from The Annapolis Spectator
Unchain their hearts
By Heather Killen
An Annapolis Valley man is almost at the end of his rope looking for someone willing to explain why it’s okay to leave dogs tethered outside 24/7.
Scott Saunders, of Kings County, wants to hear why it’s fine to leave man’s best friend out in the cold. He knows more than a few dogs tied or confined outside with barely the necessities, but not a single owner would go on the record to say why they keep them this way -- even when Macleans Magazine called.
“I was able to find a lot of people willing to talk to them about why they think it’s wrong, but not a single person would explain why they think it’s okay,” he said. “It’s too bad because I really want to hear what those people have to say. I could be judging them unfairly and not know it.”
A reporter from the national news magazine recently contacted Saunders, following up on efforts to make it illegal to keep dogs continuously chained or penned. Initially the idea was to change a few municipal bylaws in Shelburne. The more Saunders thought about the problem, the more it made sense to take the cause one step higher and petition the provincial government to amend the Animal Protection Act.
An online petition has been gathering more than 300 signatures since Feb. 7. A group of animal advocates recently met with Kings West MLA Leo Glavine, hoping to convince him of the need to leash-up offenders and tighten up the Act, giving SPCA officers more power to intervene.
If these changes are made, Nova Scotia could be among the first to ban the practice of tethering. Even if they can’t change the laws, Saunders says he hopes that their efforts will change a few minds.
“Even if this petition doesn’t change the Act, I hope it will generate enough conversation to make it not socially acceptable to keep dogs chained,” Saunders said. “Maybe we grew up seeing dogs tied to trees, but we don’t have to do this anymore.”
Nahleen Ashton, of Atlantic Small Dog Rescue in Annapolis County, says she thinks it would be a great move to change the laws, but she also worries about what it will mean to the dogs already out there.
“It’s a wonderful,” she said. “But if it becomes illegal for people to keep them chained outside, what will they decide to with them? We need to have something in place where people can surrender the dogs.”
Often unwanted dogs end up as give-away items on Kejjijji. Saunders said he recovered a female beagle from Kings County from the popular online classified site. The individual was keeping two breeding beagles outside in a make-shift pen.
While the female is now in foster care, the owner refused to give-up the male. Ashton says ASDR has taken in a few outdoor dogs that were surrendered over the past year. The worst case was Quinn, a mixed breed who spent most of his eight or so years tied outside. Hairless in spots, he was found with open sores and fur that was still embedded in his gums from his constant attempts to bite away fleas.
One side of his face will probably always droop a little, likely due to an old injury. After staying nine months at a foster home in Tupperville, he has since been adopted.
"When he came here he was very cautious, but friendly,” she said. “He was scared of everything. You could pat his head, but you couldn’t touch his body. These dogs are savable, but you have to invest a lot to do it.”
Worked With Quinn
Sylvia Jay, a dog behaviour expert, was called in to work with Quinn last year. She says that while he was already well on the road to recovery when she began working with him, he still displayed a few of the characteristic behaviours.
“With him the big things were nipping, or biting when he didn’t want to be touched,” she said.
Jay added that dogs tethered outside 24/7 aren’t just suffering from emotional neglect, but a particularly insidious form of abuse. If the dog is not in control of its basic actions and is forced to remain without shelter in extreme weather; the animal will often display extreme anxiety, become aggressive and obsessive, posing a danger to themselves and others.
“A dog can live on its own as long as it has its autonomy,” she said. “But once they are owned, or forced to live with people they need guidance. When they’re chained, they miss social inclusion, and lack autonomy.”
Dogs are pack animals and in the absence of other dogs, people become its pack. If a dog can’t follow a leader, it must follow its instincts and when it’s unable to act on basic instincts for shelter and companionship, unwanted and even dangerous behaviors are likely to develop.
Steps taken to correct obsessive behaviors such as shock collars for incessant barking are apt to make the situation worse.
Pain And Discomfort
"Some are secured with choke chains, or other devices that cause pain and discomfort,” she said. “So when someone approaches, they learn that people are the announcers of pain.”
She says that the practice of tying dogs is still pretty common in her neighbourhood, where she can find three dogs that are left out with only basic food and shelter.
