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Tethering ban could prevent neglect and abuse

By Daphna Nachminovitch

Today, like every other day, Bear is chained up and surrounded by piles of junk, cornfields, and half a dozen other dogs. The grass that once grew under his feet is long gone, worn down by his daily pacing back and forth, dragging his heavy logging chain, which is attached to his collar by a huge metal ring that digs into his skin and rubs it raw. At over 80 pounds, with his ears crudely cropped close to his head—a mutilation that was almost certainly carried out at home without pain relief—Bear looks intimidating, but he’ll readily roll over for a tummy rub on the rare occasions when one is offered.

PETA’s fieldworkers have been visiting Bear for two years, and they’ve done all they can to make his existence less miserable. But their visits don’t change the fact that he’s serving a life sentence without parole, which Gates County law currently does nothing to prevent.

Bear and the other dogs chained at this residence have sturdy wooden doghouses now, thanks to PETA, but previously they had only overturned plastic barrels, a tree trunk, or nothing at all for shelter. Their water buckets are usually filthy, green, and slimy with algae. PETA fieldworkers once found the rotting corpse of a toad in one dog’s bucket. Sometimes, the owners can’t say with any certainty when the dogs last ate.

Dogs at this property regularly suffer from parasite infestations, severe flystrike, bloody wounds, skin and eye inflammations and infections, and other untreated health problems, as is common with chained dogs. One frigid day in December, fieldworkers found Bear shivering in the cold. At the same time, one of his companions, JR, was suffering from such advanced heartworm disease that he was in congestive heart failure and, for all intents and purposes, drowning in the fluid that had accumulated in his lungs. PETA ensured that JR’s suffering was humanely ended.

It’s too late for JR, but a law that was proposed in the wake of the tragic and preventable death, apparently from heatstroke, of another chained dog in Gates County last summer could improve and even save the lives of countless others. The law would make it illegal to keep an unattended dog outside continuously on a chain—but would allow some exemptions for hunting and other activities.

A life sentence at the end of a chain is no life at all. We like to call dogs our “best friends” but don’t always treat them that way. No dog is happy chained up, even when it isn’t freezing cold or suffocatingly hot outside. Dogs are pack animals, who thrive on companionship, exercise, and interaction with others. And all dogs everywhere—regardless of size or breed—are in serious danger when their tethers get tangled up and they can’t reach water or shelter for hours or even days at a time. Continuous tethering is a heartless way to restrain social animals who crave contact both with other dogs and with their human families.

Chaining dogs leads to neglect and abuse, which is why hundreds of jurisdictions nationwide—many of them in North Carolina—have passed ordinances banning or restricting tethering. A public hearing on the law will be held at the Gates County Government Office on April 4 at 10 a.m. Please urge the commissioners to protect dogs by supporting this lifesaving law. The future of Bear and his friends is in your hands.

Daphna Nachminovitch is senior vice president of cruelty investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.