The Emotional Distress to Humans Who are Forced to Watch a Dog Chained in the Cold

Gideon was rescued last winter by an Ohio humane society, and transferred to DDB
Gideon was rescued last winter by an Ohio humane society, and transferred to DDB

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.

Some choice.

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:

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.

'Worthless' (their name for him, not mine) on his chain in 2002
‘Worthless’ (their name for him, not mine) on his chain in 2002

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.

I took action after I formed Dogs Deserve Better, and rescued Worthless from his chain.
I took action after I formed Dogs Deserve Better, and rescued Worthless from his chain.

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 picked this dog up who couldn't stand, took him to the vet, and refused to return him to the owners who left him lay like that for three days. I was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. I didn't care. He was worth it.
I picked this dog up in 2006, took him to the vet, and refused to return him to the owners who left him to die like that. I was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. I didn’t care. He was worth it.

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.

Ezekiel was a dog who was shot in the head and outside a church in the frigid cold. We rescued him just as the shooter was returning to finish the job! Ezekiel got a wonderful home and family because we didn't give up on him.
Ezekiel was a dog who was shot in the head and taking refuge outside a church in the frigid cold. We rescued him just as the shooter was returning to finish the job! Ezekiel got a wonderful home and family because we didn’t give up on him.

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.

68 thoughts on “The Emotional Distress to Humans Who are Forced to Watch a Dog Chained in the Cold”

  1. Please help the poor sweet babies that are chained outside my dog only goes out to use the bathroom and then he comes back in if its to cold for me it’s to cold for him


  2. I would go to jail I cannot and will not let a helpless animal of God freeze are die I would rather be chained and bring the sweet angel in. I adore all of God’s creatures and I should not but condemn Tues barbaric people with no hearts..


  3. Tonight it’s going to be below zero and my heart is so heavy with sadness knowing there are days and cats out freezing not being able to find comfort I pray to you dear lord save these creatures tonight let them one day feel the warmth and. Comfort of a home


  4. There is a mobile home that I pass on a daily basis that has many poor dogs chained up. I have noticed several of them losing weight. I called our local pound to see what could be done. He said for me to send in a formal complaint and pictures of the animals and the conditions they are in. So I did, nothing has been done as of today. I have taken food by for the animals. However now the people have no trespassing signs up. I don’t know where to turn now. I really can’t rescue these dogs because I have already rescued 3. And to properly care for animals, you know it’s just like having a child. Any help on where to turn for help.


  5. What happened to “worthless” – the name itself is heartbreaking- why won’t they surrender him if they think he’s worthless! Makes me so mad!


      1. Thank you for sharing. I had a neighbor keeping their dogs outside, even in freezing weather I spent almost a year worrying about those dogs. Finally, they sold one (after their landlord learned that they had it) and started bringing the other inside (for now). There were many sleepless nights with those conflicted feelings. With as many calls that they authorities answered, I was super surprised nothing happened. The neighbors told me I needed to learn to live with the barking at all times of night. I was glad to see this post explaining how it not only abuses the animal but those who witness it and care but are now in a difficult situation because of it.


  6. I am so glad I came across this, Tamira. I was distressed about the way my neighbors were treating their dogs. The dogs were often outside in hot temperature in a cramped cage with no water dish available at all times and concrete floor. When it became cold, they were often outside for long periods of time barking for human attention. I would get so upset seeing all of this. I have two dogs and I am sensitive to their needs. One day I went to talk to the neighbors. I said that it breaks my heart how they are out there for long periods of time when they want to be with the people. The woman said , “Okay, I will take better care of them.” The next time I saw the husband I told him the dogs really enjoyed his presence – he was out in they yard whistling in a fun way to the dogs as he was doing some yard work. I said dogs like to be around people, not left out all day outside by themselves. I said I didn’t mind their barking, but that they were barking because they were lonely. The man told me that I should not be telling him how to treat his dogs and that he knew how to. Soon the wife came out and she said that I she did not have the time I have to take care of the dogs. She does not work . I am a professional. She also said that I should mind my own business and that my yard was worse because I had snakes. My reply to her was that snakes are friends of the garden. She continued to be defensive. I told her that my intention was not to create enemies and that I only spoke because I loved her dogs. She now avoids me. I hope the dogs will not be out in the heat for too long in a tight cage with no water for a long time come this summer.


