Leading from the Left

Monday, February 12, 2007

Untethering dogs

At our last Board of County Commissioners meeting, representatives from the Coalition to Unchain Dogs formally requested that the BOCC adopt an ordinance to prohibit the chaining of dogs. I have to admit that I'm new to this issue. Like most people, I haven't spent much time thinking about how dogs are tethered.

I have learned about this issue this week, however, thanks in large part to information presented by two community advocates. Last Saturday, I met with Suzanne Roy and Jude Reitman both of whom have devoted years of their lives to working for the protection of animals. From discussion at that meeting and from reading subsequent materials Suzanne provided to the BOCC, I've become convinced that Orange County needs an anti-chaining ordinance.

Already in North Carolina, 2 counties and 2 municipalities have passed ordinances prohibiting chaining. We should be the next.

Why is chaining or tethering a bad thing, you ask? When I asked that question, here's some of what I learned:

*chaining is a safety hazard for people. Dogs, like all animals, have a "fight or flight" instinct. When confronted with a threat, they must chose which to do and because chained animals cannot flee, they fight.
*According the the Centers for Disease Control, chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite
*the victims of attacks by chained dogs are often children
*dog tethers can become tangled, leading to choking or chafing of the dog's neck.
*A tangled tether can also prevent a dog from accessing food and water
*The American Veterinary Medical Association is opposed to chaining because "this can contribute to aggressive behavior
*the federal government, under the Animal Welfare Act, prohibits tethering as the principle
means of confinement

While all of these points are valid, the one that most strikes me is the point about dog's 'fight or flight' instinct. It's not hard to imagine a scenario, fairly common I suspect, in which neighborhood children venture into the yard of a chained dog. Since the dog cannot take flight, clearly his only option--from an instinctual standpoint--is to fight. This poses a serious threat to children.

There are easy steps that can be take to confine a dog rather than tether him, namely he can be fenced in or housed indoors while the owners are at work.

The county has set up a committee that will review anti-tethering laws and make a recommendation to the BOCC. I'd like to hear from you all during this process. Please email your opinion on this matter to me at mikenelsonnc@aol.com.