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July 1, 2010

Building Fences for Better Lives

By building fences, The Coalition to Unchain Dogs helps build better relationships between dogs and people

Part of an online series profiling staff and friends who volunteer "Off Duty"

  • Since 2007, the Coalition to Unchain Dogs has built free fences for more than 650 dogs. Robert and Lori Hensley/The HSUS

  • A Fence-A-Thon volunteer helps a chained dog. Robert and Lori Hensley/The HSUS

  • Volunteers built 40 fences for 55 chained dogs over a three-day period in June. Robert and Lori Hensley/The HSUS

Read more Off Duty stories»

Fluffy and Dirty Red are now happy, healthy dogs, but their stories didn't begin that way.

Fluffy was found with his collar embedded inches deep into his neck. Dirty Red was attacked by three dogs while chained in a yard, unable to escape. He lived with open wounds for days. 

Amanda Arrington, manager of spay/neuter initiatives in the Companion Animals department of The HSUS, has helped unchain, sterilize, and improve the lives of hundreds of dogs like these two in the past four years.

"We're building fences for as many chained dogs as we can, and we want to keep starting new chapters where we have good leaders and volunteers," Amanda said. "Our true goal would be to take our program nationwide and eventually eradicate the practice of chaining altogether, while building relationships with people and educating them on responsible dog care."

Off the chain

Arrington's group, Coalition to Unchain Dogs, a Durham-based volunteer organization, has tirelessly advocated for dogs living continuously chained outdoors. Since 2007, the coalition has built free fences for more than 650 dogs, worked to pass ordinances in a number of North Carolina jurisdictions that restrict the practice of chaining, expanded into eight chapters throughout the southeast, and built a large following on YouTube and Facebook. 

On July 1, 2010, the first ordinance the group worked for goes into effect—as a result, the dogs of Durham can no longer be chained or tethered outdoors unless attended by their owners.     
 
The Coalition to Unchain Dogs held a "Fence-A-Thon" to raise awareness about the ordinance and continue the effort to help Durham residents comply. Volunteers built 40 fences for 55 chained dogs over a three-day period.

How it began

In 2005, Amanda and Casey Arrington moved from Texas to North Carolina. While volunteering as the community spay/neuter outreach coordinator for Independent Animal Rescue, Amanda began to visit underserved neighborhoods to talk to the residents about spaying and neutering their dogs. She saw chained dogs at almost every house.  

Learn the facts about chaining and tethering »

After witnessing numerous injuries and even deaths caused by chaining, Amanda and Casey started raising money to build free fences for these dogs. They built their first fence in April 2007; it took them three weeks. Now, coalition volunteers in Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte, the Triad, Chatham County, Richmond, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, build fences every weekend in just two to three hours. 
 
The problems that Amanda saw were confirmed by animal control, which has reported that a majority of the cruelty calls it receives are related to chained dogs. 

The coalition's approach

The coalition is not a rescue organization—it doesn't take dogs and try to find new homes for them. Instead, volunteers work directly with the owners, providing non-judgmental assistance, to improve the home the dogs already has. In addition to a free fence, each dog is spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and given a wellness exam by a veterinarian—all at no cost to the owner.

To learn more about the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, visit unchaindogs.org.

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