By Lindsay-Pollard Post
Since July, at least five Americans, ranging in age from 3 to 90 years old, have been severely injured-and one killed-by a hazard lurking in back yards in nearly every neighborhood in the country: chained dogs.
On July 1, two dogs who had often been chained mauled 90-year-old Staten Island resident Henry Piotrowski in his back yard. His left leg was amputated at the knee and his right leg was broken, and he died after spending weeks in the hospital. On July 2, a 9-year-old Johnson City, Tennessee, girl was hospitalized with ear, face and neck injuries after being mauled by a chained dog. The same day, a dog who was “always on the chain” mauled a 3-year-old New York City boy. One week later, a 3-year-old Gulfport, Mississippi, girl required 32 stitches on her face after being attacked by a dog who was chained at her next-door neighbor’s home. On July 22, 3-year-old Tony Evans Jr. of Jackson, Mississippi, died after being mauled by a “guard dog” who was kept chained at a neighbor’s house.
It’s no coincidence that in all of these instances, the dogs who attacked were routinely kept chained. Not only is chaining dogs cruel, it also can turn even a friendly dog into a ticking time bomb. Chained dogs are nearly three times as likely to attack as dogs who are not tethered, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. Another study found that more than a fourth of fatal dog attacks are by chained dogs. For the sake of dogs and everyone’s safety, we need to ban chaining.
Why do chained dogs snap? Well, wouldn’t you snap if you woke up every day faced with the knowledge that just like yesterday and the day before that and for as long as you could remember, your “to do” list consisted of nothing but sitting (or pacing) on the same tiny patch of dirt where you had to eat, sleep and relieve yourself? Just like us, dogs crave (and need) companionship, the freedom to move around and something interesting to do. Left on a chain in the back yard, dogs get none of these things, and it drives many of them mad.
Dogs are also territorial, and keeping them chained in the same small space only makes them more so. And since dogs are “fight or flight” animals, tethering them leaves them with only one option-fight. To a dog with no way to escape, even a harmless toddler may be perceived as a threat. This tragic scenario has played out dozens of times, most recently when little Tony Evans Jr. wandered into a neighbor’s yard, where a chained pit bull named Blue Eyes-who by the owner’s admission was not a “pet” and was “always chained”-killed him. Blue Eyes clamped down on Tony’s neck and upper torso before dragging the boy’s dead body into his doghouse. Tony’s devastated mother described him as a curious boy who was fascinated by dogs and cats.
Hidden out of sight in the back yard, chained dogs themselves are also victims. Many go without proper food and water, shelter and veterinary care. They are often tortured, shot, poisoned by cruel passersby, or attacked by other animals, or they freeze to death during cold snaps after being ignored and neglected by their heartless owners for years. On New Year’s Day, two PETA staffers who were delivering straw to chained dogs in Lewiston, North Carolina, found a pit bull named Hugo starved to death, curled up inside his barren doghouse, having tried to keep himself warm with no body fat at all. A necropsy revealed that Hugo’s stomach contained only grass and orange peels. Hugo also had a broken rib and was suffering from heartworm disease and internal parasites.
How many more people will be maimed and killed and how many more dogs will suffer and die before we ban the cruel, dangerous practice of chaining? Officials in California, Texas, Connecticut and the more than 115 local jurisdictions around the country that have restricted or banned chaining report a lower incidence of dog bites and fewer cruelty cases since these laws passed. It’s time to pass lifesaving anti-chaining ordinances in every city, county and state.
Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.HelpingAnimals.com.