Our Position Paper
Updated: Apr 9, 2019
If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” St. Francis Assisi.
Haywood County loves their animals. We know this because we see folks walking their dogs in downtown areas, at Lake Junaluska, and in our surrounding forests. The citizens of Waynesville have requested that the town change their ordinance to allow their dogs at downtown events. We have numerous businesses throughout the county for dog enthusiasts: dog grooming, boarding kennels, dog training, a “dog bakery” and a “dog camp.” We are fortunate to have several animal welfare organizations: Sarge’s, Haywood Spay/Neuter, Feline Urgent Rescue of WNC, and Star Ranch Rescue. Best of all, Haywood County recently built a brand new state-of-the-art animal shelter.
It appears that most citizens in our community have a foundation of common beliefs, the humane treatment of our animals. However, there are some that are unwilling or unable to provide at least the minimum standards of care, socialization, and training for their dogs. It is our belief that these citizens do not have the right to dictate a minimum quality of care for animals in our community. Some say dogs have basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Dog professionals say that for a dog to be a healthy, safe, and happy member of a community, they require exercise, veterinarian care, and most importantly socialization.
Dogs are naturally social animals and thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. In the wild, dogs and wolves live, eat, sleep, and hunt with a family of other canines. Dogs are genetically programmed to live in a group or pack. A psychologically balanced canine requires socialization.
A dog kept chained alone in one location for weeks, months, or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, will frequently become neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and often aggressive. The New Mexico Department of Public Safety says, “When confronted with a perceived threat, dogs respond according to their flight-or-fight instinct. A chained dog, unable to take flight, often feels forced to fight, and attacks any unfamiliar animal or person who wanders into his or her territory.” This is when a dog “bites.” The “flight-or-fight” instinct is supported by the fact that chained dogs are at a great risk of attack from wild animals, other dogs, and unfriendly humans. According to Parents Against Dog Chaining (PADC), since 2003, there have been at least 450 children killed and/or seriously injured by chained dogs in this country. PADC believes there are many more that go unreported by newspapers, therefore making it harder for them to find out the information. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than non- chained dogs. That number increases to 5.4 times more likely to bite children under the age of 12. Chained dogs often become very defensive of their territory and protective of their small area. Chained dogs are a public hazard!
Most dogs continuously tied out in the yard typically become forgotten and neglected. Animal neglect happens when an owner fails to provide basic necessities, such as food, water, shelter, veterinary care, exercise and socialization. Animal neglect takes place over longer periods of time than other more immediate violent acts. But victims of animal neglect suffer more severely because their suffering is prolonged. Neglect can end in death or permanent physical or psychological damage. Nationally, animal control officers cite animal neglect as the most common reason that they are called to a home.
We do realize that some chained dogs may live a better life than others. The problem we face locally is that our current animal ordinances are inadequate and lack substance. It is nearly impossible for our animal control officers to determine and enforce “animal cruelty/neglect” with the current laws. Haywood County Animal Control receives several calls a day from citizens concerned about chained dogs for a wide variety of reasons, such as: not having access to food and water; forced to suffer on short, tangled chains; and living without shelter in freezing temperatures and inclement weather. A local example is a Great Dane by the name of Thor. Thor lived his 9 to 10 years chained in the front yard on a very visible street in Waynesville. Thor was forced to live outside 24/7, no matter the temperature and in rain, sleet, and snow. Based on recent community responses, we estimate there may have been over a hundred calls to city and county officials seeking relief for this poor pitiful, lonely dog. Animal control responded to most of these calls, but Thor received no help. Apparently, the owner was not breaking the law. Recently, on a cold winter weekend, Thor died, like he lived, all alone at the end of a chain.
“Improved regulations” addressing unattended dog tethering would give animal control officers more definitive tools to protect animal welfare. Better yet a “blanket ban” on unattended dog tethering would arm animal control officers with an even more straightforward and enforceable means to end this form of abuse. Such a law would mean efforts once spent performing “wellness checks” could be focused elsewhere. In fact, this is exactly what we were told by one of our very own Haywood County animal control officers, Jeff Stamey. Jeff stated, “We need better laws to effectively enforce animal abuse/neglect,” cases.
Tethering of dogs in our community affects everyone. The negative effects of dog tethering include personal physical risks; reduction of private property values and property rights; and personal emotional distress. Nearly every “wellness check” Chain Free Waynesville has requested, by animal control, has resulted in dogs with NO rabies vaccination. Chained, unvaccinated dogs are a health risk to our community. We are tired of seeing the abuse of chained animals as we drive around our community. Citizens who care about the way animals are treated suffer every single day at the sight of these neglected dogs. We know of numerous cases in Haywood County where neighbors have reported that living next door to chained dogs has severely affected their lives. Citizens are affected by the loud noise of continuous barking of chained dogs. Caring folks are affected daily by having to see dogs living in the beaten down dirt/mud patch known as the “circle of death.” Many of our citizens are consistently upset to observe dogs that have no access to grass, exercise, other dogs or humans, and sometimes food, water and shelter. Some citizens are fearful that the chained, aggressive dog will break free attacking them or their beloved pet. Some are fearful to report animal neglect or abuse out of fear of retribution from their abusive neighbors.
There is a history of citizens and their dogs being attacked in our community by chained dogs. In 2018, Gabby, a Chihuahua, was being walked on a leash when a chained Pit Bull broke free and attacked Gabby and her owner. Gabby suffered a horrible death and the owner, mortified by the vicious attack, was treated at the hospital for bite injuries herself. This is something she will never forget. In 2017, Ms. Stewart reported that a chained pit bull escaped from his chain, ran through her home, and killed her pet cat, Pussel. This horrible event unfolded in front of Ms. Stewart and several neighborhood children. This dog could easily have harmed or killed Ms. Stewart or a child. Chained dogs do not make our community safe. In fact, we argue that they put our community at risk.
It is a fact that property values are diminished by those who make the decision to continuously chain dogs on their property. Realtors find it very difficult or sometimes impossible to sell a property near these unsightly and noisy chained dog situations.
Some argue that those who cannot afford a kennel or fencing will not restrain their animals and let them roam free or they will surrender them to the shelter. Experiences from other communities that have passed tethering ordinances have shown that neither of these scenarios is likely to occur. Asheville Humane Society has confirmed that there was no significant increase in the number of dogs surrendered after the City of Asheville passed and enforced their new ordinance that bans chaining. Attached (Attachment 1, Other Communities’ Experiences) are the results of a study of 10 such communities showing that this argument is not based on fact.
There is the feeling among some that we should “mind our own business.” As presented above, we are “minding our own business.” The overall quality of life within our community is everyone’s business. The right of one citizen to have a dog chained up for life should not outweigh the rights of all citizens to have a safe, clean, livable community. The idea that passing a tethering ordinance would put “pets” before the safety and health of the people of Haywood County is not based on fact. Each citizen has a part to play in making our community a safe, clean, pleasant environment. This means we must all have respect for our neighbors. We argue that chaining a dog on one’s property is NOT being a good neighbor. Our dogs deserve better and so do our citizens. We must start teaching the next generation of children in Haywood County a better way to treat man’s best friend --- and it is NOT at the end of a chain. A healthy respect for each other and our animals is an essential component of a good community.