Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Unchaining Dogs and Why It Matters


Eleven states have laws that forbid or restrict the tethering of dogs. Ohio does not. In fact, so far as I am aware, only North Royalton has even a city ordinance that addresses the issue.

A number of Ohio cities do have ordinances that condemn breeds such as pit bulls as being inherently dangerous. They aren't. I volunteer at an animal shelter. We have a couple of pit bulls up for adoption, and they are as gentle as any other dogs if treated humanely.

Ironically, the practice of chaining or tethering dogs creates some of the same dangers that ordinances against pit bulls are intended to address. That's why Ohio legislators should introduce and pass a law that restricts or bans the practice.

Here's a FAQ, taken from the Humane Society of the United States web site.
1. What is meant by "chaining" or "tethering" dogs?

These terms refer to the practice of fastening a dog to a stationary object or stake, usually in the owner's backyard, as a means of keeping the animal under control. These terms do not refer to the periods when an animal is walked on a leash.

2. Is there a problem with continuous chaining or tethering?

Yes, the practice is both inhumane and a threat to the safety of the confined dog, other animals, and humans.

3. Why is tethering dogs inhumane?

Dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. A dog kept chained in one spot for hours, days, months, or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and often aggressive.

In many cases, the necks of chained dogs become raw and covered with sores, the result of improperly fitted collars and the dogs' constant yanking and straining to escape confinement. Dogs have even been found with collars embedded in their necks, the result of years of neglect at the end of a chain. In one case, a veterinarian had to euthanize a dog whose collar, an electrical cord, was so embedded in the animal's neck that it was difficult to see the plug.

4. Who says tethering dogs is inhumane?

In addition to The Humane Society of the United States and numerous animal experts, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a statement in the July 2, 1996, Federal Register against tethering:

"Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane. A tether significantly restricts a dog's movement. A tether can also become tangled around or hooked on the dog's shelter structure or other objects, further restricting the dog's movement and potentially causing injury."

5. How does tethering or chaining dogs pose a danger to humans?

Dogs tethered for long periods can become highly aggressive. Dogs feel naturally protective of their territory; when confronted with a perceived threat, they respond according to their fight-or-flight instinct. A chained dog, unable to take flight, often feels forced to fight, attacking any unfamiliar animal or person who unwittingly wanders into his or her territory.

Numerous attacks on people by tethered dogs have been documented. For example, a study published in the September 15, 2000, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 17% of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners' property at the time of the attack. Tragically, the victims of such attacks are often children who are unaware of the chained dog's presence until it is too late. Furthermore, a tethered dog who finally does get loose from his chains may remain aggressive, and is likely to chase and attack unsuspecting passersby and pets.

6. Why is tethering dangerous to dogs?

In addition to the psychological damage wrought by continuous chaining, dogs forced to live on a chain make easy targets for other animals, humans, and biting insects. A chained animal may suffer harassment and teasing from insensitive humans, stinging bites from insects, and, in the worst cases, attacks by other animals. Chained dogs are also easy targets for thieves looking to steal animals for sale to research institutions or to be used as training fodder for organized animal fights. Finally, dogs' tethers can become entangled with other objects, which can choke or strangle the dogs to death.

7. Are these dogs dangerous to other animals?

In some instances, yes. Any other animal that comes into their area of confinement is in jeopardy. Cats, rabbits, smaller dogs, and others may enter the area when the tethered dog is asleep and then be fiercely attacked when the dog awakens.

8. Are tethered dogs otherwise treated well?

Rarely does a chained or tethered dog receive sufficient care. Tethered dogs suffer from sporadic feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care, and extreme temperatures. During snow storms, these dogs often have no access to shelter. During periods of extreme heat, they may not receive adequate water or protection from the sun. What's more, because their often neurotic behavior makes them difficult to approach, chained dogs are rarely given even minimal affection. Tethered dogs may become "part of the scenery" and can be easily ignored by their owners.

