Most women in rescue know that, well, the rescue world is made up mostly of WOMEN.
This phenomenon has its upsides and downsides, but for the sake of this blog series, Chained Dog SHEROES, we will be focusing on those amazing women on a mission—to save dogs from a heinous existence at the end of a chain. These women have the passion to take a stand that is often lonely and can make them a target in their communities.
How do they do it? What makes them continue to stand for these ostracized, miserable dogs even when doors are slammed in their faces or they are made to feel like troublemakers for caring?
Let’s give these women the kudos they deserve; I plan to feature a different Chained Dog Shero monthly, so follow my blog to read about their work, get their best tips, and learn how to make a difference for chained dogs in your community.
Chained Dog SHERO #1: Evie Kettler, Lagrange, Georgia
What made you want to fight for chained dogs?
Evie: It all began because of two dogs I saw chained every time I drove by a home on the way to my son’s house. The reason these dogs caught my attention was because one of them looked just like my dog. The dog had big ears like my dog and the color was just like my sweet Mollie.
She has a unique look to her and that’s what caught my attention. At first I was just in awe that this dog looked like my dog, then it began to hit me that while my dog had a loving home, this dog spent his/her life alone and chained. I used to check on my sons’ dogs a lot so I drove by this house often. As time went on I realized this dog was just there all the time—in the heat and cold, no matter the weather. Seeing this dog that looked like my dog started to weigh on me. It began to make me sad and I dreaded driving by this house . . . but I just couldn’t look away. Sometimes when it was really cold outside I would cry about it. I thought to myself “one day I have to fix this . . . but how?”
What steps did you take to make the difference you made on the dogs’ behalf?
I decided to try to find help for the two dogs, so my first call was to animal control. It was the worst phone call ever! I was told that if I tried to change things I was “infringing on people’s rights.”
“Really? Well I guess you won’t like what I’m about to do, then,” I said to the man on the other end. “Thank you for talking to me,” and I hung up.
This was my first experience with animal control and it would be the last because I never called them back. For some reason I was naively expecting he would agree with me; never did I think for one moment he would tell me he saw nothing wrong with chaining dogs—and he didn’t think dogs got cold. The man on the other end of the phone was horrible—my biggest regret from this experience is that I didn’t get his name.
After that I called city hall and asked who I needed to talk to change the law. The woman told me to write to city council. So I did.
I wrote them a really sad letter about the dogs, and I now realize once again I was expecting them to care about the plight of chained dogs. I only got one response. I called the council member and told him how I felt and he told me how to get on the agenda to speak in front of them.
I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! And I was terrified to do it, but I wouldn’t let myself stop. I called and asked them to give me a couple of weeks to prepare before being placed on the agenda. I’m glad I did because being prepared is crucial to speaking in front of your city council or commissioners.
What was the hardest moment, the moment you wanted to give up, and how did you overcome it?
I had lots of moments of wanting to give up and there were times I almost did! I sat home many nights and cried myself to sleep, praying for God to tell me what he wanted me to do. Should I just give up or do I keep fighting? Is this fight just too big for me? Please tell me because I’m lost and I can’t take the doors slamming in my face and people telling this would never happen.
Why? I wasn’t asking for the impossible. Even the city council member I called told me, “I know your heart is in this but it will never fly here.” Every time I wanted to give up I would see another post of something bad happening to a chained dog and I would say to myself “that’s my answer, I keep fighting.” So I did.
It seemed no matter who I asked to help, no one would—I was alone. I believe God put that dog who looked like my dog in front of me for a reason. I was that person that looked away or didn’t really pay attention to chained dogs. How did God get my attention? What would finally get me to pay attention to what was right before my eyes? Being forced to watch a dog being treated inhumanely that looked so much like my own . . . that’s what reached me.
What accomplishments have you made on behalf of chained dogs in your area?
Through hard work and perseverance, I have been able to ban chaining not only in Lagrange, Georgia but also in Hogansville, Georgia.
To all those people who said I would never get anywhere I say NEVER SAY NEVER.
The first proposed ordinance still included time on the chain, and I was against it. So one more time I asked to be able to speak because I did not agree with the ordinance they were proposing. And one more time the mayor let me.
The reason I went to Hogansville, Georgia was because—after seeing my success in Lagrange—the mayor of Hogansville asked me to present to their council as well. He had been at the first meeting I attended at Lagrange and heard my presentation. I was then able to get chaining banned in Hogansville, Georgia as a snowball effect of my efforts in Lagrange!
Both ordinances went into effect in the same week, and that was such a wonderful week for me. All my efforts to keep going despite my tears and fears had paid off for the dogs in two communities. I haven’t yet succeeded in getting the trolley banned, but this is just the beginning. I have learned so much and I now know what I need to do to be ready for my next journey in front of the county commissioners.
I am currently in the process of helping a friend build a fence to finish enclosing her yard to get her dog off a trolley system.
But, as a cautionary tale, not all stories have a happy ending. While scrolling through my newsfeed, I ran across a post of a friend reaching out asking friends for material to help build a fence for her dog Lola. I immediately said I’d help her, but no one else did. I went over to meet her dog and what materials she needed to get it done. There was Lola, growling and barking at me, and wrapped around a porch pole. I felt horrible at seeing her distress, so I said I can help pay—let’s get this baby a fence.
