“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
Does the sight of a chained dog break your heart? Unfortunately winter is a time when horrid living conditions, with dogs frozen in the snow and suffering frostbite, are exacerbated. To you it may seem cruel, but there are people under the misconception that it is acceptable to chain a dog outside in any kind of weather.
Dogs Deserve Better is a national award-winning nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the practice of perpetually chained dogs. The group bought Michael Vick’s former Bad Newz Kennels in May 2011. Every year they sponsor a program for children to make Valentine’s Day cards for dogs. DDB then sends the valentines and dog food/treat coupons to canines across the country during its Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week in February. Included is a brochure for the dog’s owners explaining why continuous chaining of animals is a form of abuse. The material encourages people to bring their dogs into the home or to find better homes for them. In 2013 valentines were delivered to 19,893 dogs nationwide. This year the group hopes to reach 21,000 dogs!
- Make valentines. This is a great project for kids, teachers, students, scouts and other organizations. Visit www.dogsdeservebetter.org/Valentines2014 to see examples of valentines created by past volunteers and check out the deadline for submitting these works of art.
- Clip coupons. Help out this year by mailing any and all treat or dog food coupons you have to 1915 Moonlight Rd., Smithfield, VA 23430. Please make sure their expiration dates are after February 20th.
- Send addresses. Do you know of a chained or penned dog that would benefit from a valentine? Take the time to find out the address of the dog near you. It takes little effort but is crucial to reaching these animals. You remain anonymous. Call 877-636-1408 to report addresses, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. or better yet fill out the form on their website.
- Sponsor valentines. The cost of this campaign is quite high due to materials and mailing fees, but is the best way to directly reach dogs in need. You may sponsor valentines for addresses you provide or for others who provide addresses. Sponsor your valentines at the Dogs Deserve Better website.
- Give. Donate money, time, fencing supplies or anything else you think may be helpful to Dogs Deserve Better or your local humane organization.
- Advocate. Download the Humane Society’s free toolkit “The Guide to a Dog’s Life: Chaining and Your Community,” a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to pass an anti-chaining ordinance in your area.
- Report. If see a dog left outside without food, water or shelter, contact your local animal control, humane society or police. They will know the local laws and can help.
- Educate. Spread the word by helping to educate people on better solutions than constantly chaining a dog. Join the Dogs Deserve Better organization or a local group with the same mission. They offer guidance and temporary assistance to owners who are willing to improve their pet’s quality of life.
Why do owners chain dogs?
Many people initially chained their dogs because the animal had behaviors that frustrated their owners. The caretakers did not know how to properly train their dogs or have the resources to consult a professional dog trainer for help. Others feel that a chained dog will protect their property. Still others grew up with this mindset and do not feel this is cruel. Many do not realize that an inside dog is more likely to deter a burglar than a backyard dog.
Why Chaining Hurts Dogs
As social animals, dogs need to have regular interactions with their family. Dogs who are left chained or penned up outdoors suffer physically and mentally. They often are forgotten and suffer extreme neglect. Many of these dogs sit, lay, eat, and defecate within the same 10-foot radius their entire life. The dogs endure constant exposure to the elements and often become entangled in their chains which prevent them from reaching their shelter. Some animals have choked, or even hung to death, trying to escape.
They suffer from being denied the companionship of other dogs or people. Consequentially they become isolated, lonely, fearful, bored and protective of their tiny spaces. This lack of socialization can lead to territorial and unpredictable behavior.
Chaining is not only inhumane, but has taken its toll on this nation’s children as well. A chained dog is 2.5 times more likely to bite. According to DDB, from October 2003 through today, there were at least 379 children killed or seriously injured by chained dogs across the country. A toddler or young child who wanders into this space can be attacked and killed before adults can intercede. An attack in Arkansas left a 2-year-old dead from head and neck wounds. He was attacked and killed by a chained female dog that had puppies.
Alternatives to Chaining
The Humane Society lists five alternatives to chaining your animal:
- If your dog jumps over the existing fence, install a 45-degree inward extension to the top of your fence.
- For a dog that digs under the fence, bury chicken wire to a depth of one foot below where the fence meets the ground. Bend in the sharp edges.
- If your dog still is an escape artist, use a cable runner or electronic fencing. These are not perfect options, but will give your dog more freedom. Only use these options if you also have a fence that protects your dog from other people and animals.
- If your dog digs in the garden or flower bed, put plastic fencing or other barrier around the area. You can also provide your pup with his own sandbox to dig in. Bury toys in the sand and use positive reinforcement to teach your pooch it is okay to dig there.
- Barking, chewing and digging are behavior problems, often the result of boredom. Provide proper toys, exercise, people time and positive training.
No matter what reason is given, it is NOT acceptable to chain a dog for life. They should not have to exist chained or in small pens as prisoners, yearning for a place in a family, craving acknowledgement, respect, and love. Dogs deserve better.
Dogs Deserve Better website: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org
Humane Society toolkit: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/chaining_tethering/tips/chaining_guide.html
FIDO (Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside: http://www.fidoindy.org