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Neglecting animals can lead to vicious behavior

June 04, 2008
Two dogs had to be destroyed last week in Crawford County, and their owner was charged with allowing animals to run at large.

Crawford County Deputy Sheriff Shawn Scott responded to a call about two dogs that were terrorizing people and other dogs in a neighborhood near Marengo. When Scott arrived, people who lived in the area told him they were so afraid of the dogs that they were reluctant to work in their gardens or mow their grass.

"There were 10 dogs at one residence," Scott said. "The dogs were chained on the owner's property. But there were some dogs that were chained together on small log chains attached to metal stakes that (were) driven into the ground."

Scott said two of the dogs that were chained together became tangled, which caused the chain to wrap around the stake. The dogs eventually worked the stake out of the ground, then jumped over a four-foot high chainlink fence, still chained together. The dogs went to a neighbor's property where they attacked and fatally injured a small Chihuahua dog. The dogs then went into another yard where a small dog was tied to a cable in a fenced-in area. The smaller animal had no place to go and was attacked by the two larger dogs, but the three animals became tangled together, which may have saved the smaller dog's life.

"Dogs tethered or chained for long periods can become highly aggressive," Scott said. "They respond according to their fight-or-flight instincts. A chained dog, unable to take flight, often feels forced to fight, attacking any unfamiliar person or animal that unwittingly gets within striking distance.

"In addition to the psychological damage brought about by continuous chaining, dogs forced to live on a chain make easy targets for other animals, humans and biting insects. A chained animal may suffer harassment and teasing from insensitive humans, stinging bites from insects and attacks by other animals. And a dog's chain or tether can become entangled with other objects, which can choke or strangle the dog to death."

Scott added that a chained or tethered dog rarely receives sufficient care. Chained dogs suffer from sporadic feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care and extreme temperatures. During storms, many have no access to adequate shelter, or protection from the sun.

"What's more, because their often neurotic behavior makes them difficult to approach, chained dogs are rarely given even minimal affection," Scott said. "Dogs have to eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in a single confined area. And owners who chain their dogs are also less likely to clean the area. Although there may have once been grass in an area of confinement, it is usually so beaten down by the dog's pacing that the ground consists of nothing but dirt and mud."

To become well-adjusted companion animals, dogs should interact regularly with people and other animals and should receive regular exercise. It is an owner's responsibility to provide adequate attention and socialization, Scott said. Placing an animal on a restraint to get fresh air can be acceptable if it is done for a short period. Collars used to attach an animal should be comfortable and properly fitted — choke chains should never be used. Restraints should allow the animal to move about and lie down comfortably.

"A chained animal is caught in a vicious cycle," Scott said. "Frustrated by long periods of boredom and social isolation, the dog becomes a neurotic shell of its former self — further deterring human interaction and kindness. In the end, the helpless dog can only suffer the frustration of watching the world go by in isolation, a cruel fate for what is by nature a highly social animal."

While Scott was at the residence near Marengo, another dog resembling a Pit Bull hung itself by jumping over the fence with a short chain around its neck. The dog was finally saved by the owners. In addition, two other dogs were chained together and wrapped up on a stake while three more dogs were tangled together while chained to an automobile wheel and tire. The two dogs that attacked the Chihuahua had to be destroyed.

"It's unfortunate that Crawford County doesn't have an animal shelter or a humane society to take unwanted animals," Scott said. "That is something we as animal and property owners in the county have to accept — or change."

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