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1 December 2002 Issue

Dogs Deserve Better
By Michelle A. Rivera - MichelleRivera1@aol.com and
Tammy Grimes - Tammy@DogsDeserveBetter.com 

I recently received an e-mail from my sister-in-law Marion who forwarded another e-mail from our cousin. I have a definite policy not to open forwards and Marion knows this. So when I saw it was from her, I figured it had to be something really important. I was not disappointed. The e-mail contained a short introduction about a new effort to help dogs through legislation. Working to enact legislation to make lives better for animals is an important form of activism because with the laws come empowerment to help the animals in our own communities. I visited the website and then wrote to the founder of the site and asked her to write an article about her mission for Animal Writes readers because I knew they would not only want to welcome her and wish her much luck, but also learn about what they can do to start the huge machine that is bureaucracy chugging out laws to prohibit the chaining of dogs in communities across the U.S. As a cruelty officer certified in the State of Florida, one of the most common complaints I received are those involving dogs chained to trees, fences, bumpers of cars and trucks and other concoctions. I truly wonder, as I watch my dog curl up on my bed for the hundredth time in the cool air conditioning in an environment full of stimulation and enrichment, how ANYONE can be so cruel as to chain a dog outside.

Peta (www.helpinganimals.com and click on "Animal Angels") has a wonderful campaign - "Life Sentence, No Parole" where they have posters and fliers about dogs chained outside and some of the laws that are being enacted around the country to outlaw this barbarism. And don't forget our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund (www.aldf.org) for help and assistance in getting through to the lawmakers in your community. One last resource is the Humane Activist Network, (www.hsus.org), a great source of help when it comes to initiating letter-writing campaigns and speaking before your legislators.

Here is why Tammy thinks Dogs Deserve Better:

Dogs Deserve Better, Inc. is a newly-formed nonprofit dedicated to being the voice for all dogs living chained outside. Dogs Deserve Better was formed to address what I feel is an extreme need to raise awareness of this issue, both in my area and across the country. Dogs are loving, pack-oriented creatures. They want nothing more than the love of a family and to feel a member of this family whenever possible. When they live chained outside, not only do they not have this love and familial bond, their quality of life is, in essence, nonexistent. They spend every minute of every day within a tiny, confined space, dragging a chain with every step. Many dogs in this position become quite territorial and may bite or become overly aggressive due to the restricted circumstances and the accompanying feelings of sadness, anger, and boredom. This is the life of a prisoner, not a valued companion.

Would you for one minute exchange places with these dogs? Living chained by the neck is not an option that any human would choose, and Dogs Deserve Better feels we need to make better choices for our best friends. We as a society have evolved, our standard of treatment for these dogs must evolve as well!

Montgomery County, Maryland has recently enacted laws prohibiting chaining of dogs outside between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am, and even those kept outside during the day must be tethered by a harness rather than chained by the neck. This is a wonderful step in the right direction, and I hope to continue that kind of reform in my area and across the country. Because of this success, I've often been asked, "Why don't you broaden your platform, what about all the other dog issues that abound?" There are many groups focusing on larger issues of animal abuse. These groups absolutely agree that dogs should not be living a chained existence. However, it is for them one issue of many.

They must focus on the other immediate animal issues, such as saving dogs that are abused, finding homes for abandoned dogs, and providing medical care for those in need, that the dogs-living-chained-outside issue falls to the back burner. In fact, it falls so far back that it often isn't even addressed. Yes, the platform is much broader than dogs living chained outside. These issues run really deep, and chaining dogs is only one symptom of a huge societal problem. But unless someone focuses on this, it will continue to fall to the back burner and dogs will continue to live chained outside for a lifetime, 10-20 years living as prisoners who've committed no crimes, because the caretakers are not prohibited from participating in this particularly heinous form of mental and emotional abuse. In most case the chaining of a dog constitutes a "manner of keeping violation" at best. Violators can expect a $25 fine or so. But this is neglect, pure and simple. This issue should be in the public's awareness time and again until people sit up and take notice. And I don't want to cloud it up with the other million and 1/2 problems that are wrong with society's view of dogs as pets, or any companion animal for that matter. People need to know that when they get a dog chaining him or her outside is not an option. We must educate, educate, educate!

I recently tabled at a community event. Some people came up to my booth practically in tears, thanking me for taking this stand. And for me that's confirmation enough that this mission I'm working is worthwhile. My main focus will stay on those forgotten dogs, those who supposedly have a home, and food, and are not in immediate crisis of death. But death of the soul is still death to me. No Chains!

If you would like to learn how Tammy succeeded in getting laws passed in her area or get copies to show your own commissioners, please contact Tammy S. Grimes Founder, Dogs Deserve Better, at tammy@dogsdeservebetter.com, or visit her site at www.dogsdeservebetter.com, or call her at 877.636.1408.

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