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PETA requests emergency ordinance

WINDSOR – An official with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking Bertie County officials to enact an emergency ordinance that prohibits unattended chaining of dogs.

In a recent letter sent to Ronald Wesson, Chair of the Bertie County Commissioners, and the other four members of that board, Rachel Bellis said PETA fieldworkers visited Bertie County on July 19 and July 22 where they discovered three dead dogs at residences in Kelford and Windsor.

Bellis, who serves as Manager of Local Affairs / Cruelty Investigations Department with PETA, stated that she was writing the letter as a, “follow up on a presentation that PETA gave for the [Bertie] Board regarding chained dogs in Bertie County in February. Since then, our area has experienced dangerously hot weather, with temperatures consistently in the 90s, and PETA fieldworkers have found three dead dogs in just the last three days. We respectfully urge you to pass an emergency ordinance to prohibit unattended chaining to prevent more dogs from suffering and dying at the end of a chain.”

The letter stated that on the afternoon of Sunday, July 19, PETA fieldworkers made a routine stop to check on two dogs at a residence in Kelford. The high temperature that day was 100.6°F, with an average humidity of 81%.

With permission from a woman inside the home, the fieldworkers proceeded onto the property, where they found one dog to whom they gave fresh water and applied flea preventive medication.

“Then they walked over to where a female pit bull had previously been tethered and noticed that a plank of wood had been nailed over the entrance to the doghouse and her tie-out was still attached to it,” Bellis wrote. “There was a foul stench of rotting flesh coming from inside, so they called the phone number of the dogs’ owner, and the woman inside the residence answered. When asked about the female dog, she said that she didn’t know anything about her or why the doghouse was boarded shut. When the fieldworkers removed the plank of wood, they found the decomposing remains of the female pit bull, liquefying and covered with maggots, inside the doghouse. The fieldworkers reported the discovery to the Sheriff’s Office immediately.”

Bellis said PETA fieldworkers returned to the area on Wednesday, July 22. At the request of a client, they went to a residence in Windsor where they found the remains of two deceased, tethered pit bulls, bodies bloated and stiff, tethers tangled together, approximately 40 feet from the residence.

“It was clear that the dogs had been in direct sunlight and unable to reach water or shade,” Bellis stated in her letter. “The resident claimed that they’d been fine at 4 a.m. when she gave them water. She was home the whole time as they likely barked frantically, trying desperately to reach water and the minimal shade provided by the overhanging roofs of the doghouses PETA had previously given them. It’s unclear whether they died from strangulation or heatstroke or some combination of both. We called the Sheriff’s Office immediately. The responding officer told the dogs’ owner to dispose of their remains and allowed PETA to repossess the doghouses to prevent her from replacing the dogs. The high that day was 100.9°F with an average humidity of 77%.”

Bellis noted that a dogs’ primary method of cooling themselves is by panting; high temperatures and humidity decrease its effectiveness. When they don’t have access to fresh water, dogs become dehydrated, which exacerbates the effects of excessive ambient temperatures. Preexisting medical conditions such as heartworm disease, which is extremely common in chained dogs, can also predispose dogs to heatstroke. As an animal’s internal temperature rises, shock sets in, causing hypersalivation, panic, vomiting, seizures, loss of control of bladder and bowels, and, eventually, death.

“We realize that this is a challenging time, but dogs are dying gruesome, preventable deaths, and we hope to collaborate with you to protect them. It’s only July, and we know that the weather will remain dangerously hot for dogs through September, if not longer. The deaths of these dogs are surely not isolated incidents; they’re simply the ones we discovered at the homes of established clients. We know that other dogs must also be suffering from heatstroke because they’re chained without access to shade or potable water. Please pass an emergency ordinance to prohibit unattended tethering in Bertie County,” said Bellis as she concluded her letter.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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