Not a day goes by that Cape of Good Hope SPCA inspectors do not have to stop to educate a pet owner, issue a warning in respect of improving an animal’s welfare or obtain a warrant to remove injured or neglected animals from their owner’s care. Too many of these incidents involve animals that are living on chains and have done so all their lives. In some instances, these dogs have been chained as puppies and have never been unchained again, resulting in strangulating, open and festering wounds that encircle their necks. “The first thing I notice is the unmistakable smell of a rotting wound and then my heart sinks because I know what I’m going to find,” says Inspector Jeffery Mfini who knows all too well that dogs kept on chains are often out of sight, out of mind. “These dogs are forgotten, they are no more important to their owners than the object they are chained to and some have been chained for years,” he says.
Dr Esté Spies, the SPCA’s Head Veterinarian says ‘’we shouldn’t need to keep bolt cutters in our theatre but we need them here to cut the chains that have become deeply embedded in dogs necks. The chains cut through their skin, causing deep lacerations around the neck. If left untreated the wounds become infected and cause suffocation”. “These animals will be in severe discomfort and suffer a painful death if we don’t reach them in time,” she says. Embedded chains are removed under general anaesthetic. Dead tissue is cut away, the wounds are cleaned and the patient receives systemic antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, pain treatment and if possible the wounds are sutured. These animals usually have a long road to recovery, not only because the wounds take a long time to treat but because these dogs often also suffer from dehydration and emaciation, conditions that require intensive treatment to reverse.
In addition to the physical trauma, our canine friends understand and gain information about their environment through their noses. A chained dog is isolated from sensory stimulation or environmental enrichment -the very thing that makes dogs thrive and there is no doubt that the frustration this causes can lead to anger or rage. “Life on a chain is the equivalent of a life in solitary confinement for your dog,” says the Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s on-site animal behaviourist Nicole Nel. This is because dogs on chains live their entire lives deprived of having their most basic of needs met, namely; access to fresh water, food, social interaction, exercise and veterinary care. “The emotional welfare of a chained dog is poor. Sensory deficits like the inability to explore a change in environment can cause depression or an animal may become shut down” she says. “Some dogs may show signs of increased frustration with the inability to move or seek rewards in their environment. This increase in frustration can lead to anger or rage, something we ignore at our peril” says Nicole.
Keeping a dog chained indefinitely is the ultimate form of cruelty. These dogs are essentially chained to pain – both physically and emotionally. It is a criminal offence in terms of the Animals Protection Act No.71 of 1962 2(b) to confine, chain, tether, or secure any animal unnecessarily or under such conditions or in such a manner or position as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering or in any place which affords inadequate space, ventilation, light protection or shelter from heat, cold or weather. This criminal offence is punishable by law and may result in a 12-month prison term or a maximum fine of R40 000.00.
Here’s how you can help:
- Call 021 700 4158/9 during office hours or 083 326 1604 after hours to report distressed animals living on chains. You can also report this via the report cruelty link on our website www.capespca.co.za Your report can be made anonymously.
- It costs the SPCA between R300 – R1000 to break just one chain and an additional R2500.00 – R5000.00 to help one animal heal from an embedded chain injury. Please consider a donation of any amount in respect of this work. Please use the reference “breakingchains” when making your donation.