A cold spell is sweeping the nation, and I watch sadly as people frantically beg online and to authorities for help for chained dogs left out in frigid temperatures near them; knowing that for most help will not come.
Will these dogs die this time, this winter, today?
Would a more appropriate question be not WILL THEY die but HOW MANY will die this time, this winter, today?
And when these precious and helpless creatures DO die, frozen to the ground on their chains, neighbors who have watched the dog suffer (but were too afraid to take matters into their own hands) will bear the guilt of the dog’s death in addition to their own feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and anger at a system that’s let them down and the dog down.
The choices for a caring neighbor forced to watch a dog try and fail to survive in sub-freezing temperatures will become 1. take the dog, aka PROPERTY OF ANOTHER, into their warm homes or the vet’s office and risk being arrested for it, OR 2. to protect themselves and stand by and watch the dog die at the end of the chain.
The heartless and soulless humans who left these dogs—dogs who depend on them for empathy and kindness—out on that chain in frigid temperatures to die will not suffer a moment’s remorse for their actions. That I can guarantee you.
I become very depressed when a cold spell hits, and I feel immense guilt that I am sleeping all snug in my bed while dogs are dying out there in the freezing temperatures.
I personally feel the weight of each suffering dog on my shoulders and I feel like it’s all my fault that I haven’t succeeded in freeing every chained dog in America during my 12.5 years with Dogs Deserve Better.
This isn’t logical, of course, and I know that there’s no way I could have or should have been expected to personally free millions of dogs on my own. Yet I have a hard time releasing that guilt and just moving forward to the best of my ability.
I wrote a previous blog about how to go about helping chained dogs in the cold from a logistical standpoint, so I won’t go over all that again, but you can read it here: https://ofdogsandchains.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/dog-out-in-the-cold-what-to-do-what-to-do/
Today I want to talk about the emotional distress that caring humans feel when forced to watch a chained dog suffer in the cold.
Let’s face it, there’s something ‘off’ about anyone who puts a dog on a chain and thinks it’s acceptable under the best of conditions. Throughout history, those who oppress others (human and animals alike) have justified their actions and behavior with such ludicrous phrases as “he/she likes it out there. He/she isn’t suffering. He/she is happy.”
This is what we hear daily at Dogs Deserve Better when speaking to caretakers of chained dogs. “He likes it out there. He hates the house.”
One wonders, are these people truly without emotions, or have they just blocked off emotions with regard to the oppressed in order to continue the abuse which—for whatever reason—is convenient and easier for them?
When it comes to dog chaining, I’m constantly asked by our supporters (with confused expressions) “Why do they have a dog at all if they’re just going to chain him/her outside?”
I think, outside of nefarious reasons for chaining dogs such as dogfighting, most people leave dogs on chains because it’s easier for them than bringing them inside to live.
Perhaps their father did it, and without a strong moral compass that tells them not to blindly follow in their father’s footsteps, they just continue the pattern without a thought to the suffering of the animal.
It’s true that living with dogs is akin to living with children. When you come home from the store, there is no guarantee you won’t see garbage strewn across your kitchen floor, or the chewed-up, missing limb from your coffee table.
You co-exist with dog hair, tell visitors to wear their shoes inside to save yourself embarrassment, and clean up poop/pee/vomit at inconvenient and annoying times and places.
But if you’re going to live with a dog, you must accept these conditions in exchange for the benefits of loving and caring for a fur creature that gives back as much as he/she takes.
Or, you can just take the easy way out and toss the dog out on a chain without a thought as to what the dog deserves.
I go up against people who chain their dogs way too often in court, and they will lie through their teeth in order to ‘get you’. Morals are not their strong suit, which is completely obvious given that they keep their ‘Best Friend’ on a chain in the backyard next to the garbage can.
Police and judges almost always (in my case, always) side with the dog abusers. Whether our society has evolved to a police state, or those in positions of power are just set on maintaining status quo and property rights is something that could be the subject of endless debate.
Whatever the case may be, there’s a good chance that if a caring citizen tries to get help for a chained or penned dog from authorities, they will be sorely disappointed.
If animal control or the police actually DO help you and make the owners take the dog inside tonight, great! Wonderful! Call it a day and go eat some pizza. You’ve done well, and the officer is to be commended.
If not, you are left with one heluva dilemma and one heluva load of emotional distress for which there is no end in sight. It’s disheartening, to put it mildly.
How can you possibly crawl into your bed tonight and know that the dog next door is struggling just to survive the night? That each moment through which you blissfully sleep is just one more moment of torture for a being who has done nothing wrong, has committed no crime, and wants nothing more than to be part of a home and family?
