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Fences for Fido

Volunteers build free fences to get dogs off chains

The Humane Society of the United States

by Julie Hauserman

  • Dogs, like people, are very social animals. Leaving them tied up outdoors, dogs become lonely, bored, and anxious. Over time, they can develop aggressive behaviors. David Childs Photography

  • Kelly Peterson and her group, Fences For Fido, would like to see their program and ones like it go national. David Childs Photography

The dog named Chopper had been unhappily chained up in his owner’s back yard in Portland, Ore., for six long years.

Freedom At Last

Thanks to a group of volunteers led in part by The Humane Society of the United States’ Vice President of Field Services Kelly Peterson, Chopper’s luck changed in a single afternoon.

Peterson and fellow volunteer Andrea Kozil approached Chopper’s owner with an unusual offer. A group of volunteers, she told him, would come in for four hours on a Saturday and build a fence for Chopper.

“I’m sure he thought we were crazy that we wanted to build him a free fence,” Peterson said.

He agreed, and the first-ever project for the new group called “Fences for Fido,” co-founded by Peterson and Kozil, was born. Twenty volunteers showed up on Memorial Day weekend in 2009 to help Chopper get off his chain.

Life-Changing Mission For Humans, Dogs

“It has changed his owner’s life. He and Chopper now play in the back yard, and many of his close friends are now our best volunteers,” Peterson said.

Four special volunteers from North Carolina flew out to Portland to help. Fences for Fido became the second volunteer group in the United States dedicated to building free fences for dogs confined to chains. It was patterned after the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, started in 2006 by The HSUS’ Spay Neuter Initiatives Manager Amanda Arrington in North Carolina.

“I thought: If they can do that in North Carolina, we can do it here,” Peterson said. She sent a video about the North Carolina project to 10 of her girlfriends, and they all jumped aboard.

The group held an auction and raised $15,000. Each fence costs $500. They build a dog house, as well, for $50. And the Oregon Humane Society provides free spay and neutering services.

“We have seen first hand that these families love their dogs,” Peterson said. “They are struggling themselves – everybody in the family is – including the dog. They don’t know how to get help and they don’t have the resources to build a fence. We don’t judge. We just help them out.”

Growing Strong

The original roster of 20 volunteers has blossomed into a 250-strong volunteer force.

So far, they have built 17 fences since Memorial Day weekend, and another 25 dogs are on the waiting list.

After publicity in the newspapers, as well as spotlights on “Every Day Hero” and “Giving Back” local television news segments, the phone started ringing off the hook, Peterson said.

“Our group has been contacted by people in every single state,” she said, adding that similar groups are now starting in Hawaii and Arkansas.

“Many of us work on issues that take a long time, perhaps years, to come to fruition,” Peterson said. “This is something that, in four hours, you can make a difference in a family’s life. It is so special!”

Some Facts About Tethering

Dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. A dog kept chained in one spot for hours, days, months or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive.

In many cases, the necks of chained dogs become raw and covered with sores, the result of improperly fitted collars and the dogs' constant yanking and straining to escape confinement. Dogs have even been found with collars embedded in their necks, the result of years of neglect at the end of a chain.

In addition to the psychological damage wrought 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, in the worst cases, attacks by other animals.

Chained dogs are also easy targets for thieves looking to steal animals for sale to research institutions or to be used as training fodder for organized animal fights. Finally, dogs' tethers can become entangled with other objects, which can choke or strangle the dogs to death.

You can read more articles about Fences for Fido here.


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