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One of the saddest sights is of a dog, tethered to a heavy chain outside, shivering in the cold. This is not an uncommon occurrence and it’s a wonder why people have the dogs in the first place. These unloved beings are commonly referred to as backyard dogs. Often, they can go long periods without food, water, veterinary care, and adequate shelter.  

What Life is Like for These Dogs 

Many of these dogs are chained up all day and don’t ever get any exercise or experience any companionship. They can get frostbite or hypothermia in the winter and heatstroke in the summer. They can also get tangled in their chain, get bitten by a variety of insects, and experience extreme psychological stress. 

If they do happen to meet another dog or human, they may lack the confidence in interacting with them and become territorial. When they’re by themselves, they may develop repetitive and destructive behaviors. 

Dr. Pam Reid, who’s an animal behaviorist, understands the importance of taking dogs on walks and experiencing new things. 

“Most dogs enjoy seeing different things, smelling new smells, feeling novel substrates under their feet and hearing unfamiliar sounds.” 

It seems like such an obvious thing to say, but many still don’t seem to understand the importance of these fundamental needs.

Here’s a few recent examples of backyard dogs–or dogs being chained up–from the news:

In January, 38 dogs were rescued from a property in Texas. They were crammed into chain-link kennels, there was corrugated metal jutting into their cages, and their water was frozen over. The property owner told a constable that they were trying to create a rescue situation, but it had clearly gotten out of hand.

A dog died last month in Perth, Australia, after being left outside in the extreme heat without water or shade.

And in Detroit, in frigid temperatures, a dog was found abandoned and tied to a light pole.

What Has Been Done to Help Them

PETA is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. In this part of the country, backyard dogs are abundant and PETA has volunteers and staff that will deliver bedding and doghouses to them free of charge. They also try and speak with the “caretakers” of the dogs to see if they will let them inside. Of course, they aren’t always successful with that and can only check in from time to time, delivering more straw for insulation and hoping to set a good example.

In 2020, a new law went into effect in Virginia that would prohibit leaving dogs outside in below freezing or high heat temperatures, without adequate shelter. This would also apply to other severe weather conditions. 

Animals depend on us for everything from food, water, and shelter to keeping them safe and happy—and the law now recognizes that that includes not leaving them to shiver in the cold,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s Senior Vice President. 

Another recent law went into effect in Texas called the “Safe Outdoor Dogs Act.” The legislation came about after several dogs were “found frozen to death.”

The law mandates a proper shelter be accessible, a prohibition on chain restraints, and eliminating the 24-hour waiting period before law enforcement can respond to distress calls. Of course, the animals can still experience the detrimental effects of weather even if they have access to a shelter, so it’s far from perfect.  

A new bill in Oklahoma was also recently proposed, which would prohibit “tethering dogs in certain circumstances.”

What You Can do to Help 

If you’re a teacher or work with kids, you can order this fundraising pack for your students. There’s also a variety of teaching materials here.

Another way you can help is to sponsor a doghouse by giving a donation to PETA here.

If you know of a dog who’s being left outside and is showing signs of illness, is severely malnourished, or doesn’t have access to shelter, document your findings and contact your local animal control or the police. It may also be a good idea to ask the “owners” if they would be ok with you walking their dog. Finally, contact your representatives and ask them to ban tethering and keeping dogs outside in severe weather conditions. 

Please never keep a backyard dog yourself. Like all beings, dogs require companionship and stimulation. They are also completely subject to the elements outside, whether it’s getting bitten by bugs or experiencing bad weather conditions. Dogs aren’t just another accessory to be used when it’s convenient, but rather sentient beings who deserve our respect.

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