I’ve always had a soft spot for abused and neglected animals. I see us as stewards of the companion animals we domesticated and for me, there is just no excuse for treating them poorly. When it comes to owned animals, my position is that if you don’t really care about that animal and are not prepared to treat him or her as a member of your family or a valued partner in some way, you should not have animals at all. In doing so, I make no distinction based on income. I am aware of homeless people who take better care of their pets than do some celebrities who treat animals like furry accessories or as some status symbol, only to discard them when caring for them calls for too much responsibility.
The topic of chained dogs is one I’m particularly passionate about. It all goes back to our dog, Snake, for me. She had been living chained to a tree with a heavy logging chain in Northern California when Rich rescued her years ago with the help of a game warden. She was not socialized to people and we will never know how she was treated in her developmental months as a young dog. She had no fur on her neck due to the chain and she “pancaked” in the early days when Rich took her home. She was simply terrified. The veterinarian Rich took her to said her hair may never grow back. It did and she thrived in time with the help of the man who is my own personal dog whisperer and who, in all likelihood, is really part dog.
Every time I see a dog on a chain or a tether, forced to live outside 24/7/365 with no meaningful human contact, I ask myself one simple question: why? Why even have a dog if that animal is essentially imprisoned to a patch of dirt? It makes absolutely no sense to me and it is considered inhumane by every reputable animal welfare organization in our country. Dogs who are forced to live outside and confined to a limited space are not protective of the people who live inside a home near them. They become protective of the space in which they are forced to live. They do not make good living security systems who will bark when an intruder comes near. They are apt to either bark at everyone and every other animal or they do not bark at all. Dogs who live this way are considered “resident dogs” by subject matter experts like Karen Delise of the National Canine Research Council. They may not be aggressive towards the people who own them, but they can be incredibly dangerous to other people, with children and the elderly being most at risk of being bitten or fatally attacked.
February is Unchain a Dog Month. The second week in February is Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week. In honor of this week and month, I am happy to report that a dog ordinance I have been advancing in the city where I live was approved by my city council last night. It is now illegal to keep a dog confined by direct-point chaining or tethering to a stationary object in our city. Dogs may be contained inside a residential structure, inside a fenced yard, in a pen or with a run or trolley line. In addition to containment methods, our ordinance has provisions for adequate shelter and nutrition and prohibits dogs being kept outside during dangerous conditions. This particular part of the ordinance is intentionally vague so it can relate to either extreme temperatures or weather events like tornado warnings. I would have liked to have the ordinance prohibit perpetual penning of dogs, but we could not find a way to include a provision like that and have it enforceable at this point.
A lot of people presume I advanced the ordinance due to my love for dogs and while that is absolutely true to a degree, it is not the whole story. I work in the legal field and one of the most gruesome cases I ever dealt with was in 2014 when we defended a dog bite fatality case. WWII Veteran Donald Thomas went to check his mail in September of 2012 and was attacked and killed by two dogs who belonged to neighbors. His wife came home from the store to find the dogs attacking her husband. She was unable to get the dogs to stop and called the police. An officer arrived within minutes and shot both dogs. It was too late. Mr. Thomas was dead. It was later discovered that the people who owned the dogs had 33 other dogs chained in their backyard. They were convicted of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Mrs. Thomas later sued the city for wrongful death. So yes, this issue is about animal welfare. But it is even more about public safety and about ensuring dogs are cared for in ways which keeps them from being weaponized.
If you keep your dog chained or tethered in your yard, please. Find another way to make that dog part of your family and keep him or her from becoming a public safety risk. If you are an animal advocate like me and you want to advance legislation in your own area to help keep your community safe and ensure dogs receive better care, have no fear. Take a chance and speak out for what you believe in. Dogs cannot speak for themselves and in the end, you are their voice.
(image courtesy of Dana Kay Mattox Deutsch)
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson