by Lauren Sanchez
As summer draws near, we all anticipate spending more time outdoors for not only ourselves but also for our beloved pets as well. Many people will chain their dogs in the front or backyard, believing it will be beneficial, adding protection to your house or even giving you a break from cleaning all the dog hair.
What most people do not realize is this is a form of animal abuse, and Tulsa County does not have any laws governing this form of abuse. Chaining or tethering of a pet is a practice commonly used for pet owners to exercise control of their animals.
By keeping animals confined to an area outdoors, pets are oftentimes left without a shelter to protect them from the outdoor elements. More often than not, these pets also lack clean water, regular veterinary care, and over time will exhibit more aggressive, reclusive behavior.
The Humane Society of the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many animal experts have issued statements that confirm the resounding hypothesis: the practice of chaining is an inhumane practice that endangers the physical and mental health of the animal.
Studies show chaining causes a strain on the animal’s body, causing skin sores, rashes and raw skin. In severe cases, the collar can become embedded in the skin. During this year’s harsh winter and promising sweltering sun, hundreds of dogs will be chained in our county.
Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to frost bite, heat exhaustion and other similar health problems when exposed to harsh weather elements. The HSUS recommends that if an animal must remain outdoors, he or she should be placed in a sizable pen with adequate food, water and shelter from the elements.
While conducting an on-site visit with a member of Unchain OK, an Oklahoma Alliance for Animals affiliate, I personally assisted a volunteer in creating a longer chain for a 6-month-old puppy.
Upon our arrival, I immediately noticed the pup, almost fully grown, chained to a wire fence; his metal clad chain was a mere 4 feet long. This dog was only months old, yet he had already outgrown his puppy cuteness.
He was put outside and tied up on such a short lead. The graceful volunteer and I unbound the tangled mess of wires, unhooked the part that had been fastened tightly around his neck and put the dog on a “tree trolley.” This new trolley gave the pup better room to move about, enter his dog house (that had been donated) and access his water.
The dog was instantaneously happier, and we left satisfied. Although our efforts seem menial, we may have saved a life. The sad reality of dog chaining is that it is just as dangerous for the dog’s health as it is the general public.
Dogs that are chained have a tendency to be more aggressive and exhibit psychological problems. There have been documented attacks by chained dogs that attack passersby, visitors of the property or even other animals within reach. If a chained dog becomes free of his chain, the degree of harm is increased.
Dogs that live their lives on chains are also subject to harassment by other animals, and even people who break into the property, leaving the dog helpless to fend for itself. Tethered dogs are also targets for those stealing dogs for animal fights, research institutions and the like.
It is well known that animal cruelty laws in Oklahoma are scant. There are no specific laws addressing dog chaining. As long as the dog has some type of shelter, food and water, the state sees this as sufficient enough.
While Tulsa County has no statutes that determine how long a dog can be chained, nearby counties have addressed the issue. Bartlesville limits the chaining of dogs to five hours per day. While it is better than no ordinance, it is nearly impossible to enforce or keep track of unless someone is avidly watching the property for more than five hours at a time.
Last year, a dog was chained up in Bartlesville during the heat of the summer and died because animal control could not do anything. The only county in Oklahoma that prohibits dog chaining altogether is Lawton.
In other states, dog chaining ordinances are more stringent. Currently, 30 states have passed laws that regulate the practice of tethering animals. In two counties, Maumelle, Ark., and Tucson, Ariz., unattended tethering of dogs is completely prohibited. Many other communities only allow tethering for limited periods of time or during certain conditions.
In Texas, for example, the law prohibits an owner from keeping a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that (1) unreasonably limits the dog’s movement between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.; (2) is within 500 feet of the premises of a school; or (3) where extreme weather conditions are present under 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and when there is a heat advisory.
The law also provides requirements as to the appropriate type of collar and tether length.
So what can you do? You can get involved with Unchain OK via Facebook or even speak to your state legislature. If your time is limited, you can even help out by visiting Unchain OK’s Amazon “Wish List” account where needed items can be purchased and donated.
For more information, visit unchainok.org. We can make a difference in Tulsa; all we need is you.