Friday, 9 October 2015

Helping Outdoor Dogs. Getting Them Off the Chain!

by Vicki Van Linden
Director, Animal Alliance of Canada

They are lonely dogs.
They bark and cry in distress.

Their boredom and misery remain a constant.

Many live their entire lives chained or penned in kennels as a regular way of life. They suffer social isolation, lack of exercise and extreme loneliness. It is a miserable existence that no social animal should be forced to endure.

Neighbours are disturbed by the barking and suffering, and their own feeling of helplessness.

Such animal-keeping practices allow intolerable suffering, divides communities, and places enormous stress on animal service agencies and humane societies. Yet many municipalities have very few tools to assist residents who witness the suffering, and to provide their own staff with the necessary tools to intervene.

Chaining is the worst of the practices inflicted on outdoor dogs. Dogs have even died from strangulation when they attempted to jump over a fence while chained at the neck. Penning or kennelling is less harmful than being chained but is equally cruel because of the lack of exercise, attention, and companionship.

Animal cruelty laws are usually not detailed enough to assist these dogs. A Humane Officer might recognize that a dog is suffering emotionally and in distress, but if the animal is in an acceptable physical condition anti-cruelty laws may not give the officer enough tools to help the dog.

The good news is that there are specific municipal laws that regulate how outdoor dogs must be kept and provide an effective way to assist these suffering dogs and the neighbours who have been made to live near them.

In jurisdictions across North American communities have passed laws that mandate how long a dog can be made to live outside during a 24 hour period.

Windsor, Mississauga and several communities in British Columbia have already passed bylaws. More than one hundred communities in the U.S have also passed such laws.

The province of Nova Scotia passed a province-wide law that regulates tethering/chaining in 2014.

The province of New Brunswick also passed a law that states: “Dog tethering is not permitted for more than 30 minutes between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am unless the owner or person responsible is outside and within 25 metres of the dog.”

The City of Windsor, Ontario does not allow a dog to be chained or tethered for longer than 4 hours in a 24 hour period. Mississauga has a similar regulation making 4 hours the maximum time that a dog can be chained.

Some communities have also passed regulations that can be used to assist penned dogs.

In Markham, Ontario their bylaw states: “Animals in Markham must be provided with a clean, sanitary environment and adequate care that meets the physical and behavioural needs of the animal, such as food, water, shelter, warmth, physical exercise, attention and veterinary care.”

The goal of such bylaws is to ensure that no dogs are made to live entire lives as backyard dogs, but must be brought inside the home each and every day, as well as during extremes of weather - hot or cold.

Enough communities have passed such laws that there are now several examples for other communities to refer to.

We can end this practice if we have sufficient political will.