The BCSPCA is advising pet owners that leaving their dogs tied up for long periods of time is not only illegal in some cities, it can lead to serious physical and mental anguish in their pets that can result in aggressive tendencies.
Wendy Davies, manager of the local Dawson Creek shelter, said the City of Dawson Creek’s anti-tethering bylaw, passed late last year, is something the staff at the shelter will be educating the public on and enforcing throughout the summer. Keeping a dog tied to fixed object by its neck carries with a $50 fine, and leaving an animal tied to any fixed object for a extended period of time can also result in a $50 fine, and more fines can be administered depending on factors such as whether the animal was kept outside for extended periods of time. Tying chains, wires and choke chains around a dog’s neck is also illegal in British Columbia under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
“I think Dawson Creek is setting a precedent for the Peace Region right now by putting this anti-tethering bylaw in place. I would like to see other areas follow suit,” said Davies.
She said the issue is especially distressing after a recent case where a three-year-old Rottweiler was found wandering as a stray, suffering from deep cuts around its neck.
“What the veterinarian has determined is that the dog was likely tied with a wire around its neck,” she said. “Likely, this dog had this wrapped around its neck and was left like that, and we would suspect the dog had broken that [wire] as well, but it had cut very deeply into his neck.”
“He does display dangerously-aggressive tendencies,” she added. “That would indicate to us that he’s probably been tied for a long period of time.”
She said tethering dogs often results in mental stress that manifests itself in aggressive behaviours.
“Dogs are social animals, they need to be able to interact with people and other animals, and display normal behaviour, and that includes playing, and a dog that is tied can’t play,” she said. “If you look at the look on a tethered dog’s face, it’s a really sad face.”
“It’s quite similar if you were to confine a person for a long period of time and not allow them to interact with people, not allow them to move around or to express normal behaviours, that person would become quite an aggressive person,” she added. “For dogs, when they are tied for very long periods of time, the behaviour is frustration and stress, and aggressive behaviours become very prominent.”
She said tethering dogs for long periods of time can result in collapsed tracheas, which leads to severe breathing problems in dogs. She added leaving dogs tied up often leads to neglect as well.
“Another huge thing about tethered dogs is they often go without water and food and are neglected by their families,” she said. “Tethered dogs are more likely to knock over their food and water dishes, and they are more likely to be forgotten to be provided fresh food and water, which is also in the City’s bylaws – you do have to provide fresh food, and water in clean water dishes, every single day.”
Davies said, sadly, for the Rottweiler that was found, unless its owner can be identified, the dog will likely have to be euthanized because it is too dangerous to be adopted out to another family.
“Often we do see those kinds of dogs tied, and Rottweilers, in general, are very social, friendly, lovable dogs, and it is really heartbreaking for me to look at a beautiful dog like this and think this dog has been put into this situation by the neglect of a person,” she said.
She said under the new bylaw, tethering is only acceptable as a temporary measure, such as while constructing another type of enclosure. She said there are other options such as construction a dog run or fence pen in the yard, or crating a dog or providing it with a room inside the house while the owner is at work, provided there is a way for someone to let the dog out for exercise, food and water during the day.
Of course, leaving a dog out in a yard, even when it is not tied up, can lead to altercations with neighbouring dogs, something the shelter would also like pet owners to take steps to avoid.
“Certainly, we do see fence fighting between neighbouring properties – dogs fighting along fences – which is displayed by the dogs rushing and barking at the fence to each other, and snarling, growling and biting at the fence, and these are very dangerous behaviours,” said Davies. “Fence fighting escalates aggression to the point where injuries are very likely, and we’ve had three cases in Dawson Creek in the last three years where fence fighting has resulted in injury to an animal.”
One of those cases came to a head earlier this month when a resident appeared before council to plea for an appeal of a vicious dog designation that had been placed on his dogs after they injured a neighbour’s dog in a fence fighting incident. That designation is placed automatically on a dog when it injures another animal, and requires the owner to take steps to reinforce their fence to prevent future incidents, and also requires the dog to be muzzled when taken off the property. It also implies stiffer fines for animals that wander off a property – a vicious dog at-large carries a $575 fine, compared to a $75 fine for a first offence of a dog without that designation.
Davies said the most important factor in preventing fence fighting is to block off the visual access between the dogs, and to make sure there is no point along the fence where the whole or even part of a dog can get under or through. She said puck board, for example, can work for both wood and chain link fences.
“If you can block off the visual contact between the dogs, you will block off the fence fighting, and then you can work on the behavioural issues.”
She added another important step is for neighbours to get to know each other and their animals.
“Good neighbours will go for walks together with their dogs. Going for walks together is a very neutral ways for dogs to meet each other and get to be comfortable with each other.”
In the case that an altercation between two dogs occurs, Davies said it is important that the owners not try to break up the fighting by getting in between the dogs, as that often results in human injuries. She recommended having an air horn handy, not just if fence fighting is an issue, but take along during walks with your dog just in case you come across another stray or aggressive dog.
Davies said the shelter is very eager to provide assistance and information to dog owners interested in behavioural techniques such as positive reinforcement training to help prevent issues from happening.