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Living As Prisoners ... Longing to be Pets

Guest Author - Sandy Moyer

Many dogs spend their whole lives in “solitary confinement,” fastened by the neck to the end of a chain. "Chaining" or "tethering" a dog .... fastening a dog to the end of a chain or tether that's attached to a tree, a dog house, a stake in the ground, or other stationary object ... is a cruel, inhumane practice that's all too common.

Sometimes people who shouldn't have a dog in the first place get upset when a new dog does not become instantly house trained. Instead of one person at a time being responsible for watching the dog and taking it outside at regular intervals, there is a daily blame game. The carpet gets soiled because no one bothered to take the dog out. A dog needs attention and becomes bored and destructive without it. A young dog needs chew toys and chews anything within reach when it has none. The dog sheds too much but no one takes time to brush him. Eventually everyone decides that it's all the dog's fault and that dog becomes an "outside dog"... out of sight... out of mind. Since no one could spare five minutes every few hours while the dog was inside, no one will take the time to buy or build a secure fenced area for the dog after it's outside either. Everyone is too consumed with all the important things in their busy lives to worry about a dog who is no longer a cute little puppy anyway. A chain is a cheap, instant means of confinement.

Pet owners who have their dogs chained outside 24/7 might say the confinement is temporary, until they have more time to deal with house breaking problems and other lack of training. But... being chained leads to more behavior problems. It forces dogs to walk through puddles of urine and defecate in the same area where they must eat and live day after day. That destroys their natural instinct to eliminate away from their living space. People might say they are waiting until the dog matures and settles down, but since dogs desperately want to be with the people they love, young active dogs become hyperactive when isolated. They become frantic for attention and when they see people they react by wildly jumping up and down, far too happy and excited to listen to commands. Since that kind of behavior makes them difficult to approach, they never get to enjoy the pats, hugs, belly rubs, playing fetch and physical attention other dogs thrive on. Being chained can also discourage coming when called and encourage running away, since some dogs who are finally released from the torture of a chain will want to run as far and as fast as they can to avoid being chained again.

Other people might justify subjecting their dog to life on a chain by claiming the dog will protect their property and alert them to trespassers. The problem there is that many chained dogs, out of boredom, will bark at almost anything that moves. They often bark at anyone they see, hoping to get attention. Although the barking of an outside dog will disturb the neighbors, everyone becomes so used to the noise that they wouldn't notice if the dog were barking at a real intruder. The sound of a barking dog inside a house might scare a potential thief away, but a barking dog who is securely chained outside is no threat.

Some dog owners simply do not realize the consequences of chaining a dog. Because it's done so often they just assume it's acceptable. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), The Humane Society of the United States, and many other humane organizations have issued statements against the practice of chaining or tethering dogs.

Chaining is not okay. Chaining is cruel and here are some of the reasons why....

  • Perhaps the most compelling reason why a dog should not live outside is because dogs are loving, sociable beings. They live for and crave love, attention, and companionship from their humans. Dogs who must live outside, alone, on the end of a chain, suffer immense psychological and emotional trauma.

  • Chained dogs can't escape if they're attacked.
    They can be attacked by roaming dogs and other animals. If they do survive the wounds, dogs who are victims of attacks by raccoons or other possibly rabid animals must often be euthanized. Since dogs who live their lives outside have usually not been immunized, they have no protection against rabies or other preventable diseases.

  • A chained dog can't escape if it's being hurt by people. Some kids will tease, torment, and bully a chained dog. Misguided kids who think violence is cool may intentionally hurt a helpless dog while trying to impress other kids. Sleepless, angry neighbors, annoyed by constant barking and howling, might decide to eliminate the source of their frustration.

  • Although a chained dog cannot attack a would be criminal, it could be a real danger to a small child who wanders into it's territory. Dogs eventually become anxious, agitated, even territorial and aggressive when they are constantly chained and alone. According to "Dogs Deserve Better", a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing the chained dog, "Chaining is not only inhumane for dogs, but has taken a severe toll on this nation’s children as well. In the period from October 2003 through December 2005, there were at least 62 children killed or seriously injured by chained dogs across the country."

