Michael Vick’s hometown does right by dogs

By Daphna Nachminovitch

Dogs in Newport News, Virginia – where convicted dogfighter Michael Vick was born – got some good news recently.

After years of letters from and meetings with PETA, the Newport News City Council unanimously voted to ban dog tethering for more than one hour in any 24-hour period.

Newport News now joins more than 200 jurisdictions nationwide that have outlawed or restricted the abusive and dangerous practice of chaining up dogs as if they were bicycles — and every community in the country should follow their lead.

A ban on constant tethering can mean the difference between life and death for many dogs. A Newport News resident called PETA earlier this year after she found her dog Chaos hanging dead by his chain from her backyard fence. Two other dogs were chained in her yard, surrounded by mud and debris, and their doghouses were filled with soggy blankets. A puppy, Pebbles, was locked in a filthy wire crate inside a disgusting shed, standing in her own waste and with no access to food or water. Chaos was buried within a few feet of where he’d spent his existence, day in and day out, and another dog had already been chained in the same spot where Chaos fought for his life — and lost.

It shouldn’t take a law for people to treat their dogs with basic care and compassion. But as PETA’s fieldworkers have seen again and again, daily deprivation and neglect are rampant in communities where chaining is unrestricted.

Winter and summer months are especially perilous for dogs who are forced to live outdoors, and many don’t survive the temperature extremes, including a nameless brindle pit bull whom PETA’s fieldworkers discovered in Newport News on a cold December day in 2012. A necropsy revealed that she had been starved—there was nothing left of her but skeleton and skin. She had no body fat to insulate her from the winter cold. The dog’s emaciated sibling, a 38-pound pit bull, was tethered nearby with a chain that weighed 17 pounds—nearly half the dog’s bodyweight. Frostbitten ears, toes and tails—as well as hypothermia and death—are daily threats for dogs chained outdoors in the winter.
Tethering dogs “out of sight and out of mind” is a surefire recipe for neglect and suffering.

Many chained dogs’ collars become deeply embedded in their necks because no one bothered to loosen them as the dogs grew, or a heavy chain weighed down a tight collar, causing it to cut into the animal’s flesh. A puppy named Strawberry, who was chained outside with her mother and nothing but a wire crate for shelter, had a collar buried so deeply in her neck that it was barely visible. A dog named Brownie had a large, deep and badly infected wound around his neck where the rope that tethered him had become embedded in his flesh.

The crushing loneliness and deprivation of solitary confinement, with nothing to do but watch the grass grow—or the snow pile up—cause many chained dogs to become severely depressed or even aggressive and dangerous to the community.

Chained dogs are three times as likely to bite as socialized dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and children are often their victims. Only weeks before his death, Chaos—the dog who died hanging from a fence—broke free and bit a child, breaking the skin.

As recognized by the growing number of communities that have passed tethering bans, life on a chain is no life at all.

All dogs deserve to live indoors with a family who loves them, takes them for walks and cares about their health and well-being. It’s time to ban chaining everywhere.