It’s that time of year again. It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means it’s time for the annual Dogs Deserve Better valentine campaign. Dogs Deserve Better is a 501c3 non-profit advocacy group devoted to rescuing chained, penned and neglected dogs and advocating to pass anti-tethering animal welfare legislation.
Last year when I shared the valentine campaign on my Facebook page, one of my nieces thought it was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard of. Also during the past year, a cousin reading my blog asked “Rescuing chained dogs? Like, dogs chained in a yard?”
Two years ago, I didn’t know much about this movement, but I’ve spent some time educating myself since then: so let me tell you what I’ve learned.
Dogs are social creatures. In nature, they live in packs with a social hierarchy. When we domesticated dogs and took them into our homes, we essentially became their ‘pack’. As this relationship evolved, we made a pact with them: we will provide food, water and shelter. We will be your “pack” and you will help us hunt and will protect us.
Dogs kept their end of the bargain, and did so much more: they became companions, confidantes, protectors, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, drug sniffers, police dogs, trackers, hunters, and entertainers. They want nothing more than to please us. But at least half of humanity has failed them. Many dogs do not even receive basic vet care. Some cannot rely on their owners for regular feedings. A good many of them are chained outdoors, more often than not without adequate shelter or water. Many of them die on the end of a chain, starved, sick, lonely and forgotten. More die that way than you would care to know. Some of them hang themselves when their chains get caught on trees or fences.
Close your eyes and imagine for a minute what life is like for a dog on a chain. They wear a chain around their neck, sometimes without a collar – sometimes with a collar that is so tight that it becomes embedded in their neck.
Sometimes the chain is so heavy, they can barely move around. Sometimes the chain is so short, they cannot reach food or water or shade and they are forced to stand and lie in their own waste. They are outside in all kinds of weather – rain, snow, blistering sun. Worst of all, they are alone. They may see their people and other people and animals coming and going, but they are tethered to one spot. Alone. Unnoticed. Unable to interact. Aching for a gentle hand or kind word. Remember how I told you they are social animals? Tethering is like solitary confinement – and for what crime? For being a dog.
Chained dogs are not socialized the way they need to be, and they are often fearful and protective of their territory. They defend what they have, even if it’s an empty dish and a four foot circle of dirt. Chained dogs account for most of the dog bites in the US each year, because being unsocialized makes them much more likely to be aggressive. It’s no wonder they resort to barking and digging. They are bored out of their minds.
Chaining a dog is inhumane. Dogs are made to run and play and socialize. Even those who are fed and watered regularly…even those who can crawl out of the weather under the porch or into a flimsy doghouse…even those dogs need love and attention for their basic well being.
All around the country, people are beginning to understand these basic tenets. Laws are beginning to change that limit the amount of time a dog can be tethered, and under what conditions. Cleveland City Council is currently considering an ordinance that would restrict the tethering of dogs in the city to no more than three hours a day, and only under certain conditions. (read more about that here.)
So, back to valentines…
Dogs Deserve Better hopes to send 18,000 valentines to owners of chained, penned and neglected dogs this year. The valentines come from the dogs chained in their yards. They are meant to remind the dog’s caretakers that they are failing. They are not living up to their end of the bargain. The valentines are accompanied by educational brochures about tethering and coupons for food or treats.
DDB needs your help to reach their goal. They need people to make valentines, to tell them the addresses where dogs are chained, and to donate postage. February 5th is the deadline.You can see some samples of valentines from previous years on their website.
Send your valentines and postage to: Dogs Deserve Better – 1915 Moonlight Rd., Smithfield, VA 23430.
Call Cleveland City Council at 216-664-2840 and tell them that you support the anti-tethering ordinance.
Dogs deserve so much better.