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It's a Chained Dog's Life, and It's Not A Good One

You are welcome to use any or all of the following editorial, change it up however you like, put your name on it, and send it to your own newspaper/distribute it. UnchainYourDog.org is my website and I wrote the following:

July 6, 2003 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Guest Editorial

Most of us have seen them: dogs who live at the end of a chain, day after day, month after month, year after year. In the summer they lie panting in the hot sun, scratching at the many fleas running over their skin. In the winter they huddle in the corner of dilapidated doghouses, with no blankets or hay to keep them warm. They never get the chance to run around and play. No one scratches them on the head or takes them for walks. Children throw rocks at them and tease them. Their collars become too tight as they grow. They get entangled in bushes and trees. The life of a chained dog is a life of deprivation and loneliness.

Dogs are pack animals. They are genetically wired to eat, sleep, hunt, and play in a pack. In the absence of other dogs, a dog’s human family becomes his pack. It is cruel to keep a highly social animal isolated in the backyard with no interaction or socialization.

Why would someone get a dog, only to leave him languishing at the end of a chain? Some people chain their dogs because they don’t have a fence, and they don’t want the dog to escape. Some people end up with a dog they never wanted, so they toss him out on a chain. Many people consider their chained dogs as “guard dogs.” This doesn’t make sense, because a chained dog can’t do anything to stop an intruder. All a chained dog can do is bark! And most chained dogs bark so often—because they are hungry, thirsty, bored, or lonely—that people cease paying attention when the dog barks. What is the dog supposed to be protecting? The yard?

The best guard dogs are those who are allowed inside the house, and who receive daily love and attention. We have all heard stories of house dogs who save their families from intruders, fires, and even gas leaks. K9 police dogs, the best guard dogs around, are brought home every night to live with the police officer and his or her family. An inside dog has the freedom and desire to protect his family, while a chained dog can only watch as a tragedy takes place inside.

People who mistreat and chain their dogs to make them “good guard dogs” are making a big mistake. Mistreated, chained dogs simply become aggressive, not protective. Protective dogs are well-socialized and accustomed to meeting lots of people. A protective dog uses his intuition, and his guardian’s body language and tone of voice, to distinguish an intruder from a family friend. Aggressive dogs don’t distinguish between friend and foe. An aggressive dog will attack anyone—a child, a meter reader, the mail carrier, or the family cat.

Chained dogs are very likely to become aggressive. When a chained dog feels threatened and his “fight or flight” instinct kicks in, the dog can’t flee. So he is forced to fight. Over time, chained dogs tend to become very territorial of their little patch of earth. When an aggressive and territorial dog escapes, he is a real danger to the community. Especially since most backyard dogs are not vaccinated for rabies or other diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs. In 2003, a two-year-old Ohio girl had half her scalp peeled away when she approached a chained German shepherd, a young Illinois man was sent to the hospital for weeks when a chained pit bull broke his tether and attacked, and an Orlando child had his ear ripped off when a mixed-breed dog escaped his chain and attacked on a school playground. The guardians of all three of these dogs were sued for damages.

It is clear that keeping dogs continuously chained is inhumane to the dog and dangerous to the community. In a growing number of cities, such as Maumelle, AR, New Orleans, LA and Tucson, AZ, it is illegal to leave dogs on chains. Because chaining is legal in Little Rock, it is up to citizens to help. If you are concerned about a chained dog, there are many things you can do to improve his life. I have found that most dog guardians are willing to do the right thing and to accept help from concerned neighbors. Encourage the guardians to housetrain the dog and bring him inside. Housetraining tips can be found online and in libraries and bookstores. Dog obedience classes are fun for the dog and the guardian, and they are inexpensive at local pet stores.

Offer to help build a fence. Fencing can be affordable if you set wooden posts and staple inexpensive fencing to it. If a fence isn’t possible, install a trolley for the dog to run on. If the dog is a fence jumper, add fence extensions or an electric fence to the top of the fence. If the dog is a digger, you can bury chicken wire underneath the fence, or line it with heavy rocks.

Spaying and neutering won’t change a dog’s personality, but it will help a dog to calm down and stop trying to escape. Sterilizing your dog will also counteract Little Rock’s serious pet overpopulation problem. You can call the local non-profit organization CARE at 603-CARE to find out about free or low-cost sterilization.

Replace old, ill-fitting collars with new nylon ones. Take the dog on walks! If the dog isn’t yours, offer to take the dog on walks anyway. Walks are a great way to socialize a dog and also give him some freedom and exercise. Fill a baby pool with water for the dog to splash in during summer. Dog toys and rawhides give a chained dog hours of entertainment. Pack doghouses with hay in winter to help the dog stay warm. Replace drafty doghouses with dog igloos, which are pretty cheap at discount stores and farm supply stores.

Some people may be willing to relinquish their chained dog to a concerned neighbor or to animal control, especially if they never wanted the dog in the first place. If a dog is seriously underweight, sick, or abused, you should report the situation to your local humane society, municipal animal control, or police department. Arkansas has a state law regarding animal cruelty. Reports can be made anonymously.

Finally, educate people about chaining. You can download informational brochures and find other tips for helping chained dogs on my Web site: www.UnchainYourDog.org.

Humans have many things to occupy our time. We have work, school, church, shopping, going places, watching TV, spending time with friends. Dogs don’t have anything but us. Dogs depend on their humans for everything: food, water, grooming, exercise, medical care, companionship, and love. If someone can’t provide their faithful canine companion with these basic needs, that person simply should not have a dog. Dogs deserve more than life in prison, with no hope of parole.