The Humane Society estimates that there are about 200,000 chained/penned dogs living in the U.S. I’m sure you’ve seen them. They’re tethered to a dog house, a tree, or even a stake in the ground. Maybe you’ve passed by their yard and felt pity for their meager existence. Maybe you’ve thrown them a scrap of food. They’re frustrated and helpless and yearn to know what it's like to be loved.
The top 2 reasons that people give when asked why they keep their dogs outside are: 1) "The dog is too wild/destructive/dirty to be in the house" or 2) "They like being outside." Doesn’t it make you want to scream!? If your dog is acting out in the house, train him. End of story. Unless the dog is literally lighting matches or turning on the oven while you’re away, there is no need for him to be kept outside. Try crating instead; keep him in a crate large enough to move around in with a few toys while you’re away. It’s simple, really.
Wild and feral dogs excluded, modern domesticated dogs are not suited to live chained up outside permanently. The first and most blatant of all reasons is that dogs are social pack animals. They live for companionship and crave love from their humans. To force them to live a life of solitary confinement is just plain cruel. Those dogs that are left tethered against their will suffer a great deal of emotional and psychological stress. An otherwise friendly dog becomes frustrated, anxious, and often times aggressive. Who can blame them? It must be a living nightmare.
In addition to having their social and emotional needs ignored, these dogs are often left without proper veterinary care. A good majority will get heartworms, a potentially deadly condition. Fleas, ticks and other parasites will plague them daily. The chain itself often turns into a hazard as well. It can become tangled on surrounding debris and even strangle the dog.
A result of living a miserable existence leads many of these dogs to become unapproachable. There are numerous examples of people being bitten or attacked by a chained dog. The person may approach what seems to be a nice dog. The animal, however, is so frustrated it may lash out and bite to defend its small territory. According to PETA, a chained dog is almost three times more likely to bite than a non tethered dog and approximately 25% of dog bite cases involve chained dogs.
Unfortunately, the laws in this country treat animals as mere property, and it can be difficult to have a chained dog removed from the owner’s premises. Animal control cannot take the dog unless the dog has no shelter (a shabby dog house counts as shelter), no access to food and water, or their lives are truly in danger. If the law will not help them then it's up to us to fight for them. We have to educate people that dogs are not to be treated this way. We have to demand that stricter chaining laws are put into place (currently only a few states have laws in place to regulate animal chaining) and are being enforced. We are their voice and we cannot abandon them!
Bottom line: Chaining a dog is a form of animal cruelty. If you see a neglected dog, please speak up and call animal control for help. Want to know more about the efforts to help chained dogs? Check out Dogs Deserve Better (dogsdeservebetter.org) for ways you can help!