Susie’s Hope: Homeless animals beat the odds

Susie is a lucky dog. She wears pearls and has red painted toenails. She sleeps in her owner’s bed and gets fed twice a day. Wherever she goes, children and adults gather around to hear her story and admire her big brown eyes.

Life wasn’t always kind to Susie. She was set on fire, her was jaw broken and her ears were burned off, all at the hands of her first owner. When her new owner, Donna Lawrence, adopted her a year and a half ago, Lawrence was outraged that the man who did this to Susie would not go to jail. The judged believed that he had committed the crime, but North Carolina animal cruelty sentencing guidelines did not permit jail time for first time offenders. Donna knew that probation wasn’t enough for the monster that did this to Susie.

“We rallied all across North Carolina. We took Susie and she became the voice for the animals that had no voice. We rallied and had the laws changed,” says Lawrence. Now first time offenders can receive ten months in jail if convicted of a Class H felony for animal cruelty.

Susie and Donna Lawrence made an appearance in Asheville on Saturday, in honor of International Homeless Animals Day. Animal Compassion Network and Chain Free Asheville teamed up to offer an adoption day, vaccination clinic and presentations by three dogs and their owners who helped to change animal cruelty laws. Asheville was one of many stops for Susie, who visits schools, libraries and churches throughout North Carolina.

Adopting Susie wasn’t easy for Donna Lawrence. A year before she met Susie, Lawrence was attacked by a pit bull and nearly killed. Her neighbors kept the dog chained to a tree for years, and then abruptly moved away, leaving the dog behind. “I would see this dog every day and feel so sorry for him. I would look over there and see that he was all alone,” Lawrence says. One day she brought some blankets to warm his doghouse. When she went back the next morning, the dog attacked her, lunging for her leg and throat. Lawrence survived, with approximately 50 stitches, but was understandably afraid of dogs. However, when she met Suzie, her heart went out to her. Lawrence says, “If Susie can trust humans, I can trust dogs again.” 

Inspired by Susie’s courage, Lawrence established the non-profit Susie’s Hope to educate people about animal cruelty. She has also written the book Susie’s Miracle: The Inspiration Behind Susie’s Law. Her next project is to prepare Susie to become a therapy dog for burn victims. Together with her husband Roy, Donna Lawrence has given Susie a safe home and a life devoted to teaching others how to treat animals with love.


Firu and owner, another pair that helped change animal cruelty laws.

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