Anti-Chaining Laws Save Lives

By Emily Allen

California has just become the third state in the country, after Connecticut and West Virginia, to pass a statewide law restricting chaining. The bill, which outlaws the tethering of dogs for more than three hours a day (with some exceptions), was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who stated that it "helps protect dogs from cruelty and enhances public safety by preventing aggressive animal behavior that can result from inhumane tethering."

"The Governator," who has two dogs himself, is right on the money. Dogs are social animals who crave companionship; chaining them up for extended periods of time can turn them into ticking time bombs. Since 2003, at least 104 people have been injured or killed by chained dogs. Nearly 75 percent of those victims were children. Eleven died in the attacks.

According to the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, intensive confinement and lack of socialization can cause dogs to become frustrated and overly protective of their little patch of ground, turning them into biters. As long ago as 1994, the Centers for Disease Control found that chained dogs are nearly three times as likely to attack as those not tethered.

Officials in Connecticut, West Virginia, and the more than 80 other jurisdictions around the country that have restricted or banned chaining report a lower number of dog bites and fewer cruelty cases since these laws passed.

One of those jurisdictions is Roanoke Rapids, N.C., which passed one of the strictest anti-chaining ordinances in the country in June. The law, which prohibits animals from being tethered for any length of time without supervision, was introduced in the wake of the mauling of a toddler by a relative's chained dog in April of last year.

The law came too late for Chunky, a lovably goofy basset hound mix I first met two years ago, when I delivered him a sturdy, custom-made doghouse and straw bedding. Before that, Chunky had only an overturned, rusty steel drum for shelter. He survived, barely, on scraps left over from his owners' meals. Chunky wasn't mad, he was just pathetic. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals delivers free doghouses and bedding to dogs like Chunky in the area around our headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.

Every time I went to visit Chunky and deliver him fresh straw and treats, he was thrilled to see me. His front paws paddled the air and his tail wagged in helicopter circles. He rolled luxuriously in the clean straw and then leaned up against my legs, as if trying to physically prevent me from leaving. But I always had to go, my heart filled with lead.

Chunky died of an infection, probably parvovirus, just weeks before Roanoke Rapids' chaining ban went into effect last month. His owners called and asked PETA to remove his bloated body.

Fortunately, as a result of the law, many other dogs have been saved from a life of agonizing loneliness and neglect. "In the long run, it will be better for both the dogs and owners," Roanoke Rapids' lone animal control officer, Arthur Sizemore, told a newspaper reporter. "Most of the dogs are much happier now."

Two additional statewide anti-chaining bills are currently being considered in Pennsylvania and New York. The Pennsylvania bill recently got a boost when an activist rescued an elderly chained dog who a neighbor reports had been lying in the mud on his back, unable to get to his feet for several days. The dog, dubbed "Doogie" by his rescuers, made national headlines and was even featured on "Inside Edition" after his rescuer was charged with theft. Ironically, his owners, who left him to suffer in the mud, face no charges. But a new law might change that.

Emily Allen works for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' free doghouse program.

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