Op-ed: Hampton Roads, don't leave dogs out in the cold

Written by AltDaily on .

Chaining dogs "out of sight, out of mind" in the backyard is a recipe for neglect, and the frigid winter months are especially miserable for dogs whose entire world consists of a chain and a patch of dirt

The tiny dog named President Obama was languishing on a tangled chain in a trash-strewn Emporia backyard when a PETA staffer found him.

He was barely surviving on nothing but table scraps and didn't have clean water to drink or a real doghouse to curl up in—let alone the exercise or attention that he desperately craved.

President Obama before. (pic | PETA) President Obama before. (pic | PETA)

For two years, PETA's staffer visited him and offered to find him a new home, but the dog's owners refused every time. It's legal to chain dogs 24/7 in Emporia, so there was nothing that PETA could do, except continue to check on President Obama and stuff his doghouse with warm straw, take him tasty treats and toys and shower him with much-needed love.

Finally, PETA's persistence paid off: A snowstorm was approaching, and a PETA fieldworker found President Obama wet and shivering. His owner agreed to surrender him. Our staffer scooped him up and placed him in our warm van, where he quickly dozed off. PETA found him an excellent home, and now President Obama spends his days lounging on the couch with an adoring family and an adopted canine "sister."

President Obama will never shiver through another wet, cold, lonely night. But many other dogs aren't as lucky. In December, a PETA fieldworker found two malnourished dogs chained in a Newport News backyard with no access to food or water. Just a few feet away lay the body of a third dog who had starved to death. Earlier this month, two other PETA staffers found a sweet pit bull named Blue locked in a urine-filled crate, hidden in a backyard, without food or water and with only his dead sister for company. Blue's sister had tried to stay alive by eating straw—the only thing found in her stomach during a postmortem exam.

Dogs such as President Obama, Blue and Blue's sister are the reason why Newport News, Suffolk, Chesapeake and every city in the Hampton Roads region must follow the lead of Hampton, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and the dozens of other jurisdictions in the U.S. that have restricted or banned chaining altogether.

Poor pup. (pic | Humane Society) Poor pup. (pic | Humane Society)

Chaining dogs "out of sight, out of mind" in the backyard is a recipe for neglect, and the frigid winter months are especially miserable for dogs whose entire world consists of a chain and a patch of dirt. Dogs aren't equipped to survive the elements—especially short-haired, small, newborn, juvenile and elderly dogs. Many dogs who are left outdoors endure frostbitten ears, toes and tails or fall victim to hypothermia. Their nights are spent shivering and trying to curl up into the smallest possible ball in an attempt to keep warm.

If their owners don't increase their food rations, dogs who are left outdoors may be constantly hungry or even starve to death, because trying to keep warm burns extra calories. If their water buckets freeze, they can die of dehydration, even in the middle of winter.

PETA's Community Animal Project fieldworkers do everything that they can to make life a little less miserable for these forgotten dogs. They drive to the poorest neighborhoods every day to deliver warm, dry, custom-built doghouses to dogs who previously had only an overturned barrel, a plywood lean-to—or nothing at all—to huddle under during snowstorms and driving rain. They take cozy straw to dogs who have no bedding at all or only some old blankets or rugs, which freeze when they get wet. They take toys, treats, nutritious food and fresh water, along with kind words, scratches behind the ears and a few precious moments of play to dogs who are aching for attention and something to do besides watch the snow pile up.

These things are no substitute for the loving home that every dog deserves, but until chaining is banned, it's all that we can do for these lonely, neglected and forgotten souls. It's time for all of Hampton Roads to break the chains of suffering by banning the cruel practice of tethering dogs.

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