Each volunteer dog handler was assigned a stall of dogs to help socialize. Ronning began working with Love, Joy, and Happy the first week of January. Love, an English shepherd, was 10 years old at the time; Joy, an English shepherd, was 1- 2 years old at the time; and Happy, a black Labrador mix, is of undetermined age.

Night of July 4, 2009 Penny in stall with Happy, Joy, and Love.

Documentation shows the tremendous progress demonstrated by the dogs which were in Penny’s care. Love, Joy, and Happy were among the very first dogs to be leash trained. Joy was the first dog to master the agility course and the only dog that could run the course fully in one direction and immediately turn and run it in the opposite direction. Joy was even highlighted on the local news with Penny running her through the agility course.

However, not all at the fairgrounds was as it was presented in the press to the public. During the months the animals were in Yellowstone County’s custody close to 70 of the animals died horrific, brutal deaths. Abuse of the animals by volunteers closely associated with Yellowstone County officials and abuse of the animals by Yellowstone County employees occurred all too often.

Money being spent by the County as reported to the public was in serious question. Volunteers were paying into the thousands and thousands of dollars on the daily care needs of the dogs. Volunteers were supplying ALL labor for the daily care needs of the dogs and ALL labor in the construction of the facilities housing the dogs.

Volunteers that questioned any of these practices or that spoke up were fired and denied all access to the dogs and the County facility known as Metra Park.

Penny with Love

During the months in which the dogs were housed at the fairgrounds, Penny was noted as one of the most dedicated and hard working volunteers. Documentation proves the many, many hours she sacrificed and devoted to the well-being of the dogs. Photo, written, and video documentation as well as other volunteers’ affidavits reveal and prove the tremendous bond established between Penny and the dogs with which she lovingly cared for and worked with on a daily basis.

In May 2009, after witnessing a dedicated volunteer wrongfully and disgracefully “discharged” because she dared to question and to speak up, Penny began to question how both the dogs and volunteers were being treated by Yellowstone County.

In June 2009, Penny wrote a letter to the three Yellowstone County Commissioners requesting badly and desperately needed supplies.

In July 2009, Penny was asked by the defense to be a neutral party during Kapsa’s court ordered walk around in which Kapsa was to select 20 dogs that would potentially be ordered by the court to be returned to her. Penny was asked to be present to verify that, as best she knew, each stall of dogs at Metra Park contained the dogs that were supposed to be there. She was also asked to verify, as best she knew, which dogs volunteers wanted to adopt. Penny was asked to perform this task because she had been described by other volunteers as being honest, fair, and the one volunteer that had dogs in all four barns at Metra Park. She was described as being the volunteer with the most knowledge of all 4 barns.

Penny with Eddie

When the time came to “apply” with NESR to adopt the dogs Penny applied to adopt Love, Joy, Eddie, and Happy — 4 of the 8 dogs for which she had been the handler.

In June of 2009, Penny had emailed the president of NESR asking what the adoption process was going to be for the volunteers. In July, the president wrote Penny back stating that NESR had not yet determined a process and that NESR would not be discussing it with the volunteers.

Also in June 2009, the president of The English Shepherd Club and active member of NESR told Penny during a phone conversation that one of the dogs Penny had been working with and wanting to adopt had a long list of NESR members waiting to adopt and that Penny would have to “fight” for the adoption.

Toward the end of July 2009, the president of NESR and the adoption coordinator for NESR finally came to Montana to actually see the dogs for the VERY FIRST TIME and begin the adoption process. A dog trainer out of Pennsylvania with experience in search and rescue was deemed NESR’s professional animal behaviorist/expert and the person leading the evaluations on the dogs.

Unknown to Penny and performed when she was not present; Joy was the first of all seized dogs to be “evaluated” by NESR. According to volunteers witnessing the “evaluation” Joy performed beautifully. Also at this time, volunteers witnessed highly abusive treatment by the NESR professional animal “expert” and “evaluator” of Love, the 10 year old English shepherd.