  • Many chained dogs live outside through pouring rain, frightening thunder storms, oppressive sun, heat and biting insects in summer. Chained dogs frequently spill their water, leaving them with nothing to drink for hours. Hot summer weather can be fatal to dogs without shade and not enough water. They may not have access to a warm, dry shelter in winter. Chained dogs endure bitter cold, ice and snow in winter, often without drinking water, since that's frozen. They may even suffer from frostbite.

  • Chained dogs who are not spayed or neutered can mate with any roaming dog, increasing the number of unwanted dogs and adding to the problem of overcrowded shelters and dogs who must be euthanized because there's no one to love and care for them. (Spaying or neutering greatly increases a dog's health and quality of life as well.)

  • When dogs' constantly pull and strain to escape confinement, depending on the type of collar they're wearing or how the collar fits, their necks can become painfully raw and covered with open sores. Their collars can become deeply embedded in their necks.

  • A dog's chain can become entangled with tree branches, shrubs, or other objects and the dog can strangle to death. Chained dogs have also been accidentally hanged to death when they tried to jump over a nearby wall, fence or other structure.

  • Chained dogs are easy prey for thieves looking for animals they can sell to research labs or to the vermin who buy bait animals for dog fights.


    Although in most localities it's still legal to chain a dog, as long as it has access to food, water and adequate shelter, there is a nationwide trend of laws being passed to improve the quality of life of "outside" dogs. These laws either prohibit dog chaining or set a limit to the number of hours per day that a dog may be chained. Last January, the city council in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for example, made it illegal to tether dogs for more than three hours. In Cape May County, New Jersey, several municipalities have introduced ordinances regulating the outdoor chaining of dogs. "Joe's Law" is dedicated to a Boxer who froze to death after being left chained in a yard for several cold winter days. Many other governing bodies have also included tethering or chaining provisions in animal protection ordinances. See Current Legislation on Tethering Dogs to read which communities have now banned or limited tethering or chaining.


    Taking a dog for frequent walks on a leash or having a securely fenced yard are the best alternatives to tethering a dog.

    If a fenced yard is impractical or unaffordable, a rectangular kennel enclosure or a fenced area where the dog can spend short periods of time a few times a day is a humane solution. For doggy escape artists, you might have to bury part of the fence underground, and have a roof or fence across the top of the run as well.

    There are also ways to humanely tether a dog when necessary. For elderly dog owners who have no fenced yard and are unable to walk their pets, when the weather makes walking dangerous for anyone, or for any dog who must be kept on a tether or chain for short periods of time, attaching a tether to an overhead line or pulley run is preferable to tethering a dog to a stationary object. The dog should not be able to reach trees, outdoor furniture, or other objects the tether could become entangled with. The dog's collar should fit properly and be comfortable. Restraints should be long enough to allow the dog to move about, sit, and lie down comfortably. Never fasten a chain or tether to a choke collar or prong type collar.

    Invisible, underground electronic fence or electronic training collars are another means of keeping a dog within the boundaries of your yard. This is sometimes a controversial subject but it's one solution that works well for many dog owners. It can be a practical solution when a real fence is not possible. When used properly, most dogs will never need to be corrected after the first few times. Knowing that they are wearing their correction collar will be the only reminder they'll need. Since electronic boundaries will not keep people and unrestrained animals from entering your yard, watchful supervision is always necessary with this method of restraint.

    Take the time to properly house train and socialize your dog. Let your dog be a happy part of your family. The love you give will be returned ten fold.


    Links to more information -
    For more information about the abuse of chaining a dog, see Dogs Deserve Better a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing the chained dog, and bringing our 'best friend' into the home and family. Find out how to deal with caretakers of chained dogs, hand deliver educational information, and much more to help the plight of chained dogs in your area.

    Sign a National Petition for Legislation Against Chaining and Penning Dogs

    A Chained Dog’s Plea

    New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance

    Mothers Against Dog Chaining

    Housebreaking An Adult Dog That Lived Outside

    Other Chained Dog Sites




    Pet Health Insurance for Cats & Dogs


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    Content copyright © 2014 by Sandy Moyer. All rights reserved.
    This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.

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