New Mexico's Pet Resource WINTER 2004


COVER STORY

A Chained Dog’s Life

by Viki Elkey, Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters

Imagine a dog imprisoned on a chain? Unable to move around? Unable to lie down? Stuck outside in the cold? Placed in solitary confinement without the love and humane care he needs? Why is he being punished? What did he do wrong? Nothing, he is just the victim of a person who doesn’t know, understand, or care about what a dog needs. And he certainly does not understand why he was “jailed” in the worst way, for doing nothing at all.

My name is Timber, I was placed on a chain last summer, and there I stayed for several months. When the woman from next door, asked why I was on a chain, my owner replied that since I had dug holes in the back yard grass, he decided to chain me up. She told him that if he took me out for daily walks and played with me, I would most likely forego the digging. She explained some of the reasons dogs dig – loneliness, boredom, not enough exercise, no toys to play with, lack of daily walks, etc., and gave him some literature that explained what dogs need from human companions. The neighbor tried repeatedly to get my “owner” to let me off the chain, suggesting he take me for walks, play with me, or even just give me a name. Sadly, I had been there for a year, and my name was “the black and white dog.” My owner ignored her, and I stayed on that chain – bored, lonely, and frustrated.

In early October, I finally escaped! I showed up at the neighbor’s door with my entire neck ripped open while trying to free myself from the chain. She called a local Animal Control officer (I somehow knew she was the one who could help). Kenny was very nice; he took me to the veterinarian’s office. Because, I am considered property, and my owner had no prior offenses, he was allowed to reclaim me. My owner was instructed to keep me off the chain. When he refused to comply, my local Animal Control agency filed charges against him.

That is when things began to turn around for me. My owner received a subpoena to appear in court and he was furious. He called up the neighbor to yell at her. He blamed her for getting him “in trouble”. Fortunately for me, she was able to calm him down. She convinced him to relinquish both my brother and me to her! It finally happened – I got off that chain, and will never go back. After a couple of ups and downs, I am now in a truly loving home. I will always be grateful to all the folks who never gave up on me. They worked to make sure I found a great place to sleep at night!

Luckily, Timber had a great ending to a terrible beginning. But not all dogs are so lucky. Although dogs are “pack animals” whose well-being relies on socialization and physical activity, countless dogs across New Mexico and the country are kept in backyards at the ends of chains, isolated from the companionship and comfort they long for. This solitary confinement with little exercise or interaction with humans or others of their own kind can drive dogs insane. Dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction. A dog kept chained 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 addition to Animal Protection of New Mexico and numerous animal experts, our own US Department of Agriculture issued a statement in July 1996 against tethering, saying that “Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane. A tether significantly restricts a dog’s movement. A tether can also become tangled around or hooked on the dog’s shelter structure or other objects, further restricting the dog’s movement and potentially causing injury.”

APNM recommends that all dogs be kept indoors at night, taken on regular walks, and otherwise provided with adequate attention, food, water, and veterinary care.

A chained animal is caught in a vicious cycle; frustrated by long periods of boredom and social isolation, he becomes a neurotic shell of his former self – further deterring human interaction and kindness. In the end, the helpless dog can only suffer the frustration of watching the world go by in isolation – a cruel fate for what is by nature a highly social animal.

If your dog is an “outside dog,” bring him or her inside now, for everyone’s sake.

For more information on spreading the word about the cruelty inherent in chaining dogs, see www.DogsDeserveBetter.com. For questions about chained dogs, or to get some literature about chained dogs, please send an email to NoChainedDogs@aol.com. To look up your local county or municipality animal control ordinance, please go to www.apnm.org.

Viki Harrison Elkey is a campaign associate and lobbyist for Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters, where she advocates for the humane treatment of all animals in New Mexico. She is currently the chair of the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Board. She has been actively involved in animal advocacy around the country for over 15 years. She and her husband live in Rio Rancho with their companion dogs and cats, all rescued strays from the streets of New Mexico.

If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. –James Herriot

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