"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Nelson Mandela.
Dogs Deserve Better is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing the chained dog and bringing him into the home and family. Chained dogs are forced to sleep, eat, spend their waking hours and defecate often within a 10-foot radius. They exist without respect, love, exercise, social interaction and often, without adequate nourishment. Besides the emotional damage caused by chaining a dog, he is unable to escape harsh weather, attack by other animals and theft and abuse by humans. The Humane Society of the United States, (HSUS), receives countless calls and letters from pet owners and neighbors about dogs who have died from exposure, been stolen, abused or even killed while tied.
Dogs are stolen and sold to research facilities or for use as bait for dog fight training. It is not OK to chain a dog for life. Dogs deserve better than that, and we as their caretakers, have the obligation to provide it for them.
During Have a Heart for a Chained Dog Week, Feb. 7-14, chained dogs will be given valentines and a dog treat and the owners will be given information about responsible pet ownership. Adults and children are invited to make valentines and drop them off at the Payson Humane Society where they will be distributed to chained dog families. Lisa Boyle is spearheading the program locally, where chained and neglected dogs are far too plentiful. Contact Lisa at (928) 474-1836 for information or to report a chained dog.
Many communities, across the country, including Tucson, have passed laws regulating the tethering of animals. Much of Europe has outlawed the tethering of dogs. Austria recently enacted a nationwide law prohibiting chaining of dogs.
Chaining a dog is both inhumane and a threat to the safety of the confined dog, other animals and humans, especially children. A dog that is chained in one spot for hours, days, months or even years suffers immense psychological damage. A normally friendly and docile dog, when continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and very often, aggressive. The necks of chained dogs become raw and covered with sores. Often the collar becomes embedded in the neck. The Department of Agriculture, (USDA) issued this statement regarding tethered dogs: "Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane ..."
Dogs who are tethered rarely receive sufficient care. They are generally fed irregularly with poor quality food. Water is often not available or dirty. Seldom do chained dogs receive adequate veterinary care and vaccinations. Also, rarely is the area of confinement cleaned of dog waste. Chained dogs are mostly ignored by the family. Shelter is generally inadequate. Dogs die from excessive cold and heat.
There are circumstances when dogs must be tethered. Chaining a dog for an hour or two is acceptable if there is shelter, water, protection from the cold ground and hot sun. The dog needs to be readily observed so that if a harmful situation arises, it is immediately seen and remedied. A choke chain collar should never be used to tie a dog. A dog should never be tied during a natural disaster such as floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes or blizzards.
The HSUS recommends "that all dogs be kept indoors at night, taken on regular walks, and otherwise provided with adequate attention, food, water and veterinary care. If he must be housed outside at certain times, he should be placed in a suitable pen with adequate square footage and shelter from the elements."
The other serious problem with chaining dogs is their natural need to protect their territory. When confronted with a perceived threat, they respond with a fight or flight instinct. If unable to take flight, the dog feels forced to fight, attacking any unfamiliar animal or person who ventures into his territory.
"Fatal Dog Attacks," a book written by Karen Delise, chronicles the circumstances surrounding every fatal dog attack in the United States since 1965. "Chained dogs have killed at least 111 people. Of those 111, 100 were children that wandered into reach of a chained or similarly restrained dog. Statistically, chained dogs are more dangerous than free-running packs of dogs."
Between October 2003 and October 2004, at least 20 children were killed or seriously injured by chained dogs across the country. A child was killed by chained dogs in Show Low recently. Legal action will be taken against the owners of the chained dog. The dog is generally euthanized after an attack on a human, which may be a relief after years of being chained.
If you know of a chained dog, contact Lisa or bring the address to the humane society. The owners will be contacted and an effort will be made to improve the life for this dog. You can contact an animal control officer who will attempt to persuade the dog owner to improve the situation for the dog or encourage them to give up the dog.
Why would anyone want to have a dog that is tied up all the time, not part of the family? Dogs are social animals. Being deprived of social contact with people and other animals is cruel and inhumane. If you have a chained dog, free him. If you do not want the dog, take him to the humane society. At least he will be unchained, fed, given shelter and lots of kind words. All dogs deserve that. For more information about "Dogs Deserve Better," go to www.dogsdeservebetter.org.
Friends don't chain friends. Bring dogs inside.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.