Jes Cochran has rescued 16,000 rats and 600 reptiles from inhumane conditions in a California breeding facility—the largest rescue in U.S. history—and was on the ground after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, saving pets from boarded-up buildings. She also helped remove 400 chinchillas from tiny steel cages in a fur farm rescue.
Going above and beyond to care for animals is Cochran’s nature, said Emily Allen, associate director of PETA’s Community Animal Project, who has worked alongside Cochran during the last 11 years. Allen describes her as a “small person hurling very heavy dog houses over fences” during the winter, dogs who so desperately need shelter from the cold.
“She becomes superwoman,” Allen said, adding that whenever PETA gets a new fieldworker, she hopes Cochran is available to show them the ropes.
Earlier this year, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) fieldworker won her biggest victory to date, one that is of a personal nature; she got to take home a black Chow mix named Edith, who she had loyally been visiting for years in the yard where her previous owner left her chained up all day and year-round.
A large part of Cochran’s job in Norfolk is checking on the many dogs who are left chained up in backyards by their owners in rural areas of Virginia and North Carolina. Because local ordinances allow owners to keep their pets outdoors, PETA and other animal rescue agencies are not allowed to seize the pets in inclimate weather.
She and other fieldworkers often try to work with the owners, asking them if their animals need medical care and helping financially if applicable. They also give away free dog houses and straw to owners who continue to leave their dogs outdoors.
Edith is one of the hundreds of backyard dogs that Cochran has visited and become acquainted with, and the two developed a close bond after first meeting in 2007. Over the years, Jes often drove to Edith’s home to give her belly rubs and treats, even if she wasn’t assigned to check in on Edith that day.
“There are some cats and dogs that you develop a bond with, and Edith is definitely one that every time I visited, it was hard leaving her,” Cochran said.
Then, one day in 2013, Cochran showed up to find that Edith was no longer chained up in the yard she lived in with a few other pit bulls. Cochran feared that she had succumbed to the harsh conditions of living outdoors.
Three years later, another PETA volunteer was delivering straw for outdoor dogs in rural North Carolina and snapped some pictures in the yard. Cochran later identified one of the dogs as Edith, and drove out to the property as soon as she could to connect with her long-lost friend.
“I can’t even tell you how excited I was that she was still out there,” Cochran said.
Cochran spoke with Edith’s owner, who wasn’t immediately willing to part with the black Chow mix. But, after a week had passed, and Cochran explained to her that leaving a 10 year old dog who suffers from arthritis outside in the winter could seriously affect her health, the owner decided that finding Edith a new home was in her best interest.
Naturally, Edith was ecstatic; and the more time Edith spends in her new home, says Cochran, the more she continues to come out of her shell.
Cochran, now 32, started interning at PETA when she was 19 years old. After her two-month internship ended, she decided she was right where she wanted to be and dropped out of school to work for the organization full time. A self-described shy person when she started, Cochran says that being an advocate for sick or neglected animals who need her help have made her more confident and assertive.
“I think there’s a drive that takes over me when I see an animal that needs someone. All my insecurities are washed away,” Cochran said.
She started out doing simple cases, such as transporting animals for spay and neuter surgeries and trapping feral cats. Cases come to PETA, Cochran said, either because animal owners need financial help caring for their animals, or the agency is tipped off by those concerned about the well-being of an animal.
As she gained experience, Cochran started working on more complex cases.
“Jes puts her heart and soul into her work, and you can see it in everything she does,” Allen said. “She wears her heart on her sleeve—if she’s upset, she’s going to say something.”Share this article: