How to check dog breed bans

Stacy Wolf, Director New York State Government Affairs and Public Policy, ASPCA

STATE LAW – Beware of Breed Bans

The evening news and daily papers have a voracious appetite for the high drama of dog attacks. Inevitably, media attention raises concerns for public safety—concerns that sometimes lead municipalities to propose measures that would ban or restrict ownership of certain breeds—most commonly pit bulls. These “breed-specific” bans, which draw no distinction between a dog who has attacked a person and a dog who is entirely friendly, will not make our communities safer. In fact, these laws do more harm than good. They condemn even well-behaved dogs to death because shelters are prohibited from adopting them to members of the community. Responsible people who already own friendly dogs of a banned breed can be deprived of beloved pets—as well as their constitutional right to due process of law.

How to check dog breed bansWhy won’t breed-specific bans solve the problem of aggressive dogs in our communities? Because they focus on the dog, rather than on the dog owner. It is people who do not adequately control their dogs, and those who train dogs to be aggressive, who are the problem. Their activities are already against the law in most jurisdictions. In New York State, training dogs to fight is a felony, lesser acts surrounding such training are misdemeanors and failing to supervise a “dangerous dog” who injures or kills a person or another animal carries severe consequences. [Diane Jessup, author of The Dog Who Spoke With Gods, a powerful new novel about a pit bull in medical research, says that what we really need is “dangerous-owner” laws.—Ed.]

What will help make our communities safer is enforcing existing laws and supporting legislation, such as a bill now pending in New York (A.2688/S.1815) that would make it easier to prosecute animal fighting offenses. Banning a breed that is favored for fighting will only drive these activities further underground, making detection by law enforcement that much more difficult. And those who are involved in these illegal and inhumane pastimes will simply replace the pit bull with a breed that isn’t banned.

While people who behave irresponsibly with their dogs should be held accountable for their actions, responsible owners of friendly, socialized dogs should not be punished because their dogs are a particular breed. Indeed, because dogs are still deemed property under the law, depriving an owner of his dog based on breed alone clearly violates the due process provisions of the Constitution, ensuring prolonged and costly legal proceedings in the wake of breed-specific legislation. At their simplest, laws that ban or restrict an entire breed en masse, without regard for the actions of individual dogs, are fundamentally unfair.

Recognizing that breed-specific laws are ineffective and unfair, some states, such as New York, prohibit them by statute. Other, local governments that have passed breed-specific laws, such as those in Cincinnati and in Prince George’s County (MD), either have or are considering repealing them because they do not accomplish their intended purpose. Still, municipalities respond to the latest dog attack story on the news by attempting to pass laws that ban specific breeds outright or restrict their ownership, such as by requiring muzzles when off the owner’s property (this was recently proposed, but defeated, in San Francisco), or exorbitant levels of liability insurance coverage. The latter is equivalent to an outright ban, given the widespread and entirely legal insurance company practice of denying coverage based on breed.

When such laws are enacted, the most tragic victims are the innocent young pit bulls or other targeted breeds who are awaiting adoption in shelters. Shelters already face a daunting task in finding homes for their charges. Add to that a ban on ownership of a particular breed, and the result is the needless euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals merely because they happen to be pit bulls, Rottweilers or whichever breed is next to make the evening news. Lawmakers must be made to understand that breed-specific laws are effective at achieving only one, unacceptable outcome: the death of friendly dogs who’ve done no harm.

MODEL BILL AVAILABLE

Stacy Wolf is director of the New York State Government Affairs and Public Policy office in Albany, NY.

© 2001 ASPCA
ASPCA Animal Watch – Spring 2001

Dogs coming in from overseas are often accompanied by falsified rabies documentation.

How to check dog breed bans

Story at a glance

  • The CDC issued a yearlong moratorium on importing adopted dogs from overseas.
  • Public health officials cited a spike in rabies cases.
  • Dogs are banned from countries that are both low and high risk for rabies under the new policy.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new yearlong ban on importing dogs from more than 100 countries after a nationwide spike in rabies.

The agency announced on Monday that due to the dramatic increase in pet adoption brought on by the pandemic, as well as social restrictions and stay-at-home mandates, some dogs came into the country from overseas with fraudulent or inaccurate rabies certificates.

The rule goes into effect on July 14, 2021.

“We’re doing this to make sure that we protect the health and safety of dogs that are imported into the United States, as well as protect the public’s health,” the CDC’s Emily Pieracci told NPR .

The CDC estimates that 6 percent of all dogs imported into the U.S. come from countries with a high risk of dog rabies and inadequate vaccinations.

This follows a plethora of reports from early in the pandemic stating that animal rescue shelters were seeing a surge of adoptions over the course of 2020. Nationwide shortages of animals in need of homes may have contributed to a spike of overseas adoption.

“Early on in the pandemic, the shelters were reporting record-low numbers because everybody was adopting pandemic puppies. And so there is a possibility that there may be a correlation between empty shelters here driving an increased demand to purchase puppies overseas,” Pieracci explained.

How to check dog breed bans

Article share options

Share this on

Send this by

The peak body representing vets in Australia is calling on governments to ditch bans on dangerous dog breeds.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AWA), which has launched a new strategy to deal with dog bites, says the latest research shows banning particular breeds does nothing to address aggression in dogs, and nothing to increase public safety.

The vets say a focus on registration, education and temperament testing would be more effective.

But a critic says they are advocating a risky strategy that allows every dog at least one free bite, and that bite could be fatal.

In the past five years or so, each of the Australian states has moved to ban a selection of dog breeds considered to be dangerous.

Among them, the American Pit Bull terrier and the Japanese Tosa.

In each case, the ban followed a ferocious attack, and a brief debate about whether the dog or its owner was to blame.

Veterinary behaviourist and AWA spokeswoman Dr Kersti Seksel argues breeds-specific legislation is not the answer.

“It hasn’t decreased the number of dog bites,” she said.

“Regardless of breed, dogs are capable of biting, just like people are capable of fighting regardless of our origin either.”

Size does not matter

Sorry, this audio has expired

Dr Seksel says all dogs have the potential to cause serious harm.

“If you’re a Great Dane and you bite someone, the sheer size of you is going to make more damage than a Chihuahua will,” she said.

“But there are three kilo Yorkshire terriers that have also killed human beings. So it’s not just about size.”

The AVA points out the vast majority of dog bites are caused by family pets that are known to the victim.

And that victim is usually under 10 years of age.

“Not all aggression is actually always the dog’s fault,” Dr Seksel said.

“You know if the dog hasn’t been fed for 24 hours and someone gives the dog a bone and then tries to take it away from it, then that would be. some would consider to be perfectly appropriate behaviour.

“If you’re hungry and you take the bone away well the dog is going to react in some way and the dog can’t say ‘please don’t do this’.”

The vets are proposing an alternative framework to dog breed bans.

They want to see all dogs identified and registered; a national mandatory reporting system for dog bites; temperament testing when a dog is sold; and a community-wide education campaign on bites for pet owners, breeders, parents and children.

“We know that owning pets and owning dogs is good for us,” Dr Seksel said.

“There’s been lots of studies to show that they decrease blood pressure, decrease cholesterol and there’s even been studies showing that we could save millions of dollars in the annual health budget in Australia if people actually owned pets.

“And dog bites, on the other hand, do cost the health budget a lot of money so in fact the way that I would see one way of getting it on the national agenda is to get the Federal Minister for Health on board.”

‘Backward step’

RSPCA Victoria president Hugh Wirth was once a supporter of banning dangerous dog breeds.

He advocated for the breeding out of the American Pit Bull Terrier, saying they were “lethal” and “time bombs waiting for the right circumstances”.

But not anymore.

“The truth about breed-specific legislation is that it doesn’t work, you don’t decrease the numbers,” he said.

“In fact you send the breeding of that particular breed of dog underground.”

Mr Wirth says his change of heart was brought about by the latest veterinary and dog behaviour research.

“What I believed years ago, when I made those statements. was the common approach that even the veterinary profession was using,” he said.

“Now that this research has been done and it’s quite widespread we’ve discovered that our understanding of dogs and their behaviour was completely wrong.”

Graeme Smith of Victoria’s Lost Dogs Home says the AVA’s recommendations are a backward step.

“The old system of ‘deed not breed’ is a system that allows dogs one free bite,” Mr Smith said.

“In the case of American Pit Bull terriers one free bite can often be a fatal bite.

“Ten years ago I wouldn’t have been a breed specific person myself but I’ve seen what American Pit Bull terriers do and people are fearful of them and we need to protect the community from these dogs.”

The AVA will send a copy of the new strategy to each level of government in an effort to have the plan adopted nationally.

Beginning in early 2021, new regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will likely ban emotional support animals from flying in cabins with their owners. The regulations were recently announced as part of an update to the DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which is responsible for regulations connected to service animals on airplanes. Expected to take effect in early 2021, these new regulations will significantly change travel experiences for everyone who flies commercially.

What do the new regulations mean for flying with Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs?

The biggest change that comes with the new DOT regulations is that Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) will no longer be given access rights to fly on planes with their owners. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities around public accommodation, employment, commercial facilities and all transportation except commercial airlines, which are covered by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

ESAs do not have any public-access rights in accordance with the ADA, however, the ACAA has historically allowed ESAs to fly with their disabled owners outside of carriers and free of charge. While for some people with disabilities who have ESAs this has been helpful, it has also led to an increase in pets being passed off as ESAs illegally in order to fly in the cabin with their owners and fly for free. Unfortunately, people see pretending to have an ESA or a service dog as a victimless crime, but it not only creates an unsafe working environment for actual service dogs, it can also tarnish the general public’s opinion of service dogs, which can cause access issues for legit service dogs in the future. In many states, it’s against the law and punishable by fine or jail time to try to pass your pet off as a service dog.

The new regulations put into place are primarily in response to complaints that have arisen from the general public: reported bites and other incidents of aggression that have occurred on planes from untrained ESAs. Prior to this ruling, the DOT had a public comment period and has disclosed with the announcement of the new regulations they received more than 15,000 comments about proposed changes. In response to concerns raised by the airplanes, flight attendants, members of the general public, airports, as well as individuals with disabilities and disability advocates, ESAs will no longer be permitted on flights.

Under the new ACAA regulations, a Service Dog will be defined (similar to ADA language) as a dog that has been individually trained to work or perform tasks that specifically benefit a person with a disability. Some exciting news with this is that under the new ACAA regulations psychiatric service dogs who work with people who have disabilities from PTSD to Autism will be treated like any other service dog. Prior to this shift, people with psychiatric service dogs could be required to provide additional documentation about their disability. This shift is aligned with the ADA, which does not treat one kind of service dog any different than any other or require additional levels of disclosure about the handler’s disability. Under the new regulations, airlines can require disabled passengers who are service-dog handlers to complete DOT service dog forms 48 hours in advance of travel but prohibits airlines from requiring disabled flyers with service dogs to physically check-in at the airport and allows for online check-in. Service dogs must fit within the handler’s foot space on the aircraft (this is why service dog handlers with large dogs teach them to tuck under seats) and continues to allow airlines to refuse to transport service dogs that exhibit any kind of aggressive behavior. Another positive aspect of the new regulations is that it also forbids airlines from discriminating against a service dog because of the dog’s breed.

How to check dog breed bansPhoto: Manuel-F-O/Getty Images

What is the difference between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Animal?

Unlike Service Dogs who are specifically trained to perform different tasks that help a person with a psychiatric or physical disability, ESAs simply provide supportive comfort to their disabled owners. ESAs are not required to have any kind of training including the rigorous public access training process that gives Service Dogs the tools they need to ignore all food, distractions, people, animals’ distractions and not interact with their environment in any way.

However, contrary to some of the predatory advertising you might have seen online that says anyone can have an (ESA), you actually must be disabled to have an ESA prescribed to you.

For the most part, ESAs do not have public-access rights and are not allowed in public places that aren’t dog friendly such as stores, restaurants, hospitals, theme parks, etc. However provided they are not disruptive, ESAs are allowed to live with their owners in housing that is not pet friendly and until the new DOT regulations take effect were allowed to travel with their owners in airplane cabins.

What if you were planning to fly with an ESA?

The new regulations take effect in early 2021 and at that point, passengers with Emotional Support Dogs will no longer be permitted to fly with them. If you have previously flown with your ESA and were planning to do so again for an upcoming trip, you will need to make different arrangements for traveling by either leaving your dog at home with a pet sitter or depending on your airline carrier your ESA may be able to fly with you as a pet.

When the new regulations take effect, ESAs will be considered the same as any other pet. Meaning if the airline permits small dogs to travel in a carrier under seat, owners can purchase that add-on to their ticket but do not have any access or privileges for their dog different than they would if their dog was a pet and are subject to all pet-related fees, restrictions, and limitations. When the new regulations take effect, individuals whose ESAs are large breed dogs will not be able to fly with their pets at all unless those dogs are flown cargo, same as any other large pet dog.

How to check dog breed bans

If you own a dog or plan on getting one, be aware of homeowners insurance dog breed restrictions. Dogs such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Presa Canarios and Akitas are often on banned-dog lists by home insurance companies.

Generally home insurance covers a homeowner’s liability for dog bites. But some home insurance companies have lists of prohibited dog breeds — they will not sell coverage to you, or will exclude liability and medical payments coverage for dog-related injuries — if you own a prohibited breed.

Other insurers don’t have a “list” but will judge dogs on a case-by-case basis. Many insurers ban any dog that has been “aggressive” or has a history of biting.

Top 10 banned dog breeds

EverQuote analyzed lists of prohibited dogs from state insurance filings to find the most-banned breeds. We looked at filings made by the 50 largest home insurance companies. Here are the 10 dog breeds most often on prohibited lists:

  • Pit bull
  • Rottweiler
  • Chow chow
  • Presa Canario
  • Akita
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Wolf hybrids
  • Mastiff
  • Wolf
  • German shepherd

Click through our slideshow to see the banned dogs and how often they’re on banned lists.

Note that no home insurance policy, whether it excludes your dog or not, will cover bills if your dog damages your own property or bites a member of your own household.

What to do if you own a restricted dog breed

If you have a restricted breed, your home insurer might drop you or suggest you get rid of the dog in order to keep coverage. Here are possible solutions.

  1. Try to get an exception. If you have a restricted breed of dog, you may be able to get an exception to an insurer’s prohibited list if:
    – The dog has a Canine Good Citizen certificate from the American Kennel Club.
    – The dog is trained as a service dog (such as a guide dog).

2. Look for a new home insurance company. If you can’t get an exception, you could shop around for a new home insurer that will sell you insurance with the dog. You may have an exceptionally hard time if the dog has already bitten someone or you have a pit bull or Rottweiler, which are typically considered aggressive.

3. Have the dog excluded from coverage. If you have a prohibited breed and want to stay with your insurer, ask if you can get the dog excluded from coverage. You will not have insurance for liability claims against you if the dog bites or injures someone. This means you’ll be personally responsible if you’re sued over a dog injury. The average dog liability insurance claim was $33,230 in 2016, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

If your current home insurer won’t sell you a policy that excludes dog liability, ask an independent insurance agent if there are any companies that will.

4. Get insurance for the dog another way. If your dog is excluded from home insurance coverage, there may be other ways to cover dog liability:

  • Buy an umbrella liability policy from your home insurer. Some umbrella insurance policies will cover liability for dog bites. But before you buy one for this purpose, confirm the umbrella policy covers dog-related injuries.
  • Buy a standalone “canine liability policy.” This type of insurance specifically covers the dog if your home insurance company won’t. For example, Kingstone Insurance offers Canine Legal Liability Coverage. Canine liability insurance policies are typically offered by “excess” or “surplus” lines insurers. This means the insurers are not licensed by a state and not subject to state insurance department rules. However, many types of specialty policies are sold by excess and surplus lines insurers. Ask an independent insurance agent what your options are for canine liability policies.

Preventing dog bites — and home insurance problems

You don’t want a dog bite or injury to lead to a problem getting home insurance. According to the experts, here are ways to prevent dog bites:

  • Be especially careful if children are around. Children ages 5 to 9 are most likely to get dog bites, and boys more likely than girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Spay or neuter the dog. A dog is less likely to bite if spayed or neutered, according to The Humane Society.
  • Socialize the dog so he is used to being around people. Socialization and supervision help reduce dog bites, according to The Humane Society.
  • More tips on preventing dog bites are available from The Humane Society.

The elephant in the room

Dogs aren’t the only animals that might be banned by home insurance companies. Insurers also typically won’t cover “exotic” animals. While definitions of exotic can vary, here are examples of other animals commonly excluded from home insurance coverage.

  • Monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons, mandrills, orangutans.
  • Lions, tigers, bobcats, lynx, cougars, leopards, jaguars, ocelots and panthers.
  • Wolves, coyotes, foxes and jackals.
  • All bears.
  • Venomous snakes, constricting snakes and carnivorous reptiles.
  • Alligators and crocodiles.
  • Elephants.
  • Hyenas.
  • Hippopotamuses, giraffes, camels and elk.
  • Raccoons and coatis.
  • Kangaroos and opossums.
  • Rhinoceroses and tapirs.
  • Anteaters, sloths and armadillos.
  • Mongooses, civets and genets.
  • Mink, ermine, weasels, sables, stoats, otters, badgers, wolverines and skunks.
  • Piranha.
  • Invasive carp species.
  • Ostriches and emus.

United Airlines will only accept cats and dogs for air travel and ban any short-nosed or snub-nosed dogs such as Pugs and French Bulldogs

United Airlines has updated their travel policies after a number of animal-related deaths.

The airline updated their PetSafe travel policies which apply to animals transported in a plane’s cargo hold. Now the airline will only accept cats and dogs for air travel and banned any short-nosed or snub-nosed dogs such as Pugs and French Bulldogs, “out of concern for higher adverse health risks,” according to United Airlines’ website.

Also on the no-fly list are “strong-jawed” dog breeds such as the American Pit Bull Terrier and Mastiffs.

Charles Hobart, a spokesman for United Airlines, tells PEOPLE the list of dog breeds the airline would not carry in cargo was previously six but has increased noticeably in an update made Tuesday. The new restrictions will be implemented on June 18.

“We are doing this to further minimize risk and ensure the comfort of pets we fly,” says Hobart. “Prior to today, we flew all sorts of animals. Geese, foxes, leopards, you name it, we pretty much flew it. That will change moving forward. We’ll only fly dogs and cats as pets that belong to our customers.”

Hobart says the airline’s priority is “the safety and comfort of those animals” and the dog breeds banned from traveling were at the recommendation of American Humane.

The new changes also mean United Airlines won’t fly pets between May 1 and Sept. 30 to four airports — Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, McCarran International Airport, Palm Springs International Airport and Tucson International Airport — due to high temperatures.

“We understand that [the new policies] can present challenges to folks who have traditionally flown their pets where they need to be, but our overwhelming concern is ensuring the comfort of those animals and this is how we have to do it,” he explains.

Hobart says customers preparing to fly with the United Airlines can prepare their pets for travel by “acclimating them to a kennel or crate” before flying out.

A decision on whether to implement restrictions for animals traveling in the cabin is pending further investigation, Hobart says.

PetSafe’s latest policy change comes after the airline began an investigation in March following the death of a French Bulldog in an overhead storage bin.

A passenger’s dog died on United Airlines flight #1284 after a flight attendant allegedly adamantly instructed the unnamed passenger to store her carrier — with the pet inside — in an overhead storage bin for the duration of the flight.

Maggie Gremminger, a passenger who witnessed the incident, told PEOPLE the black French bulldog barked from the bin at least 30 minutes into the flight, but was found dead when the owner went to retrieve her dog once the plane had landed.

“The flight attendant told the passenger that her bag was blocking part of the aisle. I could not see it, as I was already in my seat, but it sounded like it was somehow not completely fitting beneath the seat in front of her,” Gremminger said of the encounter.

“After the flight attendant asked her to move it above, the woman adamantly refused, communicating her dog was in the bag. There was some back and forth before finally, the flight attendant convinced her to move the carrier to the bin above.”

At the time, airline spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin told PEOPLE in a statement, “This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”

  • Want to keep up on the latest from PEOPLE? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get our best stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox.

According to United’s pet policy online, non-service dogs are permitted in the cabin with a service fee of $125 as long as the dog “is in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times.”

In another incident shortly after the French Bulldog’s death, a family that moved from Oregon to Kansas discovered their dog, a German shepherd named Irgo, who had to fly in the cargo hold of a different flight, was accidentally flown to Japan instead of to the family’s new hometown.

How to check dog breed bans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that it is temporarily banning dogs from being imported from more than 100 countries because of a risk of rabies. The ban will go into effect July 14.

The move was prompted by an increase in inadequate rabies vaccination certificates abroad, the agency said.

“This temporary action is necessary to ensure the health and safety of dogs imported into the United States and to protect the public’s health against the reintroduction” of dog rabies into the country, the CDC wrote on its website.

How to check dog breed bans

More Americans welcome pooches during the pandemic

Dogs are routinely vaccinated against rabies, a virus that can kill both canines and humans. Because of vaccines, dog rabies has been eliminated from the U.S. since 2007, the CDC said.

Puppy adoptions increased over the past year as people stayed home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC estimates that 6 percent of dogs that come into the U.S. from other countries arrive from places considered to be at high risk for dog rabies.

They include — but are not limited to — Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Peru and Russia.

Related

News As Covid slows in America, dogs face their new normal: Not being with owners 24/7

“The importation of even one rabid dog could result in transmission to humans, pets and wildlife,” the CDC said.

Anyone wishing to bring a dog in from another country will need to apply for a special permit, the CDC said. U.S. citizens returning home with pets after living abroad may qualify for the permit, as well as those with disabilities in need of service dog.

However, permits for emotional support animals or pet adoptions will not be issued, the agency said.

Erika Edwards is a health and medical news writer and reporter for NBC News and “TODAY.”

The acclaimed documentary Breaking the Chain exposes the nationwide crisis of neglected and abused dogs languishing on chains and inside pens—and reveals the power of a small group of people who make a world of difference for them. You can watch it for free right now on Prime Video.

The incredibly moving documentary, #BreakingTheChain, is now streaming for FREE on @PrimeVideo & only $0.99 across all other video-on-demand services for the next month.

The film shows how PETA fieldworkers spend every day helping animals in need. https://t.co/q2e4Jr6Lgo pic.twitter.com/bH9UcktRmC

You don’t have to stop at watching the film—you, too, can take action for animals suffering in backyards in your own neighborhood! Here’s how to get started:

Watch Breaking the Chain

Available on numerous streaming platforms, the documentary will not only open your eyes to the all-too-common plight of dogs like Edith and Zena but also inspire you to help dogs in your own community.

Research Laws and Cases in Your Area

So what can you do if you spot a dog kept chained or penned outside 24/7? Every state has laws pertaining to standards of care, cruelty, and neglect. Familiarize yourself with local and state laws, and check to see if there are any tethering bans in your region. However, even if there are laws on the books, they’re not necessarily enforced and your local law-enforcement entity may not be aware of the individual dogs you’re concerned about.

Gather Information

It’s perfectly fine to knock on someone’s door and talk with them or leave them a note with your information, but you shouldn’t walk around private property without the owner’s permission. However, dogs and their living conditions may be visible from the street, the sidewalk, the neighbor’s yard (if the neighbor allows you access), etc. You can take photos or video footage of what you observe from those vantage points, and having visuals could be a huge help if you file a complaint. Carefully note what you see, keeping the following in mind.

  • Location: Record the address, and accurately describe the location and description of the home if there is no visible house number. Note the temperature at the time, too.
  • Description of animal: If you can tell the dog’s breed, approximate age, size, and sex, record that information, too.
  • Dog’s health: If the situation appears dire (for instance, if the dog is downed or hunched over or has difficulty breathing or walking), don’t hesitate to call 911.

Look for Shelter

Note whether the dog is tethered, chained, penned, or loose as well as whether they have access to adequate shelter. A doghouse should have four walls, a raised floor, a solid roof, and an opening covered by a flap in the winter, and it must be waterproof. It should be small enough that the dog’s own body heat can help provide some warmth but large enough to allow for standing up, turning around, and lying down comfortably.

If the only accessible shelter is an airline carrier, a wire crate, a barrel, or something else that collects water, ices up, or lets the cold and wind in—or if the dog has no shelter at all—that is not adequate and could be very serious, especially during bad weather.

Look for Food and Water

In Halifax County, North Carolina, a PETA fieldworker who gave Miss Willie food, toys, and treats and cleaned and refilled her water bowl lingers to scratch her ears, kiss her nose, and tell her how special she is.

Try to see if there are any buckets or bowls of food and water. If the water is frozen in the winter or there’s none at all, take action, as described in the next steps. If the dog seems underweight (with ribs, spine, or hipbones showing), look for any evidence of food and fecal matter.

Talk to the Owner

Knock on the door, and be very polite. If applicable, mention that it’s cold out and say that you were wondering if the owner would let the dog, who appears to be shivering, in the house. In warmer months, let the owners know how dangerous sweltering heat is for dogs exposed to the elements. If the owner is worried that the dog would make a mess indoors or gives another excuse, suggest allowing the animal to stay overnight in the laundry room, a bathroom, or even a heated garage—anywhere warm.

If the owner refuses to allow the dog indoors, politely ask for permission to help. Ask if you can provide the dog with fresh water, food, and/or straw bedding. Emphasize that this will all be free of charge—you just love dogs and would like to help.

Call the Authorities

If the owner won’t let the dog indoors or allow you to help, be polite, leave the property, and call local animal control. If the agency is unresponsive or closed, call the local police or sheriff. Clearly describe the conditions for the animal, saying that the dog has no access to water or shelter (or whatever is accurate) and needs to be taken indoors or provided with adequate protection and care as required by law.

Be calm, firm, polite, and precise, and mention the temperature. Carefully note the time that you called and the name of the person you spoke with. If the dog has no shelter or is sick or injured, stay there until an officer arrives. Remember that your involvement could mean the difference between life and death.

Work to Get a Tethering Ban Passed to Outlaw Chaining Dogs

The best way to prevent dogs from suffering and dying on chains is to get a tethering ban passed.

PETA has everything you need to convince your local officials that chaining should be outlawed. Please contact us for materials to hand out at council and commissioner meetings or to put in packets to inform people about the nationwide crisis of animal neglect. Print literature from PETA detailing why chaining dogs creates unsafe neighborhoods, and hand out copies in your community. Click here for more information on getting a tethering ban.

Available Now—Watch Breaking the Chain Today!