Volunteers later witnessed Eddie being manhandled by one of NESR’s “expert evaluators”.

Penny walking Joy

The NESR “evaluation committee” deemed Penny’s group as “having made no progress since January” and denied her the adoption of all English shepherd dogs for which she applied. She was also not offered ANY English shepherd out of the entire 200+ English shepherds now needing homes. While Penny was brutally and cruelly being denied the adoption of Joy, the president of NESR told Penny that they were going to “give” her Happy, the black Labrador.

It should be noted that documentation reveals NESR’s disdain for Happy and Happy’s presence among the English shepherds. It was documented that this “animal expert” for NESR had stated that Happy should be in a stall by herself since as a Lab she will teach the young English shepherds bad behavior and she would drive Love, the older and highly intelligent English shepherd crazy.

Happy laying outside the stall she shared with Love and Joy

In the end, NESR denied Penny the adoption of Happy also. They chose an 81-year-old former volunteer to award Happy and then stated that Penny rejected Happy.

NESR also claimed that Penny’s adoption applications were appalling and that absolutely no animal rescue organization would give her an animal based upon her applications.

Penny has many years in rescuing and fostering dogs.

One of Penny’s co-handlers who also spoke out was also denied the adoption of a dog as was Penny’s mother who was also a volunteer.

Penny’s mother’s application was acknowledged by NESR and then completely ignored. Penny’s co-handler, Kelly Dennehy’s application was deemed by NESR as being turned in late even though at the time Kelly turned in her application the dogs had not yet been released by the court for adoption placement by NESR.

After repeated attempts and requests by Penny and Kelly and vast numbers of concerned citizens throughout Yellowstone County and the nation, NESR refused all discussion on the matter.

The truth is that both Penny and Kelly were denied as acts of retaliation on the part of Yellowstone County and NESR.

In 2009, because of NESR’s adamant refusal of discussion Penny and Kelly began legal action to adopt Love and Joy.

In 2009, volunteers filed suit against Yellowstone County also.

***********************

For the first time on my blog, I am sharing my own personal story.

For more information and to follow, please click here.

Rooting for Hailee Steinfeld…

I’m rooting for Hailee Steinfeld for several reasons. 1. She is the daughter of one of my best friends from my years as a Flight Attendant. 2. She is absolutely outstanding in her portrayal of Mattie Ross — just try saying the lines she was given as confidently and as naturally as she does. AND 3. While each and every actor/actress nominated is worthy of the honor, I’m flat out tired of Oscars given toward roles that portray women as dysfunctional or victims. Blaaach.

The character of Mattie Ross is like many women I know – courageous, intelligent, independent, strong and full of grit.

Is the nobility of truth in journalism extinct?

The following is my letter to Billings, MT newspaper reporter Ed Kemmick after he published an article about me and others filing suit against National English Shepherd Rescue and Yellowstone County. This letter contains my opinions and what I know to be truths regarding our case.

March 31, 2010

Mr. Ed Kemmick

Billings Gazette

PO Box 36300

Billings, MT 59107-6300

Dear Mr. Kemmick:

Thank you for your article in yesterday’s Billings Gazette. The decision to enter into the second law suit was not taken lightly. My family has been a part of the Billings community for many years. For more than 30 years my parents owned and operated The Happy Diner. During these years many families worked for my dad and his restaurant was a favorite to many, many people in Billings. Through the years, I watched my dad live and practice his business ethic that an employee who cares is a company’s greatest asset. My dad was a boss that went above and beyond for his employees and I am blessed beyond measure to have learned the importance of a strong work ethic and the value of caring beyond what is expected from such a great man. Jim Soft of Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch once told me that he has never heard a negative word ever spoken about my dad.

I write this to you with tears rolling down my cheeks. Not tears of anger or frustration, but tears of deep sadness.

If people like my father can have a Yellowstone County Sheriff’s deputy without cause enter his home to tell his family that they are not allowed on public property or they will be arrested, then who in our community is next?

