Monday, March 2, 2015


We recently celebrated Valentine’s Day.  Some of us included the dogs in our home in this festivity of love and commitment.  Unfortunately, for a large number of canines life is lived without the warmth of the human bond.  So this month, also known as “ Unchain a Dog Month”, is dedicated to bringing awareness about those animals forced to live alone, chained outside without the love, care, and companionship they crave.

Dogs are social beings.  Put a dog on a chain and leave him/her alone in one area for days, months, or even years and he/she will suffer both physically and psychologically.  These dogs endure unbelievable hardships.  They suffer from erratic feedings, overturned water bowls, and have no, or limited access to, adequate medical care.  Often a chained dog becomes starved, dehydrated and ill because it entangles in its chain and becomes unable to access food or water.  They suffer from variations in weather.  During extreme cold there is no warmth.  Rarely is there adequate shelter during heavy rain or snow.  When temperatures soar to triple digits, they often do not have protection from the sun or sufficient, clean water to quench their thirst.  Moreover, because they are in a very confined area,  not only do they sleep, defecate and eat all in one place, but often it is nothing but a patch of hardened dirt or mud that is rarely, if ever, cleaned.

In many cases, the ropes or collars encircling their necks become embedded, the result of years of neglect and constantly straining to escape their bond of confinement.  Chained dogs do not receive affection simply because their owners can easily ignore them.  Because they have no socialization, approaching them becomes difficult.  If one takes a friendly dog and keeps it continuously chained, the animal often becomes aggressive.  Unable to distinguish between friend and foe, when confronted with a perceived threat and unable to take flight, they feel forced to fight, attacking anything unfamiliar entering its territory. 

In addition, they are vulnerable to other animals and cruel people (other than their owners).  Some are shot, others set on fire, poisoned or tortured beyond endurance.  They are targets for thieves looking to sell them or use them for dog fighting.  As a final indignity, the dog’s chain, easily tangled, can slowly strangle him to death. 
Under California Health and Safety Code, it is illegal to tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog to a doghouse, tree, fence, or any other stationary object.  It is further prohibited to tether a dog to a running line, trolley, or pulley with a choke or pinch collar.  It is legal to tether a dog for any activity, provided the restraining of the dog is necessary for completion of a task, is temporary, and lasts for no more than three hours in a 24-hour period.  Depending on circumstances, violation of the dog-tethering laws in California is either an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $250 per illegally tethered dog or a misdemeanor, with a possible penalty of up to $1,000 in fines per dog, six months in county jail, or both. 

Call local animal control if you see a dog that is chained to a stationary object day in and day out.  An official is required to investigate the situation if the dog’s guardian is breaking the law.  In addition, raise community awareness of the problem.  Help educate the dogs’ owners, with the hope they will learn to treat their pets better.  You may not be able to convince the owner to unchain or even relinquish the dog.  Nor may you be able to convince them to make any changes themselves to improve the dog’s life.  Nevertheless, you can try to be sure water and food is easily reached and available, that there is some modicum of adequate shelter and always be relentless in bringing the situation before the authorities.  That dog is counting on you to be the voice he does not have. 

Chaining is a terribly cruel fate for the animals we consider to be “Man’s best friend” and it is up to us to improve their lives.


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