  7. Tamira, God bless you for the countless, forgotten dogs that you have saved. I love my 2 dogs so much. They are truly part of our family and we treat them as such. I would rather go to jail and pay the legal fees than watch any animal suffer.


  8. Bless you for the work you do. I know it’s in your nature to care passionately about these dogs, but do try and sleep well knowing how much good you have done and what a wonderful, marvelous advocate you are for their welfare.


  9. Tonight the wind chill factor is 2 degrees and I am joyful because the tethered dog at the house behind mine was rescued today and is in a foster home. I vowed to myself I would do whatever I could to help him. In the end all I needed to do was to ask one person for help. She shared his condition with her friends on Facebook and people all over the city offered help. Thank you, Lori Overton

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Now I myself would love to help animals but be honest people nobody just goes and rescue a dog…I myself wish I would have the guts to do it but I always have this in my mind….What will the owner do if he finds out its me, will I go to jail, be sued and so on…Now I don’t have the money for that so if u r one to say that u would do anything for the dogs then I want to see it. The people who also say this probably see dogs on chains and they themselves do nothing. Also I plan on opening a rescue place for dogs in the future but again I need money. HS is full of crap and wont help as long as theirs food, water and a place to get away from the wind, snow storms etc…Police don’t have time for that so really my question is what can we do to help animals without the chance of going to prison, get sued and so on cause I don’t want any of that stuff to happen to me. I know I sound all mean and selfish but deep down that’s all in r minds and if not congrats because not every body has the guts to do it and go to your neighbors yard and steal his dog while he was gone! I plan on helping in another way that wont get me in prison and things like that. Now please don’t start bashing me as if I could I would help all the animals in the world but I want to do it in the right way and legally. I could go on and on but once you go deeper in those kinds of things you can see everything that is going on and you won’t believe it and its really sad.


  11. My heart is breaking …breaking….it’s too difficult to know even without seeing what happens to these beautiful pets…’s totally beyond my understanding as to why people let this happen. ….but with all my heart I’m grateful and ever thankful for the ones who are caring enough to rescue them. …to even place themselves on the cross that the pets have to bear….if they have to…I order to saved them from their death…..God bless them who does…..each and everyone…♡♡♡♡♡




  13. I have begged, fought, and yelled at my son for keeping his dog chained all the time. He certainly was never raised like that seeing all of my dogs treated like nothing less than babies. He finally brought him in or truthfully, I would have turned him in to the law. He has a chair and a heater in the garage but in the temps we have been having that heater would have not kept him warm. I would love to see this dog in a loving home to see out the rest of his years. I have been checking into Senior rescues and other sites in IL. I can’t take him because he will not leave my dog alone and causes him a lot of stress. I have felt sorry for this poor little guy since they brought him home. He has never been truly loved like a pet should except for a short stint he stayed with me. After 3 days of nearly pulling my hair out, he became a little gentleman. Why? Because he found what he’s always wanted….love and attention. That’s not much to ask for is it?


  14. I am a carnivore level animal advocate. I’m so in support of what others do to make a difference…..and would like to commit to this cause by realistically committing to ESTABLISHING what I can DO….CONSITENTLY.


  15. Thanks 4 all the wonderful work u r doing 4 these dogs. Stay strong and God bless u. As a matter of fact, I live in Chicago and we r in a very severe cold snap. Wind chills at 35 below in the daytime!!! Whenever this happens in the winter, all I can think about r all the cats and dogs who r outside, freezing 2 death. I am so depressed over this. I wish I could drive around and find them all and rescue them.