I called my son and made arrangements for him to meet us at the hardware store with his truck. We bought the material and my son hauled it to her house. Lola was going to be free and have her fence! For awhile everything was good but then I started seeing posts that Lola was jumping the fence. Then came the horrible posts that they were moving to an apartment. My heart sunk because I wondered what would happen to Lola. Then came the post that Lola had gotten out of the yard and animal control had taken Lola away—she was euthanized!
I cried so hard when I saw that post. I found myself angry that I had done everything to help this person and she still let Lola down. I wasn’t even mad I had spent $200 of my money—I was mad that Lola didn’t get the chance she deserved, and she’d lost her life due to the irresponsibility of others.
What would be your best advice for others trying to free dogs from chains?
In the past year I have learned so much, but the biggest thing I have learned is you can do anything your set your mind to. If you want to help free chained dogs you must first be committed and know that it will be hard. You need to be willing to go to all the meetings pertaining to your proposed animal ordinance, and stay involved until the end. Keep in constant contact with the mayor, city council or commissioners. I scheduled my personal appointments around the council meetings.
The first thing I did was educate myself on tethering. I needed to know what I was talking about, so I began researching on how to present an anti-tethering ordinance in front of city council. I quickly realized that I needed animal control and city council on my side—since I didn’t have them on my side, it would make things that much harder. I had doors closing in my face, and no one would help. But I knew I was doing the right thing and I kept going.
Do everything you can to form a relationship with animal control and the city council or the commissioners. That helps a great deal; also, get the people you know who agree involved as many as possible. Try to get people to attend the meetings with you. But if they don’t show up, go forward anyway. If you are alone like I was, you can still make a difference.
The only way you won’t make a difference is if you remain silent. When you are presenting in front of city council, this is not about your personal feelings, but about the community, it’s people, and the dogs. Everything I read said, “focus on how it affects the community and the people;” but for me, I had to include how it affects the life of a dog too.
Here are some things to do before going in front of your elected officials:
- Be committed, because this could take awhile.
- Do your research, know what you are talking about. I wanted to know what cities in Georgia were doing so I researched nearby town ordinances to see if I could find other ‘no tethering’ ordinances, and I did. I contacted animal control in those areas to see if they worked or what kind of issues they were having. I watched the news and Facebook closely to see what others were doing and to find news reports on tethered dogs. This is how I found two vets in my area that agree with no tethering.
- Contact your city council members or commissioners and animal control to see how they feel about what you are doing. This gives you an idea if they will support you or not.
- Put together a packet with everything they need to pass an anti-tethering ordinance. I went further, and sectioned and highlighted what I felt was most important for them to read. Keep in mind that you want to make this as easy as possible for them to do. And they—more than likely—do not have a clue how chaining affects a dog and everyone around it nor do they know how an ordinance should be written. Make copies for everyone and present them before the meeting for them to review or the actual day of the meeting.
My packet includes the following and you can add or change things to be the way that works best for you. These are the things I found to be important:
- A PowerPoint presentation that outlines why I am proposing an anti-tethering ordinance.
- Proposed changes that include examples of tethering ordinances, shelter requirements, enclosure requirements so dogs are not placed in small pens, examples of extreme temperature ordinances, and animal care. These are things that I felt needed to be amended in the current ordinance but may not be the same for others.
- Information on how to slowly phase in an ordinance; I included an example of how Guilford County, NC did this. People need to be given time to comply because no one wants dogs to end up at animal control, and animal control wants to have less conflict by giving people time to comply.
- Type of objections people will have and answers to these objections.
- Animal expert statements from veterinarians, animal behavior experts, and animal control. There are some animal control that agree with anti–tethering ordinances, if so, these folks be very important to your ordinance.
- Issues that apply to tethering. In this section I included news articles of animal bites from dogs on chains, injuries to dogs from being on chains and other issues pertaining to chained dogs.
- Watch for cities and towns that are banning tethering so they can see what others are doing. This is a hotbed issue now, so there are many others to use as examples. Impress upon the council that they don’t want to be perceived as the ones who are not at the forefront of animal issues.
- Present solutions to help the people that will be affected. Often their objection will be that people can’t afford a fence. Remember that it is FREE to bring a dog inside to live! It costs only a collar and a leash for walking the dog. I also suggested allowing people up to a year to comply and I found two fencing companies that were willing to offer a discount to build a fence using galvanized wire. You may be able to think of other solutions but these are just a couple.
Any parting words to those who want to make a difference for chained dogs?
I would like my story to inspire others to do what I did, because no dog deserves to live tied up 24/7 until death finally comes for him or her. I am just an average citizen who knew nothing about changing an ordinance, but alone I was able to get the chain banned in two cities, and I am currently working to go in front of the county commissioners, too. Giving up means giving up on the voiceless, and I just couldn’t do that.
Right now I see three pit bulls that are always chained up on my way home and one German Shepherd who is often tied to a tree. I have made a promise to those dogs, and that promise is to do whatever I can to end their inhumane treatment. I’m not done yet!
If you’d like to help Evie get chaining legislation passed, offer her words of support, or ask for her advice, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.