Today, as Americans from sea to shining sea celebrate the Founding Fathers’ determination to be free from British rule by setting off fireworks and hosting backyard barbecues, how many of us will notice that some Americans remain in bondage—sometimes just a few feet from the grill?
Millions of dogs live their entire lives—24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year—in chains. They get food when their owners remember to toss it out the back door. They get a drink whenever they manage to avoid tipping over their water bucket (if they even have one). James Madison was in the White House the last time that they got a walk. Entertainment options? Counting the flies circling their heads, gnawing on rocks or the chains that bind them, or watching their families flip burgers and twirl sparklers on the deck from a distant corner of the backyard.
Unchain Your Dogs, America!
Like us, dogs are social animals. They crave contact with humans and other dogs and can go insane if they are denied it. If you know of a “backyard dog,” why not do what you can to make his or her life a little better? Here are just a few of the ways you can improve a chained dog’s life:
- Bare necessities: Remind or inform owners of “outdoor dogs” that dogs need food, water, shelter, exercise, and regular trips to the veterinarian. Tell them that Fourth of July fireworks can be especially frightening to dogs and urge them to keep dogs inside during fireworks displays.
- Walk that dog: Offer to take “forgotten” dogs for walks. Stop by for visits and take along some treats and toys. These can mean the world to a neglected dog.
- Give ’em shelter: Offer to provide a doghouse and straw bedding if the dog doesn’t have them. (PETA offers free doghouses to dogs living in the area surrounding our Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters. If you live in southeastern Virginia or northeastern North Carolina, call 757-622-PETA for more information.)
- Mend fences: Offer to build or repair fences so that dogs can have free run of the yard. If that isn’t feasible, offer to provide running lines so that they can exercise more freely. If nothing else, replace chains with lightweight tie-outs.
- Report neglect: Call your local humane society or animal control agency to report neglect. If possible, take photos and write down dates and times when the dog goes without food, water, or shelter. “Complain” about barking. Barking dogs are often lonely, neglected dogs.
- Make chaining a crime: Work with your local legislators to follow in the footsteps of more than 115 jurisdictions across the country by passing restrictions or a ban on chaining.
Being stuck outdoors on a chain is like being a prisoner of war—only dogs are not our enemies, we are not at war with them, and they are never going to be set free. That is, unless those who think that chaining a dog is an act of betrayal on a par with that of Benedict Arnold do something about it.