"Castles for Canines" Remedy Plight of Outdoor Dogs
By Michelle Rivera -
"Dog people" fall into a number of different categories.
There are those who become dependent upon their dogs for love,
companionship and affection; speaking about them as if they were
children, carrying photos in their wallets and inviting, no insisting,
that they sleep in the bed with them.
There is another category of dog people who admire dogs
for their great beauty, their intelligence, their "conformation" to the
ideals of specific breeds. They are the ones who take their dogs to dog
shows and get points and trophies, always chasing the dream of the
perfect specimen of Rottweiler, German Shepherd Dog or Poodle. They love
their dogs very much but in a different way and for different reasons.
(I am not excusing or condoning this behavior, just stating a fact.)
The third category is those who take in stray dogs and
care little for their aesthetics, colors, coat or pedigree. As long as
the dog is friendly, needy and fits in well with the family, their
attitude is "What the heck? What's one more dog!" These people are
frequently the ones with the three-legged mongrel that came limping into
their lives one day. They are also saints and heroes!
As animal activists, most of us fall into the first and
third category. But there is another category, a very disturbing one,
that those who all of the people in the above categories combined will
never, ever understand no matter how often they hear the arguments, the
rationalization and the excuses. These are the people who acquire a dog
for a variety of reasons, most of them centering around home security,
and force them to live outside without the benefit of human interaction
and friendship. Those in the first three categories cannot understand
how someone who has a dog would not want to be in his or her delightful
company twenty-four hours a day, but for some reason, having a dog means
having a dog in the yard.
And if we thought long and hard, we could never think of
a harsher punishment to mete out to dogs than to banish them to the out
of doors, to be chained, fenced or caged in full exposure to the
elements but not the human touch. Dogs are pack animals and the
modern-day family is their substitute pack.
People send their dogs outside for a variety of reasons.
Some people get puppies at shelters or (God forbid) pet stores and then
fail to teach them basic manners and obedience. Then, the dogs grow up
without any knowledge of how to act around people and are banished to
the outdoors, or worse, given up to shelters where nobody wants a
frenetic adult dog and they are usually put to sleep. Others make their
dogs live outside under a false sense of providing security for their
homes. These folks fail to understand that even the most mild mannered
of canine will give his or her life to defend his home, his pack, his
"den" if threatened. But making a dog live outside does not make them
feel like part of the pack and they are more likely to run away in the
face of danger than stand and fight.
Forcing a dog to live outside in the hot summer sun,
subjected to insects, cruel children who throw things at them and
possible theft is an unkind way to treat an animal, but if the dog must
live outside, there are some guidelines to make his or her life just a
So what can the Active Activist do about this?
www.DogsDeserveBetter.com is a great way
to get started. You can ask for fliers that can then be distributed to
those who you find chaining dogs outside. You can also learn about how
to initiate a process to create legislation in your hometown to put a
stop to the barbaric practice of banishing dogs to the outdoors.
Or you can do what one Florida animal-welfare group has
done, initiate a terrific new program to provide dog houses for people
who have dogs living outdoors. Along with a few volunteers to assemble
and deliver the dog houses, you can initiate a "Castles for Canines"
project in your own community. This is a terrific way to enhance the
lives of the dogs who are living outside and unable to get out of the
elements. With donated supplies (check Home Depot or ask your local
paper if they will run a free ad) you may actually be able to provide
these dog houses free of charge to anyone who asks for them for their
sterilized dog. (Hook up with a vet or rescue group so you can be ready
to provide the sterilization to anyone who expresses a willingness to
participate.) The dog houses are two-story luxury models, with a ramp
and sun deck and a roomy inside place to hide from the sun and rain.
Or check out the latest copy of Animal People for an ad
for dog houses constructed simply of bales of hay and plywood. Simple,
cheap and transportable.
Counsel those with outdoor dogs to at least provide a
companion for him or her. Dogs are pack animals and need company and
socialization to be well adjusted. Encourage them to get their dog a
friend from the shelter.
And fight for legislation to prohibit the chaining of a
dog to a tree or post. Dogs should have free run of a fenced-in yard.
Dogs who are chained up run the risk of becoming aggressive, fearful and
psychologically unsound. They can't run away from danger.
Also, educate dog owners about the dangers of
heartworms. Heartworms are a debilitating, fatal disease that is easily
prevented by giving a once-a-month preventative such as Heartquard.
(Heartworms come from a mosquito bite.) Dogs must have heartworm
protection, flea protection and a tag and/or microchip so that if s/he
gets under or over the fence and out of your control s/he can find his
or her way home. Fleas and ticks cause horrendous itching, rash and even
And finally, counsel those with dogs of a long-haired or
long-ear variety to please keep them clipped and groomed. Ear infections
are excruciatingly painful but prevalent in long-eared dogs, especially
those subjected to moisture and heat, as outdoor dogs are.
Check your local statutes to see if there are laws being
broken by those who don't comply with rules for keeping animals healthy.
I was able to bring charges against a dog owner whose cocker spaniel
developed such matting and ear infections that he had to be put down due
to the parasites that had inhabited his skin and ears. The "owner" was
charged with a felony for failure to render veterinary care.
The best solution is to find a reasonable obedience
trainer who is willing to help indigent people for a reduced fee so that
dogs can be brought inside where they belong. Dogs and people both
deserve the friendship a family dog can provide.
Assemble these points and ideas into an article for your
local paper. Your local newspaper may have a special "Pets Section" as
does mine, that solicits articles about animals, see if your paper has
such a section and get to know the editor. Chances are, they are looking
for someone knowledgeable and dependable to write a few articles
throughout the year.
If we don't speak up for chained dogs, who will?
Go on to Freedom
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