For a thousand centuries, dogs have been “human’s best friend.” Our canine companions are inherently affectionate, faithful and social. They are loving companions and teach our children compassion, respect and responsibility. They are a cure for loneliness and are loyal protectors. Police and military dogs even sacrifice their lives to save people.
Studies show that dog ownership provides numerous benefits to our health and happiness, including alleviating depression, reducing heart disease and helping keiki with learning disabilities. Our bond with dogs is undeniable. Since for all they give to us, our responsibility is to give back by protecting their health and happiness.
Aloha is part of our cultural foundation where we learn to respect life and have compassion for all living beings. Cruelty to animals of any kind is wrong and against the Aloha Spirit. Animal cruelty, including dog abuse and dog cruelty, is not part of our cultural foundation.
Unattended Tethering of Dogs
Tethering dogs as the primary means of confinement contributes to four significant problems for the citizens of Hawaii: biting, barking, pet overpopulation and animal abuse. Hawaii recognized the seriousness of dog bites by enacting the Hawaii Dog Bite Law. While a good and useful law for those who have been bitten, it does nothing to prevent the dog from becoming aggressive in the first place. Hawaii laws also recognize that excessive barking is a public nuisance. Again, while the law rightfully offers recourse for people who suffer from the noise of incessantly barking dogs, it does nothing to prevent the dog from developing the habit of excessive barking. Now is the time to take the next step and address a common cause of these all too common problems: unattended tethered dogs.
Unattended tethered dogs are a danger to people, especially small children, because unattended tethered dogs become highly aggressive. A study published in Public Health Reports found that chained dogs accounted for 50% of severe attacks that occurred in the study area. On Kauai in 2004, a one year-old child was killed by an unattended tethered dog who had been tethered almost continuously for seven years.
In 2013 the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published the first study of the epidemiology of dog bites that was based on law-enforcement reports, animal control reports and investigator statements. Among the most common contributing factors to dog bites were “dogs kept isolated from regular positive human interactions … (e.g. dogs kept chained in backyards)”. Since crated dogs are also isolated from positive human interactions, it makes sense that they suffer from stress and anxiety along with dogs who are chained.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons have teamed up to promote responsible dog ownership, pointing out that tethering dogs contributes to aggressive behavior: “Confine your dog in a fenced yard or dog run when it is not in the house. Never tether or chain your dog because this can contribute to aggressive behavior.”
Unattended tethered dogs do not suddenly become aggressive. Through a recognized behavioral process called shaping, the aggressive behavior usually begins with barking. Early on, the ignored and isolated dog learns that barking will get people to interact with him, often by looking at him. Over time, he learns that the louder and more threatening his barking sounds, the more attention he gets from people passing by his small territory. He discovers that snapping and snarling really gets people’s attention. Then one day a small child wanders into the tiny territory defined by his chain. What happens next is a preventable tragedy.
This proposed law will protect both children and adults from a terrifying and potentially fatal attack by an aggressive, chained dog.
Barking dogs cause so much stress and hostility among neighbors that it is one of the most common complaints made to Hawaii police. Noisy dog complaints are also one of most common reasons for neighbor disputes.
An unattended, tethered, barking dog is verbally threatening everyone within range of his voice. When those entrusted with public safety ignore this threat by tolerating the barking, they have opened the door to serious and possibly fatal consequences. Therefore preventing excessive barking is clearly the responsible choice.
Experts agree that socializing your dog encourages desirable behaviors and discourages undesirable ones, especially incessant barking. Unattended tethered and crated dogs are not socialized. This proposed law will help owners avoid raising a dog who barks excessively by preventing unattended tethering or crating. It also provides standards for the dog’s primary enclosure and support for low-cost or free dog training. One big collateral benefit is that neighbors can enjoy some peace and quiet.
Unattended tethered female dogs who are not spayed cannot escape stray male dogs and will become pregnant. Therefore an unattended, tethered female dog will add to the pet overpopulation problem. This law proposes standards for a secure primary enclosure as one alternative to tethering. If the same female dog were in a secure primary enclosure, she would be protected from stray males and would not become pregnant.
How are Animal Abuse, Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Related
The link between animal abuse and child abuse has been well documented. According to the American Humane Association in association with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 70% of animal abusers also had records for other crimes. Domestic violence victims whose animals were abused saw animal cruelty as one more violent episode in a long history of indiscriminate violence aimed at them and their vulnerability. 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims.
