Dogs are social animals who deserve to spend their lives as full members of the family – not at the end of a chain. Yet the sad reality is that a very large number of dogs in Quebec spend their entire lives permanently chained outdoors, essentially condemned to life in prison. This is because in our province, it is still perfectly legal to keep dogs continually tied up, even though the practice is both inhumane and unsafe.
It's time to cut the chain!
An animal welfare issue
Chaining, or “tethering” as it is sometimes called, refers to the practice of permanently tying a dog to a stationary object in order to keep the animal confined. This practice is detrimental to both physical and psychological well-being.
Chained dogs are at an increased risk of injuring – or even choking – themselves by becoming entangled, and are more vulnerable to attacks by other animals. Left to their own devices, they are frequently neglected, receiving inadequate food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Chaining also exposes dogs to extreme cold in the winter, and suffocating heat in the summer. Additionally, chained dogs often suffer from a multitude of internal and external parasites, such as fleas or intestinal worms, year-round.
Yet perhaps the most inhumane aspect of chaining is the psychological harm it causes. As highly social animals, dogs suffer gravely from being deprived of contact with humans and other animals. Isolated, unable to socialize, play, exercise, or express natural behaviour, chained dogs develop severe boredom and frustration, eventually leading to psychological distress. This is true even when chained dogs are kept in groups, as healthy canine socialization requires that the animals be able to physically interact and play with one another – which is impossible if they are chained.
A public safety issue
Chaining also raises serious public safety concerns. Due to their inability to flee or escape, chained dogs are more likely to display aggressive behaviour when faced with a perceived threat. Constant physical restraint promotes excessive territoriality, which can also lead to aggression. Additionally, as under socialized animals, chained dogs tend to develop behavioural problems, which can result in attacks. Indeed, research has shown that chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than dogs not living on chains, and are 5.4 times more likely to bite children.
What’s the situation in Quebec?
In Quebec, it is perfectly legal to keep dogs permanently chained outdoors. As an organization trusted with law enforcement powers and charged with investigating animal cruelty, the Montreal SPCA knows first hand how many dogs are currently suffering from living out their lives on a chain in this province. Indeed, nearly one third of all complaints received by our Inspection Department concern chained dogs. Unfortunately, until the government bans this practice, we remain helpless to alleviate their suffering.
What’s the situation elsewhere?
Permanent chaining is prohibited in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, as well as in over twenty American states, including California, Delaware, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Texas. It is also banned in more than 120 municipalities across the United States and Canada, including several in Quebec.
The provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia recently recognized the dangerous consequences of permanent chaining—both for the public and for dogs—and have passed laws banning it.
On December 4th 2015, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted Bill 54, An Act to improve the legal situation of animals, which includes a number of significant improvements to the province’s animal protection legislation.
Bill 54 grants the Ministry of Agriculture extensive powers to create regulations safeguarding the welfare of animals and thus represents a unique opportunity for the government of Quebec to ban the chaining of dogs.
The time has come to cut the chain! Please ask the Minister of Agriculture to prohibit the chaining of dogs.