Thursday, June 11, 2009

134. A dog doesn't belong on a chain

Usually billboards are either trying to sell us something, advertising a political candidate or serving to tell us God’s latest thoughts. However, driving down Route 58 a couple of months ago, I encountered an unusual billboard. This one delivered a powerful and overlooked message; it spoke to the idea of dogs being chained up. Unfortunately, I do not remember the exact quote, but I do remember the website,
By chance, I ran into the seller of the billboard and I told him that I was really impressed with the message. He mentioned a bit of how the billboard came to be—suffice to say that there are people out there, like myself, that think it is cruel for an animal to live most of its life outside tied to a short chain attached to a doghouse.
For me, I have never understood the purpose in having a dog that is left outside, for the dog is more often than not lonely, neglected, bored and unhappy. In fact, I believe that this type of treatment is nearly as inhumane as physically harming an animal. One might be mistaken to believe that a life enslaved to a six foot chain is better than no life at all. A couple of meals, a bowl of water and a quick pat on the head are not how dogs were meant to live.
The website has an abundance of information, not only concerning the unethical nature of chaining up dogs, but also the harm it causes them.  It notes, in terms of the inhumanity:
“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.”
The website also mentions that chained dogs sometimes become aggressive in defending their territory, are often neglected, not only in terms of affection, but also veterinary care, and that they are easy targets for other animals and humans. The idea of isolation is also in conflict with a dog’s natural social order—the need to live in packs (with families).
In addition to ideas about passing laws to prevent chaining, educating dog owners and adopting a dog, the website offers “21 Ways to Help” a chained dog. Much of the advice is obvious, like bring the dog inside, build a fence, put up a runner/trolley system and make sure it gets proper medical attention. It also notes that if you see a neglected animal that you can attempt to talk to the owners, offer to purchase the dog from the owner and find it a new home, or contact your local animal control office.
Finally, the theme offered is that dogs deserve better. As true as that rings, I think the message is best felt and understood from the perspective of the dog. Here is one possible interpretation, in a poem entitled, “Chained Dogs’ Plea,” by Edith Lassen Johnson:
I wish someone would tell me
What it is that I’ve done wrong.
Why do I have to stay chained up
And left alone so long?
They seemed so glad to have me
When I came here as a pup.
There were so many things we’d do
While I was growing up.
But now the Master “hasn’t time”
The Mistress says I shed.
She doesn’t want me in the house,
Not even to be fed.
The Children never walk me.
They always say, “Not now.”
I wish that I could please them.
Won’t someone tell me how?
All I had, you see, was love.
I wish they would explain
Why they said they wanted mine,
And then left it on a chain.

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