Dog chains cause pain, misery


Many dog owners still chain their dogs for extended periods – leaving the dogs to suffer pain and misery, despite constant education.

Often the chain cuts into their neck and severely injures the dogs.

Jenni Davies, spokesperson of Fisantekraal Animal Welfare, says more than a quarter of the dogs in areas such as Klipheuwel and the informal settlement in Fisantekraal are chained.

“It is considered fairly normal as a way of controlling dogs in Fisantekraal, Greenville, Klipheuwel, Morningstar and farms around Durbanville to keep them from running away, roaming, going onto the street, or getting into fights,” she says.

“Even dogs in enclosed yards are chained – usually to prevent them from biting visitors or fighting with other dogs.

“It’s important to make it clear that not all tethered dogs are neglected or abused – it’s often done because the owner wants to keep their dog safe with limited resources.

“As much as we don’t like it, we do understand. However, many chained dogs are neglected – out of sight, out of mind basically,” she says.

They have lost count of the number of dogs they have treated for neck wounds caused by too tight chains, Davies says.

“Some are minor – pulling out fur or skin abrasions; others are so bad that it looks like the dog’s been cut with a knife. Secondary infections can develop, causing tissue necrosis or sepsis throughout the body,” she says.

There are cases where the people will chain a puppy and not think to make the chain longer as the puppy gets bigger, so the chain grows into the neck; or it’s a strong dog that’s pulling on its chain all day, making it cut into the skin.

Aside from wounds, dogs have been known to strangle themselves or hang themselves when they jump over a fence.

“We’ve treated a dog that had had a stroke because his chain was too tight, and several where the wire or shackle used to close the chain or collar around the neck has punctured the skin.

“Dogs get chained to a car or shack in the heat and get burnt on hot metal, or the person goes out leaving the dog without water and it gets heat stroke, because it can’t find shelter due to it’s chain.

“These are inexcusable and purely the result of owners not checking on their dogs regularly throughout the day,” she says.

Even if the dog is perfectly looked after, dogs become frustrated and can develop behavioural problems, Davies says.

“Statistically, the majority of dog bites that happen to people (usually children) are by unneutered dogs that are chained up.

“Ideally, in situations where there is no other option, dogs should be put on a running line (runner) of at least 3 m to 4 m in length but this is costly and FAW cannot get to all of them – we need many more volunteers,” she says.

However, even if they’re on a runner, they still need to be checked on several times daily to untangle chains, ensure water hasn’t been knocked over, ensure the chain or collar around the neck isn’t too tight and that they have sufficient shelter from elements.

“Although we do not condone chaining or tethering of dogs, one can’t always just take dogs off chains immediately – one first has to consider why they are tied up in the first place and try to resolve that problem,” she says.

Many people cannot afford proper fencing or walls, or they have an enclosed property but the people living there or visiting don’t shut gates behind them. This means that the dogs go onto the street. Motor vehicle accidents are among the top five causes of injuries.

“There are plenty of three-legged dogs in Fisantekraal because we’ve had to amputate a leg that is too damaged to save. Another problem we deal with a lot is dog fights.

“People also chain their dogs if they keep chickens or other livestock,” she says.

Belinda Abraham, manager of communications, resource development and education of Cape of Good Hope SPCA, says not a day goes by that their inspectors do not have to stop to educate a pet owner, issue a warning in respect of improving an animal’s welfare or obtain a warrant to remove injured or neglected animals from their owner’s care.

“Too many of these incidents involve animals that are living on chains and have done so all their lives,” Abraham says in a media release.

“In some instances, these dogs have been chained as puppies and have never been unchained again. The first thing I notice is the unmistakable smell of a rotting wound and then my heart sinks because I know what I’m going to find,” says Jeffery Mfini, an inspector.

Dr Esté Spies, SPCA’s head veterinarian, says they keep bolt cutters in the theatre. “We need them to cut the chains that have become deeply embedded in dogs’ necks. The chains cut through their skin – causing deep lacerations around the neck. If left untreated the wounds become infected and cause suffocation,” she says.

It costs the SPCA between R300 and R1 000 to break just one chain and an additional R2 500 to R5 000 to help one animal heal from an embedded chain injury.

They ask for donations of any amount to continue this work. Use the reference “breakingchains” when making your donation.

  • Call 021 700 4158/9 during office hours or 083 326 1604 after hours to report distressed animals living on chains. It can also be reported via the report cruelty link on www.capespca.co.za.
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