April: National Prevention to Animal Cruelty Month
It shouldn't happen to man's best friend, but it does. Take a drive down country roads and city streets and you'll see them -- dogs trapped in one spot at the end of a chain day after day, year after year.
After chained dogs killed three children in Spartanburg County, SC, one county official said that he considered a chained dog to be a "loaded gun" and that attacks are inevitable. He's right because chaining dogs violates their nature. Chaining is not only inhumane for dogs, but it's taken a severe toll on this nation's children. Chained dogs, unsocialized with humans, become very territorial of their tiny space and any two-year-old who wanders into this space can be severely mauled and even killed before adults can intervene. The Centers for Disease Control concluded in a study that dogs most likely to attack are chained. Here is a chilling statistic: Chained dogs kill as many children as do firearms, falls from trees, playground equipment and fireworks accidents put together. These statistics prove what decent people have always said: It's time to stop the dangerous, cruel practice of chaining dogs, for our children's sake as well as the dogs'.
Senator Roger Breske has stated "Humane treatment of dogs includes providing adequate open space for exercise and personal attention by owners to domesticate them and incorporate them as part of the family." Forcing a dog to live outside alone goes against the dog's basic instinct – the need for a pack
Given that April is Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month, I ask that readers imagine living on a chain, confined for your entire life. You hope someone will come and give you attention, but no one does. You long to run, but you can only pace. You shiver in winter and pant in summer. Your water is frozen, or your water bowl is overturned, and you're thirsty. Maybe you'll get something to eat today; maybe you won't get any food for a week or longer. You've got no shelter, no den to crawl into. You bark and bark to bring attention to your plight. Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? Eventually, you stop barking and give up hope. You might end up starving to death or, if it's wintertime, dying from hypothermia.
Dogs are social beings who live in packs and thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. In the wild, dogs and wolves live, eat, sleep and hunt with a family of other canines. Dogs are genetically hard-wired to live in a group; in fact, dogs are more social than humans and need to be part of human families. When you own a dog, you become the dog's pack and he wants to be with his pack. Forcing a dog to live outside with little or no human companionship is one of the most psychological damaging things a pet owner can do to a dog.
Chained dogs suffer immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained as a prisoner instead of a pet, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and extremely aggressive. There is no sadder sight than these outcast, forlorn, forgotten animals, relegated to the status of lawn ornaments and virtually ignored by their family.
Living chained by the neck is not an option any human would choose; why do we do it to our "best friends"? This is the life of a prisoner, not a valued pet. If you don't care more than that for your pet, if you can't or don't want to take proper care of him, why do you have a dog in the first place?
Some chained dogs have collars embedded in their necks, the result of years of neglect at the end of a chain. Many of these dogs go mad. To be well adjusted, dogs need to interact with people and other animals, and they need regular exercise. It is the owner's responsibility to provide adequate attention and socialization of their pet. Placing an animal on a restraint for long periods to eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in a single confined area is never acceptable.
In addition to the psychological damage wrought by continuous chaining, dogs forced to live on a chain make easy targets for other animals, biting insects, and humans who might abuse them. Rarely does a chained dog receive sufficient care. They suffer from sporadic feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care, and extreme temperatures. They are often given minimal affection and become part of the scenery and can be easily ignored by owners.
I implore dog owners to do the right thing for their pets. Give them a better life. If you don't want to bring him into your home, there are rescue groups who take unwanted pets, or you can place an ad to find a home where he will be free of chains and loved by humans. NEVER TIE OR CHAIN YOUR DOG UP OUTSIDE. Dogs that are tied up or chained outside suffer extreme frustration which can result in hyperactivity and/or aggression against you, your family or friends. Dogs that are tied up cannot escape from other animals or people who mean to do them harm. They can also easily become entangled and do bodily harm to themselves. It has been a sad tale to hear of a dog tied outside because he was a fence jumper, only to hang himself while trying to do so! If you must keep your dog outside, provide a secure, high fence or an enclosed chain link dog run, with a top for those fence jumpers or climbers. Panels of chain link (that can be easily bolted together to provide a dog run) can be found at reasonable prices at home supply stores, such as Home Depot. Provide a top with shade, a dog house for rainy weather, items to chew on, and plenty of fresh water. A dog should always be exercised before being left for short periods in an enclosed area, such as a dog run or even your backyard.
A chained animal is caught in a vicious cycle: frustrated by boredom and 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 "man's best friend". We must urge our officials to ban or at least to severely restrict this form of torture. We must work with our neighbors and law enforcement officers to parole chained and innocent dogs from life sentences in shackles. Any city, county, or state that bans the practice of keeping a dog chained for its entire miserable life is a safer, more humane community.