If two war veteran, Sam McKechnie, a man who fought for the United States of America in both the Korean War and the Viet Nam War, can be told without cause by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s department that he is not allowed on public property or he will be arrested, then who in our community is next?

If a young 20-year-old girl who volunteered her time because the county sent out a call for help, is bullied and assaulted without cause by Yellowstone County Sheriff’s department employees and told that she is not allowed on public property or she will be arrested, then who in our community is next?

If community members who answer a call for help from our government are held as emotional hostages, intimidated, manipulated and lied to by their local government, then who in our community is next?

I’ve often thought of Rosa Parks and those before her who refused to give up their seat on a bus in their community because they were told to do so.

Some times in life we have to decide if we are going to give up our seat in a bus in our community because we are told to do so.

Or if we are not.

The decision to enter this law suit was not taken lightly by me or my family.

I believe in our constitution. My family believes in our constitution. We believe that our legal system is for all people equally.

Both me and my family also believe in and declare Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

I am ashamed to say that I participated in the name calling of Linda Kapsa early on while volunteering to work with the dogs at MetraPark. I was an equal participant in verbally agreeing with her degradation as a person in our community or even of her as a person period. I was very vocal about my belief that she should go to prison.

Negative talk and degrading language about Linda Kapsa and Liz Honaker was the norm at MetraPark. We were the good guys and they were our common enemy.

But then something happened.

God began to deal with me.

The nasty words I would speak about Linda Kapsa began to taste very sour in my mouth and when I would hear others speak horribly about her I would feel myself cringing inside.

I shed many tears of shame coming to the realization that God loved Linda Kapsa too and that He had not ever called me to be her judge, but to be His child of grace and mercy. I’ve heard people say that our true character comes out when we are in pressure situations, but I don’t agree with that. I believe our true character is revealed by the way we treat our enemy when our enemy is down.

Neither I nor my family agrees with, nor do we defend Linda Kapsa’s breeding methods, the state of her property, or the condition in which she kept the many dogs on her property. We believe her breeding practices needed to be stopped, the dogs removed and placed in loving homes, and that Linda be treated for what we believe appears to be mental illness related to hoarding.

I did not know, nor had I ever met or spoken with Linda Kapsa prior to the day I accompanied Linda, Liz Honaker, Lt. Mike Scheino, Linda’s defense attorneys, a county employee and one other volunteer on Linda’s final viewing of the dogs at MetraPark. I was asked to be a neutral party accompanying the group by Liz Honaker. This was also the first day I ever met Ms. Honaker, a person of tremendous strength and character I have come to admire greatly. Before I agreed to join the group, I spoke with a number of other volunteers at MetraPark and sought their council on what they would like for me to do. Not one asked or told me not to participate. Each volunteer I spoke with encouraged me to be present and to be their voice. One volunteer told me that he would have great difficulty making that decision also, but he trusted my judgment on doing the right thing.

The right thing.

The right thing.

As a member of Amnesty International, I have long believed that every person deserves to enjoy the rights declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have been an active member of AIUSA and have campaigned for the rights of many people in other countries and in my own country.

But now, I was faced with standing for the rights of the woman who was absolutely the most hated person at MetraPark and perhaps Yellowstone County.

The right thing.

As a neutral party I was not asked to represent either the defense or the county, but rather as someone Linda Kapsa could trust to tell her the truth about the dogs in the stalls and the volunteers wanting to adopt them. To the best of my knowledge, I did just that. And I did this with grace and professionalism. And to make it perfectly clear, I did not make a deal with Linda Kapsa or anyone representing Linda Kapsa to get the dogs I loved that were on her list to potentially be returned to her. Deputy county attorney Ingrid Rosenquist has blatantly lied accusing me of this act.

I have also been greatly criticized by the Yellowstone County employee who was a part of the walk around as showing kindness to Linda Kapsa and forcing the others to follow suit. This Yellowstone County employee openly and publicly stated in writing that this was a day that should have been horrible for Linda Kapsa and that she should have been treated terribly.

