About six million U.S. dogs live on chains, Dogs Deserve Better count projects
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:
TIPTON, Pa.–How many dogs are chained or penned in
abnormally close quarters as their primary means of confinement?
The quick answer appears to be about six million dogs, 9% of
the U.S. dog population, based on an ANIMAL PEOPLE analysis of data
gathered by Dogs Deserve Better founder Tammy Grimes and public
liaison director Dawn Ashby.
Grimes and Ashby in mid-April 2008 spent 12 days counting
chained or closely penned dogs in a dozen southern and southeastern
states. They found 1,051 chained dogs in 1,483 residential road
miles, or about one mile in 2,648 of the U.S. residential road mile
Grimes believes they saw about half of the actual number of
dogs along their route who are usually kept chained or closely
penned. They saw mostly yard dogs. Not visible from the road were
puppy mill breeding dogs, hunting dogs, many guard dogs, and
fighting dogs. Sled dogs, usually kept chained, would not have
been common along their route.
“There are definitely states where chaining and penning is
much more likely to occur frequently than in other states, and we
hit 12 of the worst,” acknowledged Grimes.
Grimes and Ashby covered a route running from Missouri
through Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, the
Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.
These states are not demographically or climatically representative
of the U.S. as a whole, but appear to have a disproportionately
large share of the total U.S. dog population.
“I don’t know of any studies that identify how many dogs are
chained,” Grimes told ANIMAL PEOPLE before the journey. “It would
be really tough to do,” she guessed, “because of dogs who
are hidden in the vast expanses of rural areas, chained dogs behind
fences, the really scary cases of dogs who are chained in basements,
and those luckier chained dogs who aren’t chained all of the time,
but actually do spend some time indoors. I threw together some
numbers based on dog ownership, recent fatal attacks, and an older
dog bite study, and came up with the estimate that 8.1 million dogs
in the U.S. are tethered.”
Though this now appears to be about two million high,
Grimes’ preliminary estimate incorporated enough older data to
perhaps project accurately the prevalance of tethering before Dogs
Deserve Better began mobilizing opposition to chaining in 2002.
ANIMAL PEOPLE confirmed Grimes’ preliminary estimate by
adding up the numbers of dogs of breeds who are often kept chained,
based on classified ad counts, and guessing that the numbers of
these breeds who are not chained might be approximately equal to the
numbers of other breeds who are chained.
Crude as these approaches are, they converge on a likelihood
that chained dogs are hugely disproportionately involved in fatal
attacks, especially on children. Why this is, however, is unclear
and intensely debated.
Reviewing hospital data now nearly 20 years old,
then-Centers for Disease Control & Prevention public health economist
Jeffrey Sachs reported in 1996 that about 29% of all fatal dog
attacks on children involved chained dogs. But Sachs also found that
nearly half of the attacks were by pit bull terriers. This was
closely comparable to ANIMAL PEOPLE findings from an ongoing log of
dog attack fatalities and maimings kept since September 1982.
As Sachs told ANIMAL PEOPLE, his data was insufficient to
determine whether the dogs were chained because they were dangerous,
or were made dangerous by being chained.
The ANIMAL PEOPLE log continues to show that about half of
all fatal attacks are by pit bulls, who are about 5% of the U.S. dog
population. About 30% of the fatalities appear to involve chained
Grimes and Ashby encountered hazards during their dog count
including, “A mastiff wanting us for dinner, a paranoid woman
freaking the moment she saw us, and a couple of inebriated folks
vowing to ‘put lead in someone’s ass if they didn’t stop talking to
them about their dog.’ Dawn was bit by a chained German shepherd,”
Grimes recounted, “who faked nice and then grabbed her ear, and
was lunged at by a Rottweiler as she tried to give him water. ”
They made efforts to entice dog caretakers to quit chaining
with “offers of free fencing, free collars, leashes, dog treats,
and toys, which we handed out with a smile and a friendly attitude,”
Grimes said. “Each day we interacted with around 20 caretakers, and
left information for at least 20 more who were not home.”