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Chained Dogs are Loaded Weapons

August, 2005

Here's a chilling fact from government statistics: Chained dogs kill as many children as do firearms, and more than falls from trees, playground equipment and fireworks accidents put together. Since last July, 52 people, including 33 children, have been attacked by chained dogs or those who have broken their tethers. Four kids, one just 34 days old, were killed in the attacks.

These tragic statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compiled for 2002, the last year for which complete statistics are available, prove what decent people have said all along: It's time to ban the dangerous, cruel practice of chaining dogs, for our children's sake as well as the dogs'.

In May, after a chained dog killed a Spartanburg County, S.C., child (the third such incident in two years in the county), one county official said that he considered a chained dog to be "just like a loaded gun" and suggested that their attacks are inevitable. He's right, and that's because tethering violates dogs' nature.

Dogs are pack and territorial animals, and like us they are "fight or flight" animals. Virtually every chained dog goes mad to some degree in solitary confinement. A chained dog grows more protective of the tiny plot that he or she is left to eat, sleep, defecate and urinate in. Prevented from fleeing by chains sometimes weighing half their body weight, these dogs respond in the only way they can when they believe someone is threatening their territory they attack. When children, who are usually unaware of the danger, wander too close, their lives are in danger.


A close look at the CDC's statistics shows that chaining dogs can transform backyards from a place of fun and relaxation for all family members human and animal into one of gruesome death and frustrated suffering instead. Dogs kept tied up killed 33 percent more children than did falls and fireworks accidents together. As many kids perished at the feet of ignored dogs as did the sum of those who died of bites by scorpions, hornets, wasps, bees, venomous snakes, lizards and spiders.

Forgotten dogs robbed just one less American child of his or her promising life in 2002 than did neglectful parents. Similarly, the hardships endured by neglected children little food and water, inadequate shelter and care, and little or no love and attention are suffered by millions of dogs outside American homes for their entire miserable lives. In many cases, these defenseless beings languish next to one another.

Our society works to keep children safe from many of these dangers. We have laws to protect children from neglectful parents and fireworks. Those who carelessly leave loaded firearms within kids' reach learn their lesson in court. Now we must be equally vigilant about the chaining of dogs. We must urge our municipal or county officials to ban or severely restrict this form of torture.

As a South Roxana, Ill., official said after the village discussed becoming the 70th American jurisdiction to pass such legislation, "This is something that needs to be done for the safety of the public and the animals."

We must commit to keeping dogs inside our homes for their entire 15- 20-year lives or else not acquire them at all. We must diligently work with our neighbors and, if need be, law-enforcement officers to parole already-chained and innocent dogs from their life sentence in shackles.

Dan Paden works for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.HelpingAnimals.com.