When did Yellowstone County begin approving, sanctioning, and encouraging intimidation, bullying, and the right for all of its employees to administer cruel judgments? It was my understanding that Judge Watters was the only person elected by We The People with the authority to administer judgment on Linda Kapsa’s actions.

It is my belief that terrorism and gang mentality first begins in the heart with a seed of hatred. That seed is then watered by words of influence. I am ashamed that the soil of my heart was such that a seed of hatred could even be planted, but it was. I disliked Linda Kapsa and all that she represented, which of course was everything bad. I bought into all that was being printed and being said about her and about Yellowstone County. We were the good guys and she was the bad guy.

Americans seem to need heroes who wear the white hats and bad guys who wear the black hats.

But what happens when all the hats are gray?

Our justice system should always be about that – justice. When the system fails to seek justice within ALL levels of the legal system then our constitution is mocked and so are those who have fought to win our freedoms and protections that are provided in that very constitution.

Sam McKechnie fought in two wars for the United States of America, its citizens and our constitution and he was treated shamefully by Yellowstone County employees. Actions taken against Mr. McKechnie by employees of the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s department violated the very civil rights Mr. McKechnie fought in TWO wars to protect. And now, Mr. McKechnie is forced to file suit to fight for his right to vote at his assigned polling place or to participate in anything at MetraPark or the fairgrounds!

When did my county become a place run by those who seek vigilante justice, the enforcement of gang mentality, and the approval of intimidation of its citizens to the point of violating their civil rights?

The Kapsa case stopped being about dogs long before it ever started.

If this case were truly, truly about cruelty to animals, then why did Yellowstone County willingly leave more than 20 dogs in Linda Kapsa’s care after the December 2008 raid? Were the lives and well being of those dogs of no less significance? When questioned at Kapsa’s sentencing as to the future of the dogs that remained on Linda Kapsa’s property, lead prosecuting attorney Ingrid Rosenquist stated that the county did not have need for any more dogs.

Why has no one sought to find out what happened to those dogs? Where was the county in their fight for the well being of those dogs? Where were the “activists” making two phone calls a week wanting to make sure the county was protecting those dogs?

They were no where to be found.

I know because I made those calls to the Department of Corrections and to the State. I sought answers as to what was going to happen to the dogs on Linda Kapsa’s property. Those dogs had every right to live lives in loving homes like the dogs caught in the raids. I, Kelly Dennehy, Denise Cooper and a small handful of others from our community removed the dogs from Linda Kapsa’s property and saw to it that the dogs Judge Watters granted Linda the right to keep were altered – all three dogs Linda chose were males. All of us involved paid for the expenses out of our own pockets. When I first arrived on Linda’s property to assess the situation, Linda had 34 dogs that needed to be placed and we placed every dog in less than two weeks. None of the dogs were emaciated, starving or malnourished. None had lice or open injuries or sores or mange or severe matting of any kind. Some of the younger dogs had fleas, but not to any severity whatsoever. Only one dog displayed any sign of pain or an injury of some kind. Linda told us that this dog had been kicked by a horse when it was younger and that the dog had just recently begun showing signs of a hip problem. Kelly Dennehy paid for the first x-ray done on the dog and I paid for the second more extensive x-ray. My vet has confirmed that indeed the injury shows all the signs of what Linda described. He also confirmed that the dog has had one prior surgery on her hip to address the injury. She will need one more surgery and I will be paying for that.

Of the 34 dogs that remained on Linda’s property when I first became involved in their placement, Linda sold 3 and found a loving adoptive home for 1, two women from the community placed 4, and myself and my connections placed 26 dogs into loving homes. I am very happy to share that two of the dogs were accepted to Best Friends Animal Society (Dogtown) in Utah. Sam McKechnie and I paid for that trip and delivered the dogs personally. Another person from our community helped us with the more than 30 hour drive down to Utah and back in two days. Animal Lodge was incredibly generous to care for the two dogs until Best Friends was ready to receive them and my schedule opened up for the trip.

