Requiem for a chained dog

A dog who lived on a 10-foot chain outside a house in Ashland was killed by the Jackson County Animal Shelter in early February. The "Break the chain" campaign, with the permission of the dog's owner, had organized volunteers who walked him daily. (I use the term "owner" in this case, although I generally prefer "guardian").

Some of the volunteers grew to love this dog, who seemed to be unusually intelligent, and who despite his treatment was loving and had a zest for life. When one of the volunteers offered to adopt the dog, his owner forbade any more walks. She took him into the house, sometimes chaining him outside for a few hours a day.

A well-wisher offered first $500, and then $1,000 for him. No answer came from his owner.

About a month later, when he collapsed and seemed to be in pain, his owner took him to the shelter and asked them to end his life. She didn't know that the dog's hopeful adopter, and the "Break the chain" campaign director, had each asked the shelter to notify one of them if he ever was brought in. The shelter agreed to do so.

Recently, the campaign director called the shelter and found out the dog was killed. Staff said they weren't legally obligated to do it, but that they chose to because he couldn't walk, was in pain, was old, and the owner wanted it done.

I believe the shelter felt it was doing the best thing. But when someone is waiting in the wings to rush a dog like that to a veterinarian, then the non-veterinarians at the shelter ought not to deny the animal that chance at surviving. Perhaps he could have been saved by medical care.

Worst case: the dog's adopter would have prolonged his pain until a professional veterinary diagnosis could be made. Best case: a new life in a loving home.

Is an owner who has kept a dog chained for 10 years the best person to a say whether he should be killed, and to decide this without a veterinary diagnosis? If there isn't someone waiting in the wings to rush the animal to a vet, then the shelter may have to kill the animal.

But this dog had someone waiting. He would have wanted to live if he could have had a good life with veterinary treatment.

If Ashland passes a tethering limit, that will go a long way toward preventing negligent owners from having animals in the first place. But meanwhile, some "Break the chain" volunteers are grieving for their friend, whose death was as tragic as his life.

Ron Elterman

Share This Story