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Allowing dogs to live the unchained life

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If your boss placed your desk as far from his office as possible, paid you only occasionally, never interacted with you other than to shove past you on the way out the door, would you care if someone stole something from his office? Would you even notice?

Many people treat their dogs this way, chaining them up their entire lives on a little patch of dirt outside, and then expect their indoor possessions, computers, television and jewellery to be well protected by their canine prisoner.

“I know there are a lot of dogs on chains in Bermuda, and it breaks my heart,” said animal lover Michelle Lawrence. Ms Lawrence used to sit on the board of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and is now a lifetime member of the organisation. She has three dogs of her own.

“Recently, I was at a store on North Shore Road and I looked across the street and there was a lovely little black pit bull cross chained up in the full summer heat, with nothing to do but bark at people walking by, and I had to wonder, what was the point? Why have a dog if you are not going to treat it as a pet, as a part of the family?”

Some American, states such as California, have signed into being anti-chaining laws which prohibit chaining or tethering a dog to a stationary object as a primary means of confinement for more than three hours. Research has shown that chained dogs are nearly three times as likely to bite as dogs who are not chained. Unfortunately, an aggressive dog is not necessarily a protective dog.

The website, www.unchainyourdog.org, states that tethering dogs for long periods of time is cruel because dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. In the wild, dogs and wolves live, eat, sleep, and hunt with a family of other canines. Dogs are genetically determined to live in a group.

According to Unchainyourdog.org a dog kept chained alone in one spot for hours, days, months, or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and often aggressive. In many cases, the necks of chained dogs become raw and covered with sores, the result of improperly fitted collars and the dogs’ constant yanking and straining to escape confinement. Some chained dogs have collars embedded in their necks, the result of years of neglect at the end of a chain. Chained dogs frequently become entangled in their chains, too, and unable to access food, water, and shelter.

Instead, it is recommended that you bring your dog inside or put up a proper fence in your yard. One idea is to install an above ground zip line. It’s sort of like tying your dog to a clothes line so he can run back and forth across the property without dragging a chain behind him. It is still a form of tethering but it does allow the dog to get more exercise.

Some people argue that the dog isn’t a family pet or companion, but a guard dog. But there are several companies on the island at the moment who provide electronic alarm systems that are much more reliable than the average dog. And the alarm system can’t be won over with a yummy piece of steak or a friendly voice. Let’s face it, indoors or outdoors, how much does your dog really value your television set?

“I don’t believe a lot of the dog owners are intentionally cruel, but many consider a dog to be a ‘thing’ rather than a thinking, feeling being with physical and emotional needs,” said Ms Lawrence. “Many people have dogs for security, but for goodness sake, get a security system. The police will come round for free, at least they used to, and give all sorts of tips on how to easily and cheaply secure your house. When you add up dog food and vet care, a dog can be a pretty expensive security system.”

Michele Lawrence with great dane Riley behind her, and malamute husky crossbreed dogs Savvy and Devon.
Riley the Great Dane living the unchained life.
Animal lover Michele Lawrence with her three dogs, Riley the Great Dane, behind her, and malamute husky dogs Devon and Savvy.

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Published September 30, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 30, 2011 at 9:44 am)

Allowing dogs to live the unchained life

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