The Coalition to Unchain Dogs
Improving the welfare of dogs living outdoors on chains
by Lisa Moore
Rambo, Sheba and Turbo spent the first part of their lives chained outside, unable to do the things that dogs naturally love - chasing squirrels, sniffing everything in sight and playfully romping around. But thanks to the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, they now have fenced in yards to happily roam about in.
The Charlotte chapter of this all-volunteer organization formed in 2009 is dedicated to improving the welfare of dogs living outdoors on chains and to reducing the number of dogs euthanized in shelters each year. They have built free fences for over 170 dogs and also provide free spay/neuter and rabies shots for dogs. Funding come primarily from donations and fundraisers and some grant money.
Dogs who live permanently on chains outside face many hardships. They often suffer horrendous injuries – tracheal damage, embedded collars that must be surgically removed, loss of limbs due to their chain being wrapped around their legs and even death due to strangulation or hanging themselves by their chain.
Animal behaviorists have stated that dogs chained for long periods of time develop severe psychological, emotional and behavioral issues and often experience a “fight or flight” reaction to being chained. A Centers for Disease Control study found that chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than non-chained dogs, and that number increases to 5.4 times more likely in children under the age of 12, creating a significant public health risk.
Additionally, chained dogs contribute heavily to the major overpopulation crisis because many are not spayed or neutered and are subject to continuous breeding with other unaltered dogs. In 2011, almost 12,000 unwanted animals were euthanized in Mecklenburg County alone.
Prior to March 1, 2011, there were no restrictions regarding chaining a dog in Charlotte. The Charlotte Coalition to Unchain Dogs appealed to Charlotte City Council, seeking an ordinance prohibiting the continuous chaining of dogs. City Council rejected this idea and, instead, enacted an ordinance regulating the chaining of dogs. The law went into effect on March 1, 2011 and provides that dogs may be tethered to a stationary object only if certain conditions are met, many have to do with the type of tether and collar used, range of motion and access to food and shelter.
Neya Warren, the Charlotte chapter founder/outreach director, feels the ordinance is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't go far enough. “There is no right way to permanently chain a dog due to the host of public safety issues chaining creates and the numerous risks it poses to the health and safety of the dog. The Coalition supports a law prohibiting chaining, with a limited exception for attended tethering such as when an adult is in the presence of the dog while tethered.”
Until chaining is banned Warren and her team will work to build a trusting relationship with each dog owner and remain connected to them for the life of their dog, providing free fence repairs, dog houses, water buckets, tarps for shade in the summer, straw for doghouses in the winter and education about how to better care for dogs. They utilize a non-judgmental philosophy to help dog owners understand the detrimental effects of chaining on both the dog and the community.
What is most satisfying for the volunteers are the reactions of the dogs after they have been freed from their chains. “The majority of dogs immediately start running, as they may have never had the opportunity to do so in their lives. Many dogs run around as if they can’t stop. We’ve seen aggressive dogs change before our eyes – from growling and barking to the point that we could not get near them, to licking our hands, allowing us to pet them and even trying to jump into our arms.”
To volunteer, make a donation or watch touching videos of the transformation of local dogs, visit UnchainDogs.net.