I already have a page on my website about chaining dogs and I have another page about dog aggression, on which I cover the story of a WWII veteran named Donald Thomas who was attacked and killed by two dogs in Leeds, Alabama in September of 2012 when he went to check the mail. Our law firm handled the defense of a civil lawsuit against the City of Leeds. It was truly one of the most tragic and gruesome cases I have ever been involved with in over 20 years as a paralegal.
Some push-back I got recently about my dog ordinance from a woman in our city considered an authority on all things animal led me to cover this topic in a blog to help make the case for ordinances like the one I developed.
The complete ordinance is found here. The provisions are pretty simple and not at all unreasonable as far as I am concerned. If your dog lives inside, you are free to care for that dog any way you see fit. I would hope your dog is well fed, receives proper veterinary care and is treated as a member of your family. If your dog lives outside, that is another matter entirely. The ordinance sets forth the methods by which a dog who lives perpetually outside may be contained and may not be contained and it sets forth basic standards for housing and care. The state laws in Alabama do not currently define what constitutes shelter, are pretty lax related to what constitutes neglect, abuse and cruelty and do not prohibit direct point chaining or tethering of dogs. While I have every reason to believe a bill will be pre-filed by a state representative any day now which would prohibit chaining and tethering in all of Alabama, I wanted to take steps in my own community to set some basic standards.
Public Safety. Your dog may not be dangerous to you, but your dog can be dangerous to other people. Because of the chained dog’s minimal physical space and lack of socialization, these animals often become exceedingly hyper and aggressive. Dogs who are "resident" dogs do not learn to become protective of the people who own them who are living in a house. They learn to become protective of the area in which they are forced to live.
The reasons for actual dog attacks (as opposed to incidents of simple and avoidable injuries) are often complex, but the answer to preventing dog attacks is relatively simple: humane care and control of dogs is often all that is needed to prevent most dog attacks. A study by the The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) in 2013 revealed the following statistics related to bite fatalities: no able bodied person being present to intervene (87.1%); the victim having no familiar relationship with the dog(s) (85.2%); the dog(s), owner failing to neuter/spay the dog(s)(84.4%); a victim’s compromised ability, whether based on age or physical condition, to manage their interactions with the dog(s) (77.4%); the owner keeping dog(s) as resident dog(s), rather than as family pet(s) (76.2%); the owner’s prior mismanagement of the dog(s) (37.5%); and the owner’s abuse or neglect of dog(s) (21.1%). Four or more of these factors were present in 80.5% of cases; breed was not one of those factors.
Feeling vulnerable and threatened on a daily basis, many chained dogs will lunge at anything that goes by them. The constant lunging often causes the dog’s collar to tear into the skin and can, in some cases, become embedded in the dog’s neck, requiring surgery to remove the collar. In some extreme cases, the straining may cause injury or even death to the dog. Some dogs choke to death when they attempt to jump over fences and hang themselves.
Chained dogs are caught in a vicious cycle. The longer they stay chained, the less likely they are to have human companionship, thereby making it more difficult to handle them. The more difficult they become, the less likely a human will want to engage with them. They are caught in a downward spiral, not of their own making.
The Humane Society of the United States, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the ASPCA, the American Veterinary Medical Association and numerous animal experts have spoken out against chaining and tethering because it is inhumane and can lead to aggressive behavior. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded in a study that the dogs most likely to attack are male, unneutered and chained.
We call them man’s best friend. We need to treat them that way and we need to be mindful of how our choices affect those around us.