What I find most frustrating about the all too common practice of chaining up dogs for months and even years on end is the pointlessness of it. Long term chained dogs have no value as a pet, companion or guard dog, they have an utterly miserable life and serve no purpose whatsoever. The two canine behaviorists I consulted over the subject both gave unprintable responses as to what they thought of this practice and the people that perpetrate it.
What's wrong with chaining up a dog?
As a temporary measure, perhaps while at someone else's property, tethering a dog for a few hours is fine with adequate shelter and water available. However when these few hours turn into a way of life, this is where the problems start.
As any dog owner knows, our canine companions typically fill their day with a variety of activities. Patrolling their domain, play, interacting with their family, being taken for walks, anticipating regular meal times and choosing just the right spot for a snooze are just some of the things a properly cared for dog should expect.
For those unfortunate animals at the end of a chain their experience becomes one of boredom and frustration. The following behavioral aberrations are often seen in chained dogs:
• A heightened defense drive due to lack of any escape mechanism can cause extreme aggression in chained dogs
• Excessive barking
• Destruction of items within reach even their own kennel as a result of extreme boredom
• Inappropriate toileting behavior
• Self mutilation and excessive grooming
It is safe to assume that those dogs left chained are not treated for fleas or internal parasites on a regular basis and will suffer the resulting discomfort. Feeding is often irregular with some of the dogs uplifted literally starving to death as a result of having been ignored by those that placed them in such a vulnerable position.
Chaining a dog suggests there is no physical barrier to a property which means there is potential for children to come into contact with what may well be a dangerous dog. The dog itself is vulnerable to attack from other animals.
Is it legal to chain a dog permanently?
In my mind, chaining a dog permanently is an act of neglect and long term abuse. The SPCA says that current law requires chained dogs have a minimum of one hour of exercise each day. Not only does this mean that is legal to chain a dog for 23 hours a day, it is also unenforceable to ensure any exercise is given. The standard excuse owners give as to why these dogs are never seen off the chain is 'they are walked very late at night'.
A dedicated group of individuals endeavoring to improve the plight of these vulnerable animals is the Chained Dog Awareness Trust. Although it makes for some quite disturbing reading; their site certainly makes a compelling point that this is not how we should allow animals to be treated in NZ.
What can you do?
The aforementioned Trust offers a variety of ways to support the cause including details for contacting the Ministry for Primary Industries to voice your concern.
Currently the SPCA is unable to act when a chained dog has adequate shelter and water and is in a healthy condition. They will intervene when an animal is suffering physically or their environment is substandard.
Take note of any of the following when contacting animal welfare agencies about chained dogs:
• Poor coat condition
• Parasite infestation
• Lack of or unclean water
• Deteriorating condition of the animal
• Inadequate shelter from the elements
• Lack of a comfortable place to sleep
• Build up of faeces in the area the dog is restricted to
Where there is excessive barking or the dog has no registration tags, animal control may be contacted. They will then pass the matter on to the SPCA if they have welfare concerns.
In some situations, you may be able to offer to exercise a neighbour's dog yourself which can vastly improve the life of an otherwise permanently tethered animal.
Do keep your own safety in mind however, as a dog that has been restricted for a long time may not be used to a lead and could be difficult to control. Your own safety and that of others is paramount.
A law change is well overdue to give animal welfare agencies the power to intervene in the pointless act of neglect that is chained dogs.