Dog’s death is wake-up call

Published 10:43 am Monday, July 17, 2017

By Daphna Nachminovitch

It’s hot outside. So hot that simply being outside in the sun for an extended period of time is not just uncomfortable, but potentially deadly, as was evidently the case for a chained Gatesville pit bull who was left to bake in full sun with no shade and no water source.

A concerned neighbor did the right thing and called the Gates County Sheriff’s Office to report the suffering dog, whom she described as panting heavily and foaming at the mouth, both symptoms of heat exhaustion. But the Sheriff’s Office apparently failed to respond that day. By the time a deputy was sent out, it was too late: the dog was dead.

PETA was first alerted to the situation after the dog perished, and a fieldworker was dispatched immediately. A deputy arrived shortly after our fieldworker. We offered to arrange and even pay for a necropsy to determine the cause of the dog’s death – a necessary step in cruelty investigations. The deputy told us he had the situation in hand and asked our fieldworker to leave.

We followed up with the Sheriff’s Office and Gates County officials the same day, in writing, reiterating our offer. It was declined and we were informed that no charges would be filed. Several other pit bulls remain chained and/or penned on this property, in full sun with no respite, apparently in violation of law.

Thanks to social media, the case has gone viral, and thousands of people are calling for action. We hope Gates County officials are listening.

This case is heartbreaking, but not unique. Right now, countless “backyard dogs” in Gates County are suffering a miserable existence of solitary confinement and neglect. Many of them will no doubt suffer, and some will perish, before summer’s end. Gates County can prevent this by legislating animal care standards that include a ban on unattended tethering of dogs.

Heat stroke is an agonizing way to die. Dogs can’t sweat like humans do to cool themselves—they can only pant. When the temperature exceeds 90 degrees, dogs cannot effectively shed body heat. As heat stroke sets in, and their organs begin to shut down, dogs may lose control of their bowels, vomit, suffer heart attacks, collapse, or lose consciousness.

A painful death from hyperthermia is just one of the many dangers chained dogs face. Neglect is the norm for dogs who are chained or penned outside 24/7. They are routinely denied basic necessities, including water, food, shelter, heartworm and flea prevention, and veterinary care. PETA fieldworkers commonly see dogs with embedded collars because their owners never loosened or changed them as they grew; dogs with ear tips eaten away by flies; dogs so hopelessly tangled in their chains that they are immobilized; and dogs so infested with fleas that bath water runs red with their blood.

Four years ago, the Gates County Board of Commissioners appointed an Ad Hoc Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to identify animal welfare needs and recommend courses of action, including addressing tethering. So far, little has been done, and animals continue to suffer and die.

Hundreds of jurisdictions nationwide—many of them in North Carolina—have passed ordinances banning or restricting the cruel, dangerous practice of keeping dogs tethered 24/7. It’s time for Gates County to join them. Dogs’ lives depend on it.


Daphna Nachminovitch is the senior vice president of the Cruelty Investigations Department for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;