a dog in a yard for extended periods of time amounts to cruel punishment
for the animal, but also poses a not-so-obvious safety risk to the
community. The ordinance proposed by Chain Free Austin to restrict
the unsupervised chaining of dogs, as reported in the Austin American-Statesman
on Oct. 25, is definitely a move in the right direction. This ordinance
is sure to improve the quality of life for all in this city
be they four- or two-legged.
Take a look at your own dog. Thousands of years of human-guided,
selective breeding have led to the creation of this remarkable animal
who craves little more than your companionship. The isolation of
being chained up for hours at a time is not only physically cruel
to this animal, but completely contrary to his or her nature.
Chaining causes intense boredom and loneliness for dogs, but that's
only the beginning. The boredom can morph into frustration, then
into territorial and aggressive behavior. And here's where the danger
to the community lies: When confronted with a perceived threat,
animals have a "fight or flight" response. Because chained
dogs can't flee from a perceived threat, whether it be a neighbor's
child or a well-meaning adult, they are left with one option: to
fight and the results could be deadly.
Multiple studies have shown that chained dogs are more likely to
bite, and these studies are supported by the positions of a number
of groups including The Humane Society of the United States and
The American Veterinary Medical Association. In her book "Fatal
Dog Attacks, the Stories behind the Statistics," author and
veterinary technician Karen Delise notes, "Chaining a dog is
arguably the single most dangerous condition in which to maintain
a dog. Statistically, chained dogs are more dangerous than free-running
packs of dogs."
People chain their dogs for a variety of reasons. Some believe that
dogs belong outside and are happier there; others claim it is what
has always been done, and some people think that a chained dog in
the front yard will help deter intruders. But as we've grown to
understand more about canine behavior, there have been more changes
in human behavior: Fewer people are chaining their dogs, and more
communities are passing legislation to address this crucial issue.
More than 100 communities across the country have ordinances specifically
addressing dog chaining. Two progressive states, California and
Connecticut, have statewide policies that restrict chaining. Even
though Austin already has a chaining ordinance, its eight-hour rule
has proved difficult to enforce.
In the past, proper animal care was limited to food, water and shelter.
However, our dogs today have come to assume a greater role in the
family. In recognizing our mutual dependence, we've learned that
we have to go beyond the basics in caring for our dogs. Exercise,
socialization and regular veterinary care are certainly necessary,
but more than that, our dogs need our commitment to make their lives
better, just as they have done for us.
Animal cruelty laws have been in place for a long time, but it is
essential that these laws keep pace with the latest information
about what is appropriate care for our dogs. Dog chaining goes against
all we have learned about them and their needs. We applaud the efforts
of Chain Free Austin and encourage the city's Animal Advisory Commission
to do the right thing.
Goldfarb is an issues specialist in the Companion Animals Department
of the Humane Society of the United States.
Issues Specialist, Companion Animals
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L St., NW Washington, DC 20037