Posts tagged chained dogs

My debate with the candidates

As the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative races scurry towards November, candidates and parties are attempting to address my concerns — assuming my concerns are already on their agenda.  As a woman, an aerospace worker and a member of the middle class, my vote is clearly valuable if you judge the campaign by the content of 30-second commercial debates.

But what if my actual concerns for the problems in our community are not on the political agenda of the candidates at all?   Do they ever get addressed or even heard?  Is my vote ever wooed in the direction of a candidate that I actually want in office?

I’ve always felt that rather than debate an opponent, candidates should debate a voter instead.   And with that format, the field is wide open on topics for discussion.

So my debate with the candidates would include issues of the Washington economy and access to affordable health care, but it would also include my long-term concern for the welfare of animals and support for the un-glorified government agencies and organizations that try to address these issues.

And I’m not alone.  Not only is Seattle an intensely dog-centric city, it is home to roughly 50 animal rescue, welfare and advocacy groups.  Additionally, these groups don’t even reflect a true estimate of the number of individuals who live without harming animals at all.  For example, if we use the density of vegan restaurants (around 20 or so thriving businesses in the City of Seattle) as a yardstick of the number of people interested in the welfare of animals, this unit of measure indicates that Seattleites not only care about animals and what happens to them, but they have created a community that reflects that ethos.

Furthermore, our population of vegetarians, feral cat rescuers, pet adopters, shelter volunteers, foster families, and conscientious people who are willing to take that extra step to house back-yard chickens and goats, buy free-range eggs and support humanely raised local meats should indicate to candidates that animals matter in our community.

So in my hypothetical debate with the candidates, here are a few issues I would like to discuss.

For the past few years, legislators in Olympia have passed over future consideration of the so-called spay/neuter bills.  HB 1226 and SB 5151 would essentially create a state-wide program to provide low-cost, accessible spay/neuter services to all areas of Washington State.   The goal is to help reduce the number of homeless animals that are euthanized in our shelters and to relieve local governments of the financial pressure of dealing with so many homeless pets.  The problem is that it costs money.  Not much money, and the proposal for the program includes a fee on pet food to avoid using general funds.  The opposition is simply from people who are tax-phobic – even when cities and counties in Washington have to pay many times the cost of the spay/neuter program to euthanize animals rather than fix them.

Second, I want to know that progress will be made to help end long-term chaining or tethering of dogs in Washington State. This is an issue that was considered in previous legislative sessions as HB1755 and SB5649. Advocates hope to reintroduce the bills in the 2013 legislative session. From my discussions with a handful of Washington candidates, opposition to this bill comes from legislators who don’t think you can tell people how to treat your dog.  So who will fight the good fight in Olympia?

I recently learned that the Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation (an advocacy group in Olympia) hopes to find sponsorship in the 2013 legislative session for a bill that would give animal control officers (ACO) in Washington the authority to enforce anti-cruelty and neglect laws (read more here).  I don’t need to see another news story about neglected, starving horses or a raided puppy mills to know this is a good idea, but I do need to know my representatives will support such a bill.

Finally, while I’m a fan of small businesses, I don’t feel that businesses that cost our government money, instead of adding to the economy, are appropriate.  This is the problem with retail pet stores found scattered across Washington State.  In the past few years, many city governments in Canada and the US have banned the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits to stop the flow of impulse-purchased pets into shelters and end support of puppy mills.  Austin, TX made an early move to ban the sale of dogs and cats and found an almost immediate reduction in the number of animal intakes at their local shelter.  The Los Angeles city council is poised to do the same this fall (ref: Spot).  LA council members in favor of the ban report that it will help reduce the nearly 20,000 animals euthanized in LA each year.

So why not in Washington State?  Why not in Seattle?  We have a lot of homeless pets in our city and our state, coupled with a network of private breeders who can provide purebred dogs to appropriate homes with the proper oversight.  We don’t need animals shipped from puppy and kitten mills in the Midwest and sold to any passers-by.  Furthermore, I’m tired of paying for the consequences of massive numbers of homeless pets shuffled through our animal control agencies statewide.  I want this to be an election issue, and I want to know where the candidates stand.

