Dr. Doug James and his dog Gucci changed Alabama animal cruelty laws for the better many years ago. Doug did not set out to champion animal welfare in the state. He hadn't even planned on getting a dog. But fate intervened around 16 years ago to change that.
Doug was at home when he heard the screams of a puppy in distress. Moments later, he saw a cruel and horrific act that changed his life, and the life of the puppy he saved.
He witnessed a group of teenagers beating a puppy. As he approached, the teens lit the puppy on fire. James ran to the puppy's aid and with the help of a neighbor, doused the flames. He took the burned pup to the vet, not sure he would survive. But the little chow-husky mix did, and James decided to keep him. He called him Gucci and it took the dog a year to recover from the surgeries and burns.
Doug said the cruelty laws were virtually non-existant back in 1994. But the cold-heartedness of the crime against Gucci prompted him to act. The professor of communications at Spring Hill College set to work to help change the animal welfare laws and with supporters in the legislator, Gucci's bill was proposed.
It was at a reading of the State Legislator that the initiative got a real push, after Doug and Gucci were kicked out of the gallery. After that, media coverage helped give their cause lots of attention and Gucci became well known all over the state. The law was finally passed in 2000 and it was a victory of sorts, although Doug still feels the laws could be tougher, even today.
Doug believes Gucci was here for a purpose. "He was special, you know, because he had been through so much. He was a great human resource, he was a great greeter. I said many a time if he was human he would be governor. He could just work a crowd." Gucci was also a great ambassador for abused animals and a great dog.
Doug laughs and said, "I've often thought if people were half as good, if I was half as good as Gucci was, it would just be a wonderful world."