The Backyard Dog
By Ellen Kilgannon, Director, P.A.W.S. Animal Shelter
You see them in every community, dogs tied day after day to a metal stake, lying lonely on a pad of bare, packed dirt. The terms “tethered” and “chained” is the practice of fastening a dog to a stationary object or stake, usually in the owner's backyard, as a means of keeping the animal under control for indefinite periods of time.
Dogs are instinctually pack animals. Forcing a dog to live away from its human goes against the dog's most basic instinct. If you doubt this, think of all the whining, barking, pacing dogs you have seen tethered alone outside. Abandoned and chained up, backyard dogs cannot move around for comfort, shelter, or companionship. Most often their water and food bowls are turned over and empty. They are desperate for attention. Imagine you yourself being physically restrained in a small space without contact 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We humans call that “prison”. It’s the same for a dog.
Why is chaining or tying up dogs inhumane?
Dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction with humans and other animals. A dog kept chained in one spot for hours, days, months or years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive. In the end, the helpless dog can only suffer the frustration of watching the world go by in isolation—a cruel fate for what is by nature a highly social animal.
Are the areas in which tethered dogs are confined usually comfortable?
No, because the dogs have to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in a single confined area. Although there may have once been grass in an area of confinement, it is usually so beaten down by the dog's pacing that the ground consists of nothing but dirt or mud.
Do chained dogs make good guard dogs?
No. Chaining creates aggression, not protectiveness. A protective dog is used to being around people and can sense when his family or territory is being threatened. A chained dog is protective of himself and the area he is confined to. He has no reason to be protective of anything outside of what he is familiar with. Leaving a dog on a chain and ignoring him is how to raise a dangerous dog. Aggressive dogs can't distinguish between a threat and a family friend, because they are not used to people. He will attack anyone: children who wander into the yard, a friend or a neighbor. A chained up dog thrown a big tasty bone will quickly forget about the unwanted person making his way into your home. Statistics show that one of the best deterrents to intruders is an inside dog. Intruders will think twice about entering a home with a dog on the other side of the door.
What about attaching a dog's leash to a "pulley run"?
Attaching a dog's leash to a long line—such as a cable or a manufactured device known as a pulley run and letting the animal have a larger area in which to explore is preferable to tethering the dog to a stationary object. However, most of the same problems associated with tethering still apply, including attacks on or by other animals, lack of socialization, and safety.
While tethering is not illegal in many states, there are things you can do to help make the situation better for a dog that is constantly tethered in the back yard without much human interaction. Go to www.chainfreeasheville.org/are-you-worried-about-neighbors-dog. This site will give you ideas on how you can help the dog and talk with your neighbor. If you think the owner’s have moved away or gone on vacation and there is no animal control officer to call, you should contact your police or sheriff’s department. Law enforcement officials are required to investigate a situation if the dog’s guardian is breaking the state’s animal cruelty law. In most communities, it is considered cruel to leave a dog without food, water and shelter; or to keep a dog undernourished. Even if your county or town’s ordinance doesn’t have an animal cruelty section, your state law will have a section that addresses animal cruelty. For North Carolina it is Article 47 – 14-360-c.
If you don’t speak up, they won’t be heard – they are counting on YOU to be their voice.
The importance of I.D. (May 2012)
By Ellen Kilgannon
PAWS Animal Shelter
For those of us who have a voice, I mean literally have a voice in which we can speak; we can pretty easily identify ourselves in social situations, emergencies or when the information is required. Even organizations have an “identity” that can be described by word of mouth or written. For example: “P.A.W.S. is a small not for profit charity that operates the only shelter in Swain County. As a no-kill shelter, we help as many homeless cats and dogs as we can with food, shelter and medical care. We provide our community with adoption services, and financial assistance with our low-cost spay/neuter program.” This, in a nutshell is who we are, where we are and what we do.
But what about your pet? He or she does have an identity and belongs with you. Unfortunately, they don’t have good language skills and can’t speak for themselves. Normally, pets run away from loneliness, to answer urges if they aren’t neutered or spayed, frightened by thunderstorms or fireworks, slipping out when doors, windows or gates are accidentally left open, or if they are in an unfamiliar place. Most likely, your pet will have tried to return home, but it will have failed. In some cases, the dog or cat has been in harm's way. A car or a predator will have gotten to it. Odds are much greater that someone has seen your pet. When they become “lost”, “disappeared”, “run off”, “picked up by a stranger”, or they “always come back (but hasn’t)” the chances of you seeing your furry friend again depends on you.