Each one of the 34 dogs was humanely crated by Linda Kapsa. At no time did we have to chase a dog, run a dog down, injure a dog, or catch a dog with a rabies pole. Linda voluntarily crated every dog herself. She did the same with the 4 horses that she was required to relinquish. The horses were humanely coaxed into a trailer and moved to their new home in less than two hours.

NESR wasn’t anywhere to be found even though they claim to be a non-profit organization whose mission it is to rescue English Shepherds. Why is it no one is asking NESR why they didn’t raise funds or resources for those dogs? Why were they not preparing for the additional dogs that remained at Linda’s? They certainly had enough time to do so and according to them, they are the “experts” in placing English Shepherds.

Why is it no one is asking why the Yellowstone County Commissioners agreed to fund the bill for the seized dogs, provide all the labor to care for the dogs through its volunteer citizen work force, and then find it entirely satisfactory that NESR accept $100 for dogs adopted in Yellowstone County and $200 for dogs adopted outside of Yellowstone County of which none of these funds were given back to Yellowstone County?

AND

Why is it no one is asking why the Yellowstone County Commissioners find it entirely acceptable that the very citizens of Yellowstone County who either paid the bill for the care of the dogs and/or provided volunteer care for the dogs be held accountable to the laws of the state of Washington if they were fortunate enough to be granted the right by NESR to adopt one of the dogs? Why is it that the Yellowstone County Commissioners didn’t negotiate with NESR that the adoption contracts for the residents of Yellowstone County be held accountable to the laws of the state of Montana? When did the state of Washington or any county in the state of Washington fund any portion of the daily care needs of the dogs? Where were the Yellowstone County Commissioners when this contract between NESR and Yellowstone County was being negotiated? Why were the Yellowstone County tax payers not being represented by their own elected officials?

In my opinion, the Kapsa case was not really about dogs. From what I witnessed, it appeared to be about revenge and retaliation. It has appeared that the dogs and the Yellowstone County tax payers were simply pawns being used against a mentally ill woman who had won a case against Yellowstone County years before. Linda Kapsa’s breeding of dogs absolutely needed to be stopped and the dogs absolutely needed to be placed in loving homes, but, in my opinion, from what I witnessed, the reality of her legal case was not really about this. In my opinion, if this had been about the well being of the dogs, then greater and more thorough preparation and planning on the part of the county would have been in place and experienced leadership in the care of this size of an undertaking would also have been in place. To say that this large of a rescue had never happened before is a fallacy. Sadly, larger rescues than Operation New Beginnings have occurred too many times in our country. The laws must be changed to stop animal hoarders and irresponsible breeders.

Why is it that no one is asking why Kristen Wyatt had to make 2 phone calls a week for 5 months and get no where until she reached Yellowstone County commissioner Jim Reno and then suddenly, within a few days, according to Yellowstone County attorneys Mark Murphy and Ingrid Rosenquist, the same amount of man power was placed on the Kapsa case as they would place on a homicide case? How did this go from 5 months of “we aren’t going to do anything about the dogs on Kapsa’s property” to a full fledged homicide level case with one phone call to Jim Reno?

Why is it no one is actively seeking documented numbers from Yellowstone County? The Gazette went to court to get emails and documents on the “in office” sex life of Dennis Paxinos, but no one has sought documentation as to what the actual amount of money Yellowstone County tax payers provided for the “care” of the dogs or the salaries paid to those employees overseeing the operation? Why is it no one is printing or televising on the news the large number of dogs that died painful deaths while in the care of the county? I’ve read many times in the Billings Gazette that Linda Kapsa had dead dogs on her property, a fact that rips at my heart every time I think of it. However, who should be held accountable for all of the painful deaths of the dogs while in the care of the county. Shouldn’t the Yellowstone County tax payers be informed of these deaths also? After all, at this point they were paying the salaries of those in charge of the care and well being of these dogs.