The propensity for candidates to stick to their issues has never been so well explained than by Anne Romney during her recent Iowa network interview.  When she was pressed to answer questions on birth control, she responded, “Again, you’re asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about.”

I’m fairly certain that an election is about what voters decide to speak up about.  And for me, this election agenda includes animal welfare and the financial pressures that failures to address these issues puts on our local and state governments.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance columnist who writes for City Living Seattle newspaper and the blog “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at


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Our Kindred Spirits in Malaysia

An article in a Malaysian independent paper carried this letter from a reader.  It’s an articulate explanation of backyard breeders, chained dogs and what action should be taken to help Malaysian dogs and protect people.  Please take a moment to see the article here.

Also, since it’s always nice to connect with our overseas friends, check out this great website on not-for-profit agencies in Malaysia called  Here is their listing of animal welfare groups in Malaysia.

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Chaining dogs is illegal

By Christie Lagally
Richmond News

See original article in the Richmond News.

February 11, 2011

In the wake of the recent destruction of 100 sled dogs in Whistler, it’s natural to reflect on what could have been done to prevent this horrific event.

Political voices from the sled dog community to animal welfare advocates say that we need better laws to protect animals (which we do) and that we need the sled dog industry to be responsible and take care of their own.

The man who shot those dogs claimed he had no other choice and that he asked for help from various agencies, and was a victim himself of a company that put profits first.

Of course this does not justify his actions or that of his company.

But the lesson I learned from this mass murder is that animal welfare has always been and will always be is a matter of diligence and cooperation in our communities. And diligence is what is needed right now here in Richmond.

My friend Helen Savkovic works at the front desk of the Richmond Animal Shelter and receives nearly every call to our local shelter regarding dogs, cats or other animals in distress or in need of new homes. But some of the hardest calls to receive are those about a dog chained in a yard, penned up or used as a guard dog for an industrial site with no real home or family.

Alone, frustrated and confused, these dogs suffer from exactly the problems you’d expect from unending isolation — aggression, anxiety and fear. Worse yet, chained dogs often suffer from the collar wearing all the hair off their necks and the collar can even imbed into the skin.

In Richmond, the first section of Animal Control Bylaw 7932 says that no animal, including a dog, can be “hitched, tied or fastened to a fixed object where a choke collar or chain forms part of the securing apparatus.”

Clearly, chaining or tethering a dog is against the law in Richmond, yet people still do this. And often it’s only the neighbours or passersby who see a dog living in these conditions.

“Chaining is illegal in Richmond although penning isn’t,” says Savkovic, “and both are harmful to the dog and to the people who have to witness this cruelty.”

Marion Hewko is the Canadian representative and contact for Dogs Deserve Better (DDB), an international organization dedicated to educating the public about the cruelty to chained and penned dogs.

In addition to advocacy work through local shelters, Hewko and other area representatives for the organization work to help owners understand how awful life is for a dog on a chain.

Hewko works to form a relationship with owners of dogs who are reported to be living life on a chain or always penned in a yard.

She says that so many people don’t realize the emotional and physical trauma they are causing their dog, and Dogs Deserve Better helps owners understand the need to bring the dog into the family and “break the chain” of isolation and abuse.

But a handful of representatives can’t address the issue of chained and penned dogs alone. DDB depends on neighbours, friends and family, or passersby to report a chained or penned dog in distress.

In Richmond, you can call the Richmond Animal Shelter at 604-275-2036. If you see an incident of a chained dog, write down as much information as you can about the address and conditions.

If you have a cellphone or camera, take a video to document the situation so that an animal control officer or a representative from DDB can get in contact with the owner and ultimately help the dog.

While we may not be able to help those sled dogs now that they are gone, we can certainly make every effort to help every dog in distress in Richmond. If you want to do more to help chained or penned dogs, visit the Dogs Deserve Better website at

Christie Lagally is a volunteer pet columnist and founder of the Animal Welfare Advocacy Coalition. View her blog at

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