This new law also proposes an Animal Abuse Registry. New York State passed the first Registry and several states are introducing similar legislation. Since the correlation between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence has been consistently documented for years, it makes sense for Hawaii to register animal abusers so child adoptive agencies, child foster programs, dog adoptive agencies and private sellers of dogs can all use this animal registry to pre-screen all potential adoptive and foster parents of both children and dogs.
The life of an unattended tethered or crated dog doesn’t even begin to take care of his physical and behavioral needs. And even people who love animals may not know what proper care means. Sometimes they need to be taught what to do to be responsible, humane dog owners.
Often people who have a dog may not realize how much time and money is necessary to properly train and care for their dog. This includes hunting dogs. Owners of hunting dogs often chain, crate and even starve them with the false idea that it will make them great hunters. Some even believe the old myth that bringing a hunting dog inside will ruin their sense of smell. According to Gun Dog Magazine this is not true. Additionally they state it is an old myth that most people should understand is erroneous.
For decades what enlightened trainers have consistently noticed is that hunting dogs, who are also family companions, advanced through their training faster. And in the field, these hunting companion dogs are motivated to work their hardest because of their natural desire to please the owners. The trainers said that the hunting companion dogs were superior hunters compared to dogs raised and trained using the outdated isolation approach.
Often both hunting dog and family dog owners don’t understand the concept of developing a bond with their dog and training them to be good citizens. They make the terrible decision to chain or crate their dog, who then becomes neglected and forgotten. Sporadic food and water may be the only care their abused dog receives.
The dog’s owner may not know how to properly treat a dog because they were raised in a home where family and friends thought that leaving the dog chained or crated outside, lonely and ignored, was normal. Now we know better. Experts agree dogs, no matter what their jobs are, need to socialize with their families.
The Newsletter of the Humane Society Legislative Fund states, “Without exception, people and organizations widely regarded as experts on the humane treatment of animals and animal behavior agree that a solitary life on the end of a chain is a cruel sentence for these social animals [dogs].” It then makes sense that dogs who spend most of their time in a crate would naturally suffer from the same cruel, solitary life. Additionally even dogs left in a primary enclosure without socialization with their human family will still suffer from a solitary life.
The Humane Society of the United States further explains: “Tethering is an unacceptable method of confinement for any animal and has no place in humane sheltering.” The Animal Welfare Act of 1997 concluded that constant tethering of dogs in lieu of a primary enclosure is not a humane practice. Tethering also leads to physical suffering. Chained dogs are at greater risk of pain and injury from arthritis, neck sores (from chains that wear down the skin or become embedded), eye hemorrhaging, parasites, fly bites and urine burns.
A recent groundbreaking neuro-imaging study showed that dogs process voices and interpret emotions in the same way that humans do. The sound of a dog whimpering had a similar effect on the dog brain as the sound of a baby crying had on a human brain. The dogs also responded to human voices, and the brain scans showed that the dogs could tell if the humans were happy or sad. This study adds to previous scientific research that proves dogs and people share the same emotions. We now have a plethora of scientific proof to support our collective gut feeling that animal abuse is horrifically wrong.
Take the Next Step
Hawaii has strengthened its animal cruelty laws and has passed laws to recognize the special contributions made to our society by working dogs, such as police and assistance dogs. Now we can take the next step and continue to strengthen our laws to recognize the enormous contribution made to our society by all dogs.
Dogs are a loyal companion whose sole purpose in life is to please us. Dogs have been a friend and protector of people for a thousand centuries. When we treat them kindly, we teach our children kindness. When we train them to be well behaved, we teach our children the value of manners. This well socialized, loving dog shares with our children the gift of giving and receiving unconditional love.
Research in the British Journal of Health Psychology shows that the benefits of dog ownership include lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and fewer minor physical ailments. Dogs even facilitate their owners’ recovery from illness.
As you may know, dogs can be trained to do a multitude of jobs. They even give their lives for us in police work, bomb detection and military service. Their scent detection abilities help us find missing children and can even identify diseases such as cancer. Their loving demeanor can help people overcome depression and other illnesses. How can we allow these amazing animals to be abused?