Shelly Hipson, of Shelburne County, agrees that chained dogs are likely to become more aggressive. Last year in her county there were two instances when a chained dog attacked people. While some people think aggressive animals make good guard dogs, she disagrees. The best watchdogs are the ones allowed in the house.
“Mistreated, chained dogs simply become aggressive, not protective,” she said. “Protective dogs are well-socialized and accustomed to meeting people and are able to distinguish an intruder from a family friend.”
She added when a chained dog feels threatened it can’t obey its flight instincts, so it learns to fight. Over time chained dogs become territorial and when they escape can be dangerous to the community.
To find out more about the petition visit the Facebook community People For Dogs; or the online petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/ban-the-tethering-of-dogs-in-nova-scotia/signatures.html.
For more information about Sylvia Jay visit voice4 dogs.com
Well then! What a wonderful article! Carefully researched and covers all the bases.
To be perfectly honest, it is great to see the general consensus awakening to how horrible tethering actually is. For a long time, it was one of those issues no one wanted to get involved in.
People on the street just did not want to take the chance of pi**ing off their neighbours! At the risk of generalizing, people who can sentence a living, breathing sentient being to life on the end of a chain are not the sort to be squeamish about revenge, eh?
As a matter of fact, even in the animal loving community, people were so afraid of having their name attached to the issue that the last petition ... created by my friend Joan .... got a whopping FOUR signatures. Not four pages of .. not four hundred .. or even four dozen. NOPE! FOUR!!
After being horrified to realize that no charges would be laid when the dog that froze to death in Cape Breton because the necropsy results were "inclusive" ..... only 35 people joined the facebook group, Break the Chain in NS and Four whole people signed the petition!
Given the existing legislation .. or rather the lack of it ... the provincial cruelty inspectors have chosen to walk the 'Educate not Enforce' path! Sadly that has only ever resulted in temporary relief, at best. Each and every time that a complaint cannot be acted on has a negative impact on the society's credibility.
At worst, it has created an adversarial relationship with some of the very rescue people the society should be partnering with :(
And that of course leads us to the politicians. Elected officials never, ever forget that their job security is always directly connected to the good will of their constituents.
Will they want to risk alienating any of those voters? Of course not! Any excuse will be seized on to send the issue to staff review! How can that be changed?
It is a shame there is no humane education for elected officials. Here in Nova Scotia, most of those now sitting are old enough to remember the days when it was perfectly acceptable for a dog or cat to spend his or her entire life living outside. It can therefore be a tough sell to expect them to do battle with their constituents on any animal welfare issue.
One of their favourite arguments is that there is no reasonable way to enforce any anti tethering bylaws or legislation!
As an organic gardener, I have no problem recognizing the distinct aroma of bullsh**! Drinking and driving laws do not obligate our police to inspect every single vehicle every time that it leaves the yard! Laws to protect children from abuse do not mean that social workers will regularly visit every household! Even food safety laws do not mean that the health inspectors will be popping by your favourite restaurant everyday!
At the end of the day, all laws are merely the tools that allow the proper professionals to address an issue properly when the need arises. Straight, sweet and simple!
Admittedly, any Anti Tethering laws will have their best chance of success by focusing on the public safety issue. To put it very simply, Anti Tethering will not get out of the gate as long as politicians are able to put it on the same back burner all the other animal welfare issues seem to simmer on.
Which is a shame .. because like every single other issue ... an ounce of prevention is worth many many fiscal pounds of cure! Delaying spay neuter solutions simply magnifies the problem! Failure to regulate the sale of pets online does not provide one whit of consumer protection for voters!
Reluctance to lose votes continues to keep councillors from creating safer communities for their children!
One of the best bits about this article is that it broached the important issue of what might happen to all the dogs who are currently tethered, should such legislation get out of the gate.
At the end of the day, that particular issue needs to be addressed as part of the planning process. If plans are not put into place to provide safe harbour, in its initial stages, anti tethering legislation could result in a flood of Unnecessary Unhappy Tails!
Everyone in the animal loving community understands that it is inhumane to sentence a dog to life on the end of a chain. People who live in the neighbourhood have no problem understanding the need for change.
What time is it? It is time for each and every person who talks the talk to actually step up and sign the petition, eh?
Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right. Martin Luther King Jr