This emotional distress caused to caring neighbors is an extension of the abuse caused to the dog by those who chain, by police and animal control who turn a blind eye, and by judges who uphold owner’s rights to abuse both the animals and caring citizens.
Think about this. Say your home was broken into by armed robbers, and you had to watch as they beat your husband or wife, but you were tied to the chair in the kitchen and you couldn’t physically get up to help. You were helpless to do anything but watch as this beating continued, and someone you love was forced to endure pain beyond their ability to bear. It hurt you almost as much to watch it as it hurt him/her to endure the beatings.
Even IF this happened only once in your lifetime, AND you both survived, odds are quite good you’d be dealing with years of post traumatic stress disorder.
Watching a dog, a creature most of us love and feel an innate urge to protect, go through a similar torture every day on a chain for the 10-12 years of his/her lifespan and feeling helpless to do anything about it creates a similar post traumatic stress in neighbors.
The condition goes completely undiagnosed because the caring human is too embarrassed to even talk about the pain in therapy or with those who aren’t out and out dog lovers.
Most neighbors of chained dogs become depressed from watching the suffering of the dog next door; this is a completely NORMAL human reaction to being forced to watch abuse.
I’m spoken to hundreds of people over the years who cry when they describe the condition of their neighbor’s dog to me. They can’t sleep, they can’t eat, and are an emotional wreck from witnessing the abuse day in and day out.
Something must change.
Before I formed Dogs Deserve Better, I helplessly watched Worthless suffer on his chain for six years. I was obsessed with moving—anywhere else—so that I didn’t have to see his sadness and pain every day.
But I knew wherever I ended up there would just be another dog on another chain; moving wouldn’t solve the problem of what was happening to Worthless and every other unfortunate dog like him stuck out on a chain for life.
If you too are suffering from the trauma of watching a dog on a chain, I am truly sorry, both for you and the dog. I know this same pain, and my heart is with you in suffering each and every day.
If you have tried every method of getting help for the dog—to include speaking to the caretakers and asking authorities for help— and nothing has worked, only YOU can decide if you will act in the face of possible harassment by authorities to save the life of the dog in this or another sub-zero cold spell this winter.
Want my advice? I say you only live once (that you know of, anyway) and even IF you get in trouble for removing a dog from a chain in sub-freezing temperatures, it would be the best possible reason to go down; you will always be proud of yourself for taking the courageous stand.
I know, I’ve done it.
In states with Good Samaritan laws as pertaining to animals (the only one that I know of is Ohio, but there may be more…if you know, please enlighten me), the word is if you act to save the life of an animal you won’t be harmed. I’ve never heard of a case using it yet, but I would always get plenty of evidence before acting.
I recommend that IF you are going to act to save the life of a chained dog, PHOTO DOCUMENT, PHOTO DOCUMENT, PHOTO DOCUMENT. Take both photos and video of the distress of the dog and the outdoor temperatures and conditions before removing him/her from the chain, and either taking him/her into your warm home or to the vet, depending on how dire the circumstances are.
If you live in New York state and run into trouble for helping a chained dog in frigid temperatures, Attorney Matt Albert has pledged to represent you FREE. (Regardless, be SURE to take a ton of photos and video, so he has something to work with in court!)
If you live anywhere else and you are faced with a life and death decision with a dog, I pledge to help you raise the money for attorney’s fees if needed when you take the courageous and morally right actions on the dog’s behalf. I will expect you to provide me with photo and/or video evidence of both the temperatures outside and the distress of the dog.
The bottom line is: ensure you get your evidence, and you get GOOD evidence. Evidence makes all the difference; if not in the courtroom, then definitely in the court of public opinion.
In closing, as an ordained interfaith minister, I hold a firm belief that there are man’s laws and there are God’s laws. All too often man’s laws are in direct violation of God’s laws and go against the conscience of a person of strong moral character.
Please. If you live near a chained dog out in the frigid cold, take EVEN ONE BRAVE ACTION today. Gather your courage; go talk to the caretaker.
If he won’t let you take the dog inside and refuses to take the dog inside himself, gather up ten neighbors who agree that enough is enough and go back WITH A PACK OF HUMANS STANDING STRONG AND TOGETHER. There is safety and strength in numbers.
We are stronger together, and we must stand together in order to stop animal abuse.
I’ve found that the best cure for my depression in the winter is to take action on behalf of chained dogs. You’ll find it helps you too.
Thank you for caring about them.
P.S. Here’s our volunteer page link where we have lots of free stuff you can print out to hand out in the neighborhood. http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/volunteer.html