  16. Our back yard neighbors have their dog tied out always it has been twenty two fourty.below windchills lately.He has a dog house but it is not enough!! I let my dog out to go potty and that poor dog looks at me like please bring me in!! I have talked to the owners and I get he’s fine he has a warm house not a house dog!! Makes me sick!!!


    1. Laurie have you called animal control? If the officer is a decent person he might go check and maybe that would scare them for one night? By law he should have a solid dog house with a real roof and straw, water, food, of course these freeze! I’ve been you… I’m sorry, it’s sucks.


  17. Your story was so very true. Doing what’s right or committing a crime? I opt to do what is right and will suffer the legal consequences after. Anyone would be hard pressed to convict when an animal’s welfare has been jeopardized.


  18. A few weeks I got up the nerve to ask my neighbors if my daughter and I could walk their continuously chained dog. I put a letter in their door telling them that their dog was desperate for exercise and someone to play with. I included a DDB pamphlet. To my relief, they said, “Yes”. Since then, we have been walking the pit bull/lab mix along with our own dogs, five to six days a week.

    It was very uncomfortable for me to approach my neighbors in this way. However, I felt that I could no longer live with myself if I did not at least try to help that animal.

    When I got your post, the day before yesterday, I was very touched by your eloquent, heartfelt message. It was forecast to get down to seven below zero that night. Tamira, inspired by you, I went over to my neighbors’ house and asked if their dog could spend the night in our home. They said, “Yes”. It wasn’t easy having D. as a houseguest. He was extremely excited and had no house training. No one in our household slept too well that night, but it was worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Lorie, you totally rock! I know it’s so hard and uncomfortable, and you did it! You’re amazing. Yes, the first week with a chained dog, especially a male, is very difficult until you get them housetrained. I’m sure no one slept great, but so grateful that you gave him that gift. Keep working the situation…you may end up with that dog rescued yet!


  19. Tamira I could really use some advice. We are living in Guam as my husband is in the Navy. There are so many chained dogs here that stay out in the blistering heat of day. As far as I can tell, as long as dogs have shelter/shade this is deemed appropriate by local dog rescue and police. Guam only recently outlawed dog fights about 6 years ago. There are so many people living here that see dogs as hunters nothing else. When dogs are rescued and taken to the shelter, their chances of survival are not great especially if they have any health conditions. My family wants to do something: fundraise, educate, etc. I’ve heard a few stories of neighbors retaliating against neighbors who have tried to reason with them about their chained dogs. I am so hopeful after coming across your website. I think you are doing amazing work. Thank you!


    1. Hi, Becky. We used to have a rep in Guam who I believe was a military spouse. She sent me the most unbelievable photo of a dog on a chain there! I don’t see a way I can attach it, but if you e-mail me I will send it to you. I still think it’s fake when I see it. We still have a guam facebook page that I post our campaigns to, but no one actively working for the dogs there. If you’re interested, drop me an e-mail at Maybe you could admin the fb page and even post photos of local chained dogs and try to get some action there.


  20. I hope that some day all of these babies will be safe I thank you so much for the help you are providing… I wish to god I could save every single one of them it really stresses me out to see this on face book every day I see another animal chained out in the cold. These are posted every day, this has to stop the sad part is there is so many of these poor animals in many states, I have called several of them and begged them to go and get the animal, If I ever see this in my community or neighbor hood I will go and get that dog- thanks again we need to keep on it.


  21. Im sorry but there is a difference in abuse and keeping a dog safe. Some dogs have Jobs Hunting dogs who love the cold weather by the way will jump in freezing cold water to retrieve a bird for his master just to hear good dog. My Coon hound will run thru the creek at night looking for a coon at 20 to 0 degrees and love to go run. If they are fed right and have a good insulated dog house where they can stay dry and warm how is that abuse or neglect? I have tried to bring my coon hound in the house at night he hate it and barks wanting to go outside. Its to warm for him. He is not on a chain but in a pen loved not neglected fed the best food is loose in the yard with me all day but at night he will run and hunt must be put up some how. My grand dog is a Malamute and loves the cold also what about those breeds who are made to take the cold? Its not always abuse some dogs have JOBS like barking to keep people from stealing stuff or keep other animals from killing livestock . If they are fed and have a nice insulated dog house get fresh water everyday how is that abuse ??? There is always more than one side to a story.


