Why Dog Chaining is Cruel

photoThe following is a dog chaining Q&A adapted from a fact sheet compiled by the Humane Society of the United States.

1. What does “chaining”  or “tethering” mean?

Both terms refer to the practice of tying a dog to a stake or stationary object, often in the owner’s backyard, as a way of keeping the animal under control. These terms do not refer to the times when a dog is being walked on a leash.

2. Does continuous chaining or tethering present any problems?

Yes. Aside from being inhumane, the practice is also a threat to the safety of the chained dog, other animals, and humans.

3. How is tethering inhumane?

Dogs are naturally social creatures that love to interact with humans and other animals. In the wild, dogs and wolves live with other canines. They’re genetically wired to live in a group, so a dog that’s isolated in one area for hours, days, months, or even years suffers massive psychological damage.

If kept continuously chained, a normally friendly dog will become unhappy, anxious, neurotic, and oftentimes aggressive. In many cases, the necks of chained dogs become raw and covered with sores as a result of attempts to escape confinement, as well as improperly fitted collars. Some chained dogs have collars embedded in their necks. They also frequently get tangled in their chains and become unable to access food, water, and shelter.

4. Who says tethering is inhumane?

The Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and several animal experts. The US Department of Agriculture also issued a statement against tethering in the July 2, 1996 Federal Register. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the dogs most likely to attack are male, unneutered, and chained.

5. How is the practice dangerous to humans?

Dogs tethered for a long time can become very aggressive. Canines are inherently protective of their territory, and when they feel threatened, they respond according to their fight-or-flight instinct. Since chained dogs are unable to flee, they often feel forced to fight and attack any unfamiliar person or animal that unknowingly wanders into their territory. Furthermore, a tethered dog that has broken free from his chains may remain aggressive and is likely to chase and attack passersby and pets.

6. Are chained dogs good guard dogs?

No. Chaining promotes aggression, not protectiveness. A protective dog learns to defend his human family by spending plenty of time with people. A chained dog that is confined and ignored becomes aggressive. Because they’re not used to people, aggressive dogs are unable to differentiate between a threat and a family friend and will therefore attack anyone. According to statistics, one of the best deterrents to intruders is a dog inside the home.

7. Why is tethering unsafe for dogs?

Aside from psychological damage, chained dogs are easy targets for humans, biting insects, and other animals. They may suffer harassment from passersby, bites from insects, and attacks by other animals.

Moreover, tethers can become intertwined with other objects, which can lead to choking or strangling the dog to death. Chained dogs are also easy targets for people looking to steal animals to be used as training fodder for organized animal fights or for sale to research institutions.

8. Are chained dogs dangerous to other animals?

Yes, sometimes. Smaller dogs, cats, rabbits, and others may enter the area of confinement when the tethered dog is asleep and then get attacked when he wakes up.

9. Are tethered dogs treated well otherwise?

Chained dogs rarely receive adequate care. They suffer from irregular feedings, overturned water bowls, insufficient veterinary care, and extreme temperatures. They often have no access to shelter that will protect them from the sun or snow storms, and rarely do they get enough water. And because their often neurotic behavior makes them unapproachable, they are seldom given even minimal affection and can be easily ignored by their owners.

10. Are the areas in which tethered dogs stay comfortable?

No, because they have to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate all in one place. Owners who chain their dogs are also less likely to clean the area. While there may have once been grass in an area of confinement, it is usually very beaten down due to the dog’s pacing. As a result, there is nothing on the ground except mud or dirt.

11. But how else can people confine their dogs?

Dogs prefer to live inside with their human family, with frequent walks and exercise time outside. Apartment-dwelling canines are fine living indoors with regular walks. If a dog needs to be housed outside at certain times, he should be placed in a fenced area with enough room and shelter from the elements.

12. Should tethering or chaining ever be allowed?

Just as it is an owner’s responsibility to provide adequate socialization and attention, it is also their responsibility to restrain their dog properly. Placing an animal on a restraint to get some fresh air can be acceptable if done for a short period. Keeping a dog tethered for extended periods, however, is never acceptable.

13. If a dog had to be tethered or chained for a while, can it be done humanely?

Animals that must be kept on a tether should be secured in such a way that the tether will not get tangled with other objects. Collars must be comfortable and fitted properly. Never use choke chains. Restraints should allow the dog to move about and lie down comfortably. Dogs should never be tethered during natural disasters.

14. What about securing a dog’s leash to a “pulley run”?

Attaching a leash to a long line, e.g. a clothesline or a manufactured device called a pulley run, gives the dog a larger area to roam and is more preferable than tethering the animal to a stationary object. However, most of the issues associated with tethering are still present, including lack of socialization and attacks on or by other animals.

15. What can be done to correct the chaining problem?

An increasing number of communities are passing laws to regulate the tethering of animals. Tucson, AZ; New Orleans, LA; Carthage, MO; Okaloosa, FL; and Lawton, OK are among the cities that ban chaining, while Denver, CO; Wichita, KS; Austin, TX; West Palm Beach, FL; Norfolk, VA; and the state of Connecticut only allow dogs to be chained for a limited number of hours each day. Little Rock, AR permits pulley runs but bans fixed-point chaining.

16. Why should continuous chaining or tethering be outlawed?

Every day, animal control and humane agencies receive calls from people who are concerned about dogs in these cruel situations. Animal control officers, who are funded by taxpayers, spend several hours trying to educate pet owners on the cruelty and dangers of this practice. Regulations against chaining also give officers a means to crack down on illegal dog fighting as many fighting dogs are kept on chains.

A chained dog is trapped in a vicious cycle. Long periods of boredom and social isolation turn him into a neurotic shell of his former self, which further dissuades human contact. An inherently social creature, the helpless animal can only suffer from the frustration of watching the world go by. Any community that prohibits the chaining or tethering of dogs is a safer, more humane one.

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