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May 30, 2006 > Dogs Deserve Better

Dogs Deserve Better

by Nancy Lyon

Just about anyone who works in an animal shelter or with animal welfare will testify to the truth of the statement that dogs deserve better. The truth is that humans have a lot to answer for when it comes to their treatment of man's loyal and loving best friend.

But this is more than a statement of fact; it is the name of an organization that heads a movement across this country to protect cruelly treated dogs that spend their lives on chains. The focus is not only on the inhumane treatment of a wonderful and sentient animal but it is an effort to protect children who may fall victim to the immense physiological damage done to these dogs. Chained to dog houses, trees, or other stationary objects, dogs that are by nature highly social, spend lives of isolation, loneliness and frustration, and when children wander into their limited territory it often ends in tragedy - dogs imprisoned in this manner become neurotic, anxious, and often highly aggressive. It is a matter of fight or flight and when they cannot escape they may feel there is little choice but to go on the offensive.

The necks of chained dogs often become raw and covered with sores. The result of improperly fitted collars and constant yanking and straining to escape confinement can lead to becoming entangled and they can strangle to death. Dogs have been found with collars embedded in their necks, the result of years of neglect at the end of a chain. According to the Humane Society of the United States, in one case, a veterinarian had to euthanize a dog whose collar, an electrical cord, was so embedded in the animal's neck that it was difficult to see the plug. This is not something that happens to dogs elsewhere - it happens today in local backyards and corporation yards. They are unseen and forgotten.

According to statistics, a tethered or chained dog is three times more likely to bite than other dogs. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 17 percent of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners' property at the time of the attack. In the period from October 2003 through May 2006, there were at least 88 children killed or seriously injured by chained dogs across the country. When an anguished and frustrated dog finally escapes the source of his torment, he may remain aggressive and is likely to chase and attack unsuspecting passersby and other animals.

Ask yourself, would you for one second choose to live the life of these dogs? Dogs Deserve Better and the Ohlone Humane Society share the feeling that no matter what reason is given, the bottom line is that it is not okay to chain a dog for life. Dogs should not have to live chained or penned as prisoners, yearning for a place in a family, craving acknowledgement, respect, and love. They deserve better, and we as caretakers have the obligation to provide it for them and bring them into the family.
Presently, there is a bill in the California Senate SB 1578, cosponsored by State Senator Harold Lowenthal and State Assemblymember Paul Koretz, addressing public safety and animal cruelty. If passed on the Senate floor at the end of this month, it will move on to the Assembly and hopefully be signed into law by the governor.

SB 1578, as amended, addresses tethering prohibition. Existing law contains various provisions relating to the health, safety, and humane treatment of animals, such as birds, horses and other equines, and animals performing in traveling circuses and carnivals. This bill, with specified exceptions, would prohibit a person from tethering, fastening, chaining, tying, or restraining a dog to a dog house, tree, fence, or other stationary object for more than three hours in any 24-hour period.

It would make a violation of its provisions an infraction or a misdemeanor and would require that a county use fines collected under the bill for animal control purposes. By making a violation of its provisions a crime, this bill would impose a state mandated local program. This bill would provide that it is not to be construed to prevent a person from walking a dog with a leash, or where reasonably needed for safety or mandated such as in recreational areas. It does not affect dogs on over-head trolleys as long as it is not attached by a choke or pinch collar, or for a reasonable period of time in order to complete a temporary task. If passed, it will also give animal control agencies greater ability to enforce animal welfare and public safety.

Before June 6, contact your state senator asking for support of SB 1578, after that date, check the status of the bill and if it will proceed to the assembly. This information is available through your assemblymember's office. To check what your representative's contact information, call your local League of Women Voters listed your phone book or visit

Check out how you can help Dogs Deserve Better in your area and protect dogs and children. Go to

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
- Nelson Mandela

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