    1. I disagree wholeheartedly. The only reason you THINK your dog wants to go back outside is because he’s afraid of something he’s never seen before. Every single dog, and I mean over 300 dogs, that I’ve pulled out of chains and pens and fostered quickly grew to love the home, aka in their minds, the den. yes, this includes cold weather breeds AND all kinds of hounds. What is a safer way to keep a dog than in the home with you? What is a better watchdog than a dog who is barking from INSIDE your home? What intruder will come in and risk being bitten. IF your dog is chained or penned outside, anyone can walk right past him/her and go right into your home. Dogs DO love to have jobs, and they can have jobs while having the respect of living inside the home with you. There is not more than one side to this story, no matter how much you want me to think there is. I challenge you to fence your yard and install a doggie door. You’ll quickly see how the dog would prefer to be with you over everything else, and that means whether you are inside or out, the dog wants to be with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Some folks a few streets down kept their dog out back, up on a small hill, outside all the time! I started calling the animal control officer. Lucky for us, ours is a good man. He went over (again and again) to their house and did the best he could. The dog got a nicer house, hay, water, etc… But I put the animal officer’s telephone number into my cell phone and everyday I rode by that house and everyday I called animal control–I would say it’s 2 degrees out and that dog is outside. Eventually they gave in and took him inside at night only. It kept me awake nights, and I found out it was keeping their neighbors awake too with worry because the dog would cry. Can you imagine the owners listened to those cries and did nothing. That was a few years ago, I’m still stressed from it, I can’t handle seeing animals suffer. The Animal Control officer speaks to me now as if I’m an old friend. He says that I don’t even want to know what goes on around here. I do want to know and I tell him, if you ever need a hand taking care 😉 of something let me know. Recently he told me his German Shepard passed away and that she was a dog he was suppose to take to the pound, but never did.


  23. The owners should be chained up out side when its below zero.They can fell how cold it is and how there dogs are feelings.No one should have pets if that going to happen.The saying is treat people as you would want to be treated.Well my saying is treat dogs or any animal the way you wanted to be treated.


  24. Does not the law get involved I don’t understand that. Where r u located I would like to be apart of what you do and help out.


    1. Most of the time the police and AC are on the side of the abuser. I don’t know why. Sometimes they are on top of it, but most of the time not. A big part of the reason is that to many folks, the animal control officer is just a job, and they seek to ‘Control’ the animals and not ‘help’ the animals.


  25. Carry bolt cutters, cut chains in the cold and breaks windows when dogs are left in hot cars. It’s sad that the people that try to help these animals are arrested and not the ones putting the animal’s life in danger.


  26. Hi, I live in the UK and am appalled that this could happen anywhere in the world, none of these animals asked to be domesticated and so we have a responsibility to these animals to look after them.
    I’m afraid I couldn’t be as patient as some others and would probably just take the dog and chain the so called caretaker outside.


  27. We live in a small town in Oklahoma, and have watched our neighbor keep two big dogs chained up in their tiny backyard for several years, no dog house, no poop is scooped, a smelly, ugly living environment for two sweet animals, and they are never walked or out of the yard. After listening to the pitiful wails from the dogs on rainy, cold nights, we bought two large doghouses with pads for them and gave them to our neightbors for the dogs. We don’t talk to these people much, but they did say that the dogs were like family to them…really???? You’d leave your family out in the cold and rain to suffer and sleep in their own poop??? Really, people??!! They now enjoy the warmth and dryness of the dog houses, but we are now calling the ASPCA and other orgs to see what can be done since one of them looks very ill and dying. I struggle with people that can be this heartless. This family also has two children that never interact with the dogs. It’s sad. I agree it’s probably a behavior that is passed down from family to family. Say a prayer for these dogs in hopes that they are rescued!


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