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The Dangers of Tethering Your Dog

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You may think that tethering your dog in your backyard is a good way to keep them safe, but there are many dangers associated with leaving pets tied up.
Sadly our RSPCA Inspectorate is no stranger to receiving calls for help about pets being left tethered in backyards. The simple message is, do not do it! There are far too many risks associated with leaving your pet tied up in the yard.
How can I keep my dog safe in my backyard?

The best way to keep your dog safe and secure is by having a yard with a fully enclosed fence. When left outdoors, dogs need to be provided with access to shelter, bedding and fresh water. A dog kennel is not a sufficient form of shelter as these can turn into hot boxes in full sun. It is also good to have more than one water source available for your dog when outside, and in heavy containers.

Tip: The sun moves throughout the day, don’t tether your pets, if they can’t escape the heat they will suffer heatstroke and die.

But my dog escapes, what can I do?

We’ve all known an escape artist dog. Dogs can jump fences for a number of reasons. A permanent tether is not the solution. Read more tips on what to do if your dog is a fence jumper in our RSPCA knowledgebase.

Why you should never leave your pet tied up
  • Dogs can get tangled and injure themselves
  • Dogs cannot flee in disaster situations
  • Dogs can receive severe neck wounds from tethers
  • Dogs can get caught in the full sun with no access to shade or water and die from heatstroke
  • Dogs can break free from tethers
  • Tethering can cause severe behavioural issues

Just this year we’ve seen four separate prosecutions finalised in court with dogs being left tethered. Here are their stories.

**Warning. Some viewers may find imagery in the following stories distressing **

Jadda and Rajah’s Story

Our Inspectors responded to a complaint about a dog that was tangled in the middle of a backyard, with another dog tethered under a patio during a heatwave in Caboolture.

Upon arrival, our Inspector saw Jadda (below) tangled in the yard with around 1m of tether left in the full sun, with no access to water.

dog left tied up in full sun during heatwave

The second dog, Rajah (below) was also tangled under the patio with no access to water with about 30cm of tether left to move.

the dangers of leaving dogs tied up

Both dogs were in obvious distress – panting excessively and barking - with Jedda drooling from heat stress. When provided with water, both dogs drank nonstop for minutes. Jedda was provided shelter to cool off and her body very hot to touch. Both dogs were seized and taken to the RSPCA for veterinary assessments.

Solicitor Tracey Jackson, RSPCA Prosecutions Officer said the dogs, “had been given a death sentence that day. Had RSPCA Inspectors not attended, those dogs would have died.

“Jadda drank five litres of water when she was untethered by the Inspector, and vets believe she would have entered into the final stages of heat stress and died within 20 minutes had she not been rescued.”

Veterinary assessment at the RSPCA showed that both dogs were dehydrated and emaciated. Jadda also had a heavy flea burden and open sores on her head. Both dogs also had hookworm. Jadda and Rajah were veterinary treated, improved during their time at the RSPCA and were adopted into loving homes.

emaciated dog animal cruelty case

The owners were taken to court. They were prohibited from owning dogs for two years and ordered to pay a fine of $2000 each, $1,857.88 each for vet and boarding costs, and $99.55 summons fee each.

Po’s Story

Our Inspectorate investigated a complaint about a dog that was left constantly tethered to a clothesline in the backyard of a property. Investigations revealed that a 43-year-old woman had kept her border collie ‘Po’ tied up to her clothesline for two years! The grass surrounding the clothesline was now dirt, as a result of the dog being constantly restrained.

dog lived a life chained up to clothesline for years

Luckily, Po was surrendered to RSPCA Qld. Upon examination, Po had a raised temperature of 40.8 degrees and was panting excessively. The dog also had severely infected ears. Within a week after veterinary treatment, Po’s ear infection resolved.

Sadly, Po had significant behavioural issues associated with living a life on a chain. After extensive rehabilitation, a specialist animal rescue group took him on board and Po eventually found a new home.

Our Inspectorate took the owner to court and she was charged in February. The Magistrate said, “I take this opportunity to commend the work of the RSPCA dealing with these situations. It must be awfully confronting for an Inspector to find animals in these situations, but then ultimately rewarding to have an outcome like this one where the dog was rescued and rehomed.”

The defendant was convicted, the conviction was not recorded. She was fined $2,500 and ordered to pay $293.45 vet and boarding costs, $99.55 summons costs, and was prohibited from possessing animals other than as approved by the RSPCA for a period of 2 years.

Bundy's Story

Our Inspector responded to a complaint about a dog that was tethered with a very tight chain around its neck with severe wounds. Bundy the dog was surrendered to Council by his owner and was transported to a vet for assessment. Examination revealed that Bundy had severe tissue wounds as a result from his chain rubbing on his neck that required treatment and antibiotics. He also had nasal discharge and was vomiting.

rspca animal cruelty case dog left chained up

Bundy had been kept on a chain for the majority of his life, three years! He not only had to endure a severe injury as a result of his tether, he had no access to bedding, enrichment or exercise. He had also developed behavioural issues from living a life on a chain. Whilst Bundy received the veterinary treatment he needed, sadly he couldn’t be rehabilitated from his ordeal.

Bundy’s owner was sentenced to three months imprisonment, wholly suspended. He had a conviction recorded and was prohibited from owning any dogs for five years.

Moose, Horse and Rooster’s Story

Unfortunately not all Inspectorate visits are straight forward and investigations can drag out due to uncooperative defendants. This is the case for Moose, Horse and Rooster; three dogs that were reported to the RSPCA with multiple welfare concerns.

An RSPCA Inspector attended the defendant’s property and issued welfare directions regarding her three dogs, covering issues such as: feeding, veterinary treatment and access to appropriate living conditions.

dogs left chained up to fence rspca queensland investigation

Above: Horse tethered to the fence at the property

In these types of cases Council also assists RSPCA with investigations.

The situation for the three dogs did not improve and welfare directions provided were not followed and also breached. The dogs were seized and taken to Council.

Veterinary examinations showed that all three dogs were emaciated. Both Moose and Horse were infested with hookworm. Rooster was infested with fleas and ticks, had red and inflamed skin, and had a burst abscess on the side of his face.

rspca queensland animal cruelty case

Above: Rooster weighing just 24.7kg

All three dogs recovered from their ordeals and have been adopted into loving new homes.

rspca happy tail dog no longer chained

Above: Horse recovering in RSPCA care

life off the tether rspca dog rescued

Above: Horse having a blast at the RSPCA playing with another dog

Their owner was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and was also prohibited from owning any dogs for five years.

“All too often our inspectors are called to attend tethered dogs that are suffering or have died from heat stress because they couldn’t reach water or shade. These cases send a clear message that it is not acceptable to keep dogs on a tether as a way of life, and it is never acceptable to keep them tethered or confined without adequate water, shelter and shade.

“If you don’t have safe and effective fences, then don’t get a dog. It’s that simple. Owning a dog is not compulsory and keeping a dog tied up in the back yard is cruel and unlawful. We now know how harmful constant tethering can be for dogs. It increases aggression, impedes their ability to socialise and display normal patterns of behaviour, and often leads to behavioural issues that prevent them from being rehomed.”

Solicitor Tracey Jackson, RSPCA Prosecutions Officer.

Emma Lagoon
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