Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

July 18, 2012

Help protect our pets

MT. VERNON — Editor:

Everyone has seen the “outside dog,” a dog constantly chained or tethered outside to a tree, or to a doghouse, or some other object, left alone with no companionship, no entertainment and often with inadequate shelter, sporadic feeding, overturned food and water bowls. More often than not, these dogs receive inadequate or non-existent veterinary care and suffer from exposure to weather extremes — from freezing to 100 degree plus temperatures. Chained by the neck, they exist without attention, love, exercise, social interaction, and sometimes even basic nourishment. They live as prisoners. They get tangled up in their chains, preventing them from reaching their food or shelter for hours or days.

Think about the life such a dog leads — endless loneliness, never-ending boredom, frustration from being isolated, unsanitary conditions produced from having to “go” in close proximity to food/water and shelter. These dogs suffer from the most pervasive form of domestic animal cruelty we have in our country today. There is no sadder sight, than these outcast, forlorn, forgotten animals, relegated to the status of lawn ornaments and virtually ignored by their human family.

Dogs are naturally pack animals, thriving on interaction with other dogs. Domestication of dogs has evolved that natural instinct to their human “pack.” Chained dogs live an isolated existence that is contrary to their own instincts. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, can become aggressive. A chained dog, unable to escape, often feels forced to fight, attacking any unfamiliar animal or person that wanders into its tiny space.

Their miserable existence is only a portion of the story as these dogs suffer immeasurably mentally. It is simply cruel to leave a dog of any king outside alone without even minimal social contact night after night, week after week, month after month. Sensory deprivation becomes the norm, and boredom, frustration, anxiety, agitation and aggression follow in rapid succession. They then become a potential danger to family members, law enforcement officers, meter readers, repair persons, mailmen, visitors or even some kid cutting through your yard trying to get home before dark.

Did you know that, according to Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, professor, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, a chained dog is more likely to attack a passerby, and, the shorter the chain, the greater the aggression?

According to the National Canine Research Foundation, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. every year and 25 percent of all fatal dog bites involved chained dogs. Studies conducted by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that 17 percent of reported dog bites of both children and adults nationwide were caused by restrained dogs on their owner’s property.

In addition to the dangers of chained dogs to the public, let’s not forget about the detrimental effect to the dog. Chained dogs hang or choke to death because they become entangled or try to leap over fences or their doghouse. Collars put on dogs as puppies become painfully embedded in the skin as they grow older and the collars are not enlarged. Many dogs who are left to tend to themselves are attacked by other animals and have no way to escape. How many dogs freeze to death in the winter or die from heat strokes in the summer?

These dangers have prompted many communities in the United States to introduce laws that place limits on (if not ban altogether) chaining/tethering. In fact, lobbying is taking place right now in Illinois for laws against chaining/tethering dogs (HB4033).

The bill was introduced Jan. 20, by Rep. Michael J. Zalewski, with first reading on Jan. 25, and as of March 9, has been referred to the Rules Committee for further work. The bill amends the Human Care for Animals Act and sets conditions on chaining/tethering a dog. You can track the status of this bill on the Internet.

The first such law prohibiting chaining/tethering was passed in Maumelle, Ark. Live Oak, Texas, does not allow chains at all. Laurinburg, N.C., places a one-hour time limit on tethering. Orange County, Fla., prohibits chaining during certain hours and during periods of extreme weather. Many other communities have restrictions on the length and size of chain, hours of chaining, etc. Austria is the latest nation to ban the chaining of dogs, completely prohibiting the practice.

Dog advocates promoting chaining laws are not looking to punish dog owners, but to educate society to evolve to a higher ethical and moral standard for the treatment of all animals. With just a little research, you can find tons of websites with information on low-cost fencing, low-cost, no-cost house training programs designed to bring the outside dog inside, sites with used fencing, pens, runs, etc.

On another note, I do not agree with any type of breed specific legislation. Pit bulls/pit bull mixes/and dogs mistaken for pit bulls (Staffordshire terriers, bulldogs, boxers, presa canarios, cane corsos, etc.) are the most abused dogs in America, and far too many are kept chained as a primary means of confinement. Pit bulls were once considered an American hero, and rightfully so. But bad people bring bad publicity and that bad publicity has nearly destroyed this once American hero. Chaining any dog, but especially a pit bull, is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous, just like chaining any other big dog with strong jaws and lots of teeth.

In the words of the Dog Whisperer, Caesar Milan: “In the 70s, they blamed Dobermans, in the 80s they blamed German shepherds, in the 90s they blamed rottweilers. Now they blame the pit bull.”

We are the voice for the animals who have no voice.

Debi Vincent

Mt. Vernon

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