As I sit in my vet’s office, worried, waiting for what I fear
will be bad news for my chained-dog friend Bo, I glance at the notices on the office wall. There I discover yet another reason
NOT to chain Fido out to a doghouse, tree, or other nearby stationary object for life; a reason I hadn’t yet realized
could easily become a reality.
The Alert from the PA Department of Agriculture read, “On
April 4, 2003 two raccoons fought with a dog during daylight hours in Huntingdon County, PA. They were shot and found to be
rabid. The dog was chained to a doghouse, and had no current rabies vaccination. The owner elected to euthanize.”
I think of that nameless, faceless dog in rural PA and send
a prayer his way. He was sentenced to life at the end of a chain, victimized by animals he couldn’t escape, and euthanized
for a crime he didn’t commit. It is unthinkable to expose man’s best friend to this kind of torture, for no crime
except that of loving and trusting man too much.
Chained and penned dogs suffer on all levels, from the physical
to issues of environment and psychology. Dr. Marty Becker, author of The Healing Power of Pets states, “Every time I
drive the 16 miles from my ranch to my hometown in northern Idaho, I pass dogs that are chained to a tree, to a doghouse or
to a stake driven into the ground. Make no mistake. These aren't loving, responsible pet owners who temporarily secure their
outdoor dogs to make sure the animals are safe. I feel frustration at their caretakers' lack of understanding that chaining
a dog all the time can have serious consequences for the pet and its guardian.”
The biggest physical challenges facing the chained or penned
dog are lack of exercise and sometimes lack of food. Water is a serious concern because even if filled daily the bowl tips
over due to movement of the dog and chain. These are very basic needs! Confinement to a 5-10 foot radius leads to desperate
pacing in an effort to release penned-up energy and frustration. As these dogs are “out of sight, out of mind”,
health problems, as well as basic immunizations and vet checks required by law, go unheeded—the dogs may suffer needless
physical anguish and death due to negligence on the part of their “guardians.”
Two recent cases reported to Dogs Deserve Better bring this
point home. An animal control officer in Georgia was called to investigate and found a female black lab mix with a chain,
a rope, and a shoestring so deeply embedded in her neck that her trachea was almost severed. Her life was saved through miraculous
efforts of the vet, vet tech, and animal officer. Dogs Deserve Better volunteers in PA rescued a yellow lab mix male with
blood running from his genitals each time he attempted to urinate. He received emergency surgery and was determined to have
a stone the size of a golf ball growing in his bladder. According to Dr. Nour Hassane, “the stone had been present for
at least a year and grew larger the longer it went unattended.” Death would surely have been a welcome release for the
poor soul living in pain of this magnitude.
Environmental dangers, in addition to attacks by wild or
rabid animals, include vulnerability to theft for laboratory or other use, an outside existence with little to no shelter
from the elements—extreme heat or cold, snow or rain—and constant exposure to biting insects such as fleas and
ticks. At this point we have no known stats, but one newspaper stated that fourteen dogs in Youngstown, Ohio froze to death
outdoors this past December, and Dave Nelson, Animal Charity humane agent, said, "If you can't get out there and give your
dog proper food, proper water, proper shelter, there's something really wrong."
These dogs also constantly walk and
lay in their own feces and become parasite-ridden with tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. I personally have never fostered
a rescued chained dog that was not infested with parasitic worms of at least one of these varieties. The risk of deadly heartworm
is greatly increased due to constant exposure to the elements combined with lack of veterinary care and preventative medication.
I recently had a total of five dogs living at my house—two
of my own and 3 fosters. All but one were formerly chained dogs. As I worked in my home office, all five slept near me on
the floor of the living room. Each time I stood, all five would stand with me and prepare to go wherever I was going in the
house. I was the Alpha Dog and they were my pack. It struck me how horrible it must be for an animal so full of love and need
to be sentenced to solitary confinement.
My neighbor, Denny, once said to me, “There are inside
dogs and there are outside dogs.” I could not disagree more. We are the pack. When we sentence them to a chained or
penned existence, they are ostracized from that pack. The psychological damage this does becomes evident in many ways. They
act out...ceaseless barking, jumping, pacing, depression, and even unsocialized behavior such as biting and aggression may
appear. Debby Dobson, owner of Good Dog Animal Behavior in Sedona, Arizona, states, “Dogs have the same range and depth
of emotions as humans and those who have been neglected seem to display heightened or exaggerated feelings to various stimuli.”
Many a chained dog will kill anything that appears in it’s ‘circle of space’ because he/she becomes so territorial.
It can and does drive a dog insane.
Bo did not come home with me that day. My first chained
dog rescue, the reason that Dogs Deserve Better exists today, has gone to the great beyond, April 25, 2003. I wear his dog
tag, I cry for the soul I loved so dearly and inspired me to such heights. I pray that the six months I gave in some way eased
the pain of his first ten years.
I thank him for the gift he’s given me. He and others
like him have become my mission.
—Tammy S. Grimes is the
Founder of Dogs Deserve Better. To contact Tammy, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.