9. Are the areas in which tethered dogs are confined usually comfortable?

No, because the dogs have to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in a single confined area. Owners who chains their dogs are also less likely to clean the area. Although there may have once been grass in an area of confinement, it is usually so beaten down by the dog's pacing that the ground consists of nothing but dirt or mud.

10. But how else can people confine dogs?

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 an animal must be housed outside at certain times, he should be placed in a suitable pen with adequate square footage and shelter from the elements.

11. Should chaining or tethering ever be allowed?

To become well-adjusted companion animals, dogs should interact regularly with people and other animals, and should receive regular exercise. It is an owner's responsibility to properly restrain her dog, just as it is the owner's responsibility to provide adequate attention and socialization. Placing an animal on a restraint to get fresh air can be acceptable if it is done for a short period. However, keeping an animal tethered for long periods is never acceptable.

12. If a dog is chained or tethered for a period of time, can it be done humanely?

Animals who must be kept on a tether should be secured in such a way that the tether cannot become entangled with other objects. Collars used to attach an animal should be comfortable and properly fitted; choke chains should never be used. Restraints should allow the animal to move about and lie down comfortably. Animals should never be tethered during natural disasters such as floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, or blizzards.

13. What about attaching a dog's leash to a "pulley run"?

Attaching a dog's leash to a long line—such as a clothesline or a manufactured device known as a pulley run—and letting the animal have a larger area in which to explore is preferable to tethering the dog to a stationary object. However, many of the same problems associated with tethering still apply, including attacks on or by other animals, lack of socialization, and safety.

14. What can be done to correct the problem of tethering dogs?

At least 25 communities have passed laws that regulate the practice of tethering animals. Maumelle, Arkansas; Tucson, Arizona; and New Hanover, North Carolina, are a few communities that prohibit the chaining or tethering of dogs as a means of continuous confinement. Many other communities allow tethering only under certain conditions; Jefferson County, Kentucky, for example, prohibits dogs from being tethered for more than eight hours in any 24-hour period.

15. Why should a community outlaw the continuous chaining or tethering of dogs?

Animal control and humane agencies receive countless calls every day from citizens concerned about animals in these cruel situations. Animal control officers, paid at taxpayer expense, spend many hours trying to educate pet owners about the dangers and cruelty involved in this practice.

A chained animal is caught in a vicious cycle; frustrated by long periods of boredom and social isolation, he becomes a neurotic shell of his former self—further deterring human interaction and kindness. In the end, the helpless dog can only suffer the frustration of watching the world go by in isolation—a cruel fate for what is by nature a highly social animal. Any city, county, or state that bans this practice is a safer, more humane community.
To its credit, the Ohio General Assembly does have four bills pending that deal with cruelty to animals; e.g., cock fighting and dog fighting. That's a start. But the practice of tethering dogs is a lot more common. It too urgently needs to be addressed.

For more on this issue, visit Dogs Deserve Better.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Tammy Grimes said...

Hi, Mark, thanks for taking on Freeing the Chained dogs on your blog and mentioning our website!

I wanted to clarify that really only three states have laws limiting tethering...other states go into how long the chain can be, etc, but they don't limit the amount of time a dog may live chained. Only CT (which is very unspecific and not very well enforced), CA, (3 hours), and now Texas actually limit the amount of time a dog can stay chained.

Bills are still alive in North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, so if anyone lives in those states, PLEASE contact your local state rep and ask them to support the anti-chaining bill.

With the case ongoing right now of the chained dog with it's chain embedded returned to it's abusive owner in Ohio, I'd say you're right, Ohio DOES need to get on the stick...

Tammy S. Grimes, founder, Dogs Deserve Better

4:32 PM  
Blogger affendi said...

Thank you so much!!! I love all your blogs! With good writing and Nice writing style, Keep up the good work.. Looking forward to reading more from you.. ;-)

9:41 AM  

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