The Billings Gazette has published at least 11 stories about the Kapsa case – many on the front page. In these stories, 18 different numbers have been published as the total number of dogs cared for by Yellowstone County, and 20 different money amounts paid by Yellowstone County tax payers have been reported. Do you or does anyone else actually know the correct numbers? Is anyone holding the Yellowstone County Commissioners or the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s department accountable for tax payer funds? If the reports of $200,000 to $250,000 is true and if we approximate this cost as for the care of 200 dogs from December 30, 2008 to September 15, 2009, then approximately $3.86 to $4.83 a day was spent on each dog, according to Yellowstone County. I can tell you that in the 8 stalls of dogs I personally cared for every day, I did not see $3.00 to $5.00 per dog per day from Yellowstone County coming into those stalls. Why is it no one is questioning the reported $20,000 a month vet bills when Rolling Dog Ranch reported that their vet bills for the entire year of 2009 was $46,000? And they claim that to be a very high bill for them. Where were the Yellowstone County Commissioners in the negotiating of the cost of vet care for the dogs? As a volunteer, I spent approximately $2,000 on the daily care needs of the dogs. I know other volunteers who spent an equal amount and others who spent more. I believe that with appropriate and experienced leadership and a well planned organizational effort in place the financial cost to the volunteers would have been drastically less. I also believe that the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s department should be held accountable for the deaths of the dogs while in their care.

Mr. Kemmick, with all due respect, in your article yesterday you wrote, “Honaker also represented Kapsa, who was sentenced last August to 20 years of probation after pleading guilty to a charge of aggravated animal cruelty. About 200 dogs, 27 chickens, and 10 birds were taken from Kapsa’s property in December 2008, and she was accused of failing to properly feed, shelter and care for the animals.” First, to the best of my knowledge, Liz Honaker has never represented Linda Kapsa in any animal cruelty case. Second, Linda Kapsa did not plead guilty. She pled “no contest” to a charge of animal cruelty, which the county agreed to. And third, what do any of these specific statements about the Kapsa case have to do with the case myself and others have against NESR and Yellowstone County, which was the basis of your article?  Our case is about the actions of NESR, Yellowstone County and specific volunteers, not Linda Kapsa.

I honestly and sincerely write these words with respect. I enjoy your writing and enjoy your columns very much. However, I also appreciate the power of the influence of words and how they are presented. As a published writer you have the opportunity with each column and each article to influence for truth or influence for an agenda. My hope and prayer is that the Billings Gazette and its employees believe in and desire for the noble ethic of using the power of the influence of their words for truth.

My guess is that the majority of Yellowstone County residents could tell you the name of the dog breeder accused of animal cruelty and identify her in a picture, but could not tell you the name of the young man who killed the nurse while recklessly driving his car or the name of the man accused of brutally murdering three people in our community or the name of the man recently accused of raping an adolescent boy or identify a picture of any of these men accused of horrific crimes.

Linda Kapsa is not an easy person to help. But I was deeply saddened when I asked her one day how many Christian leaders in our community had contacted her to see how they could help her. Or how many of the service or humanitarian organizations had reached out to help her clean her property or put up a barn she has all of the materials for. She said, “None.”

Last September myself, Kelly Dennehy, Denise Cooper, and three others from our community began the process of cleaning Linda’s property. Linda worked diligently along side of us. While Linda expresses gratitude, an awareness that she battles mental illness is always present. Reaching out with compassion and kindness to Linda Kapsa is not always easy, but ostracizing and alienating those that are not always easy to love is not the example my parents set for me. I did not volunteer to work with the dogs to “get a dog” – I don’t know any volunteer that did that. I volunteered because I love dogs. Dogs are easy to love. I have volunteered my efforts to help Linda Kapsa clean her property and find homes for the dogs that remained on her property because I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. It has not been the easy thing, but it has been the right thing.

In his letter from Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote to his fellow clergy that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant and an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Just as Rosa Parks would not give up her seat because she was told to do so, I will not remain silent when my own local government states lies as facts just because I am told to do so. President Obama told the world in his inaugural address that those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent are on the wrong side of history. If we hold this to be true for those in other countries, then we must hold it to be true for ourselves.

