Animal activist Dorothy Checchi O’Brien, described as “tiny and fearless,” showed the big, well-funded animal protection organizations in Massachusetts how to get the job done.
Working with a small group of volunteers, she succeeded in passing a landmark state law to ban the leghold trap—against ferocious opposition from the hunting lobby.
Dorothy would face down anyone to protect animals. An editorial cartoon in the Boston Globe depicted her squaring off against two hunters who shot at waterfowl near her home despite her “No Hunting” signs. Just shy of 5 feet tall, Dorothy was fined $405 for allegedly “beating up” the burly—and armed—men.
Dorothy also stood up to lawmakers. Her friend, Gayle Fitzpatrick, recalls that she brought a leghold trap to a public hearing on her legislation. Marching up to the dais of legislators who would decide the bill’s fate, she instructed each to “try this on for size.” And they did. No one said "no" to Dorothy.
According to Animal Friends magazine, she took on other animal organizations too, "closely monitor(ing) the financial affairs of the Massachusetts SPCA and the Animal Rescue League of Boston.”
Gayle, a dauntless animal rescuer in her own right, lovingly remembers Dorothy as “wonder woman," who rallied for vulnerable humans as well as animals.
“From spaying a cat for someone in financial need to making sure the elderly were not alone at the holidays, the entire community felt Dorothy’s impact without realizing she was behind all this good work,” Gayle says.
Though Dorothy died in 2001, six years before Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets formed, she will forever inspire and influence us. When the going gets tough, we reach out to Dorothy. And as strong in death as in life, she always responds.