Does your pet have a collar and I.D. tag?
If you answer yes to this question, you’ve just increased your chances greatly of being reunited with him if you have a tag on your dog with a current phone number and rabies tag. This is true for cats as well, although micro-chipping is a better, safer option for our feline friends. We live in a mobile society. Few places these days are distant from major roads. If a dog is found that has gotten away, it can be in a car and in the next county within less than an hour in almost all instances. In western North Carolina, where tourists abound in the warm months, many pets without I.D. tags are mistaken for homeless and picked up. These well meaning visitors either take your companion to a shelter on their way out of town or take them to their home state to try and find a home for the animal. I want to repeat this because it is very important. If your pet is lost, its first line of protection in getting back to you is a collar with a tag that easily identifies where he belongs. A street address with city and state is nice, because it means a stranger can bring the dog back to you.
Who are you?
“Without an ID tag, a lost pet can sit in the shelter for days, and sometimes weeks while we try to locate its owner,” says Kessa Thomas, shelter operations manager at P.A.W.S. Here are some tips for pet owners that will help reunite them with their lost companions sooner rather than later, or many times, never.
• Make sure your pet wears a collar with a current ID tag & rabies tag. Include a contact name, address and day or evening phone numbers.
• Keep information on your pet’s tags current.
• When moving or traveling, place a temporary tag on your pet with the phone number of
someone who knows how to reach you.
• Remember that even indoor pets need tags. Many strays in shelters are indoor pets that escaped and became lost.
If you are one of the lucky ones who have gotten their lost pet back because she was wearing I.D. tags, please help educate other owners on how best to avoid the sadness that you have experienced while you waited…For more info on how to sensibly search for a lost pet, contact P.A.W.S. Animal Shelter at 828-488-0418 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW BABIES AND PETS
By Ellen Kilgannon
Many people needlessly surrender their pets to animal shelters because a new baby has arrived in the family. Remember, your dog or cat was your first "baby" and is used to being the center of your attention. So it's understandable that she may experience something akin to sibling rivalry when you introduce a new human baby into your household. Yet many families have been successful in introducing their pets to the new baby. Here are some helpful suggestions to prepare your furry friend for the new arrival.
Start preparing before the baby’s coming. Taking precautions, a few minutes of quality time and some extra treats will go a long way with your pet! For example, because your new baby will demand a lot of your time and energy, gradually accustom your pet to spending less time with you. Drastically decreasing attention and frequently scolding, ignoring, or isolating your pet after the baby comes home will likely make your pet feel stressed. If your pet is particularly attached to the mother-to-be, another family member should develop a closer relationship with the animal. That way, the pet can still feel loved and provided for while mom is busy with the baby.
Take your pet to the vet for a checkup a few months before the baby arrives. Worms and parasites such as fleas can be harmful to your baby. If your pet is not fixed, this is also the time to get it done.
Dogs are creatures of habit. It’s best not to make too many sudden changes at once. If you think routines will change with the new baby, start adjusting your dog to new sleeping and play areas if that is necessary. Feeding and walking schedules should slowly be adjusted as well since they may change after the arrival of the baby.
Allow your pet to explore the baby’s sleeping, diaper changing areas, and related items such as baby lotions, powder, and diapers. Apply baby lotion or powder to your hands and allow your dog to sniff the new smell. Dogs rely on their sense of smell, so familiarity with new baby smells will help him recognize the baby as part of the family.
Don’t allow your pet to sleep on the baby’s furniture or play with the baby’s toys. Give him toys that do not resemble baby toys. One of the most important things you can do is expose your pet to small children and watch how she reacts and try to identify any potential problems that can be solved before the baby arrives.
When the baby comes home, another person should hold the baby while you greet your dog. Your dog has missed you and it is important to pay attention to him when you first get home. Greet him happily. Bring your dog a new toy to associate the baby with something positive, then, after he has calmed down; start introducing your baby to the dog.
It is best to leash your dog during the first introduction. Talk to your pet and encourage him to look at and sniff the baby. Do not force a reluctant pet. Allow the pet to explore the new smells at his own pace. Never leave your baby alone with your pet.
Toddlers and young children do not realize they may be hurting or annoying a pet when they pull on ears and tails or try to climb on their pet. Teaching your child at an early age that animals do feel pain just like humans will help them to understand that your family pet is not a toy, but a companion and needs love and care just like they do. For more information on introducing your pet to a new baby, go to: www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_babies.html or call P.A.W.S. at 828-333-4267