I am an excellent dog owner and provided and cared for the dogs at MetraPark with all the love in my heart, with my own finances, and with great sacrifice because I loved them. I fell in love with my stalls of dogs the first day I entered the stalls. I am proud of the mountains of fear they climbed and conquered. The dogs I applied to adopt, Love, Joy, Eddie and Happy are four of the greatest dogs I have ever known and I am so very, very proud of their intelligence, bravery, socialization skills, and abilities to shine in the most challenging of circumstances. My life is blessed beyond measure to have had these dogs in my life. I bonded with each of these dogs and they bonded with me. The only true reason I was denied the right to adopt Love, Joy and Eddie was because of my refusal to remain silent over what was happening at MetraPark. And Kelly Dennehy was denied because of her courage to stand up for me.

For almost 8 months I showed up at MetraPark every day, no matter of the weather or if I was not feeling well to care for Love, Joy, and Eddie and I continue to show up for them every day now as I fight with all of my resources to bring them back home to me. Each of those dogs excelled socially with my handling. Anyone who states otherwise is not telling the truth. NESR, Ingrid Rosenquist, and Catherine Schaeffer falsely accuse me of rejecting Happy. I never rejected Happy. Happy has lovingly been with me since August 12, 2009, the same day my 15-year-old chocolate Labrador died. Happy was adopted by Sam McKechnie, but health reasons never allowed him to adequately exercise Happy and so Sam generously shared her with me. In January of this year, he legally transferred her ownership to me. Happy is an extraordinarily well cared for healthy and fit dog.

I have proven beyond question my commitment to the well being of the dogs seized and those that remained on Linda Kapsa’s property. Dear friends and my own vet have generously contributed to the care of the dogs that remained on Linda’s property and that I helped place into homes and for this, I am eternally grateful. However, I have never asked for donations to help cover any of the costs I have gladly paid out for the care of the dogs. We are legally fighting to have Love and Joy returned to us because we love them. They are not property or little treasures from a legal victory to us. They are the dogs we developed a relationship with and bonded with for many months. They are part of our lives and our hearts and wonderful, wonderful homes with their well being and best interest await them with us. Separating them from us was nothing but cruel retaliation meant to hurt us.

The citizens of Yellowstone County deserve honest and ethical leadership, honest and ethical law enforcement, and honest and ethical accounting of the dollars spent by the Yellowstone County Commissioners.

To date, this has not occurred in the Kapsa case or Operation New Beginnings or in the relationship between NESR and Yellowstone County officials.

This is my seat in a bus in my community and I will not move simply because I am told to do so.

Respectfully,

Penny Ronning

Volunteer MetraPark dog handler of Love, Joy, Happy, Eddie, Trooper, Tippy, Sadie, and Suri

A Long Day’s Journey Up the Mountain of Courage

I’ve been gone from the blogging world for what feels like a very long time.

And

Now, it’s time to return…

With a mission.

For the past 8 months I have been working —  28 to 35 volunteer hours 7 days a week — to care for and socialize dogs seized from an out of control and badly neglected breeding situation.

On December 11 and 30, 2008, approximately 200+ dogs, 3 cats,  10 cockatiels,  a bunch of chickens and one loud rooster were seized by Yellowstone County (Billings, MT) and taken to the fairgrounds where the majority of them would be housed in horse barns for the next 8 – 9 months.

I began volunteering with the dogs the first week of January 2009.

I invite you to follow my journey with Joy, Love, Eddie, Happy, Trooper, Sadie, Suri, and Tippy — the 8 dogs I have worked with directly these past 8 months.

Our journey is one of great, great learning filled with emotional highs and lows.

AND

Is now in a place that will shock you.

Please join our journey as we travel up the mountain of courage…

First, meet the dogs:

Trooper

Trooper

Sadie

Sadie

Eddie

Eddie

Joy

Joy

Happy

Happy

Tippy

Tippy

Suri

Suri

Love

Love