When did crating your dog become a crime? - Macleans.ca

When did crating your dog become a crime?

Leashes. Crates. Even doghouses. Suddenly they’re all evil. The debate over how to treat Fido is dividing pet owners.


Just outside the small Nova Scotia fishing town of Lockeport, Robbie Fowler’s home sits near a bend in a country road that winds through Shelburne County. Two dogs named Buddy and Magnum, golden retriever mixed breeds, live on chains in the yard. The dogs love to walk in the woods, ride in Fowler’s pickup truck and swim in nearby Allendale Bay. But they hate staying inside. “They don’t even go in the doghouse half the time,” says Fowler. “What they are is hunting dogs.”

That’s why Fowler keeps Buddy and Magnum on chains about 15 feet long. These are attached to “big long-run ropes” that Fowler says allow Buddy and Magnum to move up and down the yard while preventing them from straying out to the road and getting hit by a car. “They run around and get plenty of exercise,” says Fowler.

One day in February, a cruelty investigator from the SPCA turned up at Fowler’s door. Animal rights activists in the area have been filing complaints against Fowler for more than a year, telling authorities that the way he keeps his dogs is causing them to suffer social isolation and confinement. The investigator surveyed Fowler’s yard, taking note of the run ropes and the insulated doghouse with a shingle roof that Fowler built for Buddy and Magnum. “He said: ‘Your dogs cannot get tangled up, they have a good long run, they have a nice house. I don’t know what they’re calling for,’ ” Fowler recalls. The investigator left after concluding Buddy and Magnum were well-fed and cared for.

Over the years, the boundary between animal cruelty and kindness has moved, and some of us didn’t even notice. The days when dogs were sentries first and pets second are long gone. Even the junkyard dog has largely disappeared, replaced by video surveillance technology. Now we buy them organic food, seatbelts for the car, orthopaedic beds for the house, and take them to physiotherapists when they get arthritis. And the age-old practice of tying a dog up in the backyard or leaving it in a crate to housebreak it are as morally abhorrent to some as putting a child on a halter or keeping it in a playpen all day.

David Lummis, a pet market analyst with the research firm Packaged Facts, sees a societal shift: “Pets really do perform the function of surrogate children.”

The movement to ban chains and crates for dogs first gained momentum in the U.S. in the mid-2000s, when animal welfare groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Dogs Deserve Better started focused campaigns to make such practices illegal at the local and state levels. States like California, Nevada, Texas and West Virginia have since passed laws restricting the length of time a dog can be chained or tethered.

Anti-chaining attitudes have also made headway in Canada. There are now bylaws either banning or restricting how long a dog can be chained in Calgary, Victoria and Delta, B.C. In Vancouver, there’s a little-known bylaw that prohibits owners from tying up their dogs and leaving them unattended in public, even if it’s just to run into a café for a coffee. And in Nova Scotia, where Fowler lives with Buddy and Magnum, there’s a concerted push to amend the provincial Animal Protection Act to either ban or make restrictions on dog chaining and tethering.

Groups like PETA also want to outlaw crating, a common practice for dog owners who are housebreaking puppies, while the Humane Society of Canada doesn’t recommend it.

Last month, Manitoba made it illegal to crop dogs’ ears, a relatively common procedure among certain breeders intended to maintain the dogs’ physical standards. Those behind the ban argued, successfully, that it was inhumane and distressing to the animals.

As animal welfare groups successfully push for these changes, perceptions of what constitutes cruelty to dogs are escalating. Not everyone, however, is rising with the tide, and this is exposing fundamental disagreements about the place dogs hold in our lives. For some, an owner’s right to determine what’s best for their dog is being chipped away. The conflict has moved passed rhetorical jabs to the point where outright accusations of animal cruelty—not to mention calls placed to the SPCA—are souring relationships between neighbours. In Nova Scotia, especially in rural and suburban areas, some express outright disgust at the way they see dogs being treated. “If you don’t want to be upset, just look straight ahead when you drive down the road,” says Amanda Cleveland, founder of People for Dogs.

These attitudes are fuelled by stories of cruelty passed around by activists in the province. Scott Saunders, who is lobbying to ban continuous dog chaining in Nova Scotia, tells of a guard dog at a Cape Breton construction site that was found dead in the snow at the end of its chain two years ago. “What bothers me is that is it still 100 per cent legal to strap your dog out like a piece of junk,” he says. “Until they actually die, right on the spot, still tied to that chain, nobody really gives a s–t.”

Nahleen Ashton, who runs a dog rescue shelter in the province’s Annapolis Valley region, also has a powerful story about the dangers of tying a dog outside for much of its life. Last summer, Ashton adopted a dog named the Mighty Quinn, who had spent about eight years on the end of a rope. There was a bald ring around his neck from the rope’s constant irritation. Most of his body was hairless too, exposing oozing sores made worse by his habit of gnawing and licking at himself—behaviour common for dogs tied up continuously, left to feel anxious and distressed. Ashton acquired the help of dog behaviour expert Silvia Jay, who says Quinn’s state is typical of dogs left tied up for so long. “Dogs are not made to live alone, they need social companionship,” says Jay. “In my opinion, dogs should be inside the house.”

She also says tying dogs can aggravate them and make them more aggressive, especially when kept on a short chain. She calls it “restraint frustration,” which occurs if the dog is unable to follow its instinct to approach “environmental stimuli” that catch its attention: passing cars, wildlife and even pedestrians that distract or entice a dog beyond the reach of his tether. “An animal left outside in a backyard is really a ticking time bomb,” says PETA spokesperson Ryan Huling, going even further. “It’s not safe for anyone nearby.” A 1994 study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that dogs who bite are nearly three times more likely to be chained.

The impact of crating is similar, says Jay, in that dogs left in crates for hours on end can experience distress from social isolation. But instead of becoming more aggressive from restraint frustration, crated dogs suffer from boredom due to the lack of stimuli, which can lead to excessive barking and other behaviour, she says.

Still, even among animal rights activists there is ambivalence. “Crates can be a really good tool to manage a dog and keep him out of trouble, especially as a puppy,” says Jay. Similarly, Brad Nichols, a peace officer who conducts animal cruelty investigations in Calgary, says: “My dogs are sitting at home right now crated. It only becomes a problem when it’s excessive.”

But without a ban or strict legal limits, discretion about how much time is spent on chains or in crates is in the hands of dog owners, something that doesn’t sit well with animal rights activists who don’t trust the general public to look after a dog’s welfare. “I’d rather have a no-tethering law than leave it up to people to decide how long a dog is to be outside on a chain,” says Jay, “because most people are getting it wrong.”

On an unseasonably warm February day, dog owners congregate at a fenced-in, leash-free community dog park in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood. They laugh as they watch their gregarious pets bounce around, releasing pent-up energy. Standing slightly apart from the others is Greg New, a self-employed accountant there with his dog, Suki, a white and black boxer-pointer mix. New recognizes that much has changed since the days when dogs roamed free in the streets of Etobicoke, then a town on the western edge of Toronto where he grew up. He never sees dogs chained up in backyards anymore, and he feels crating is just as rare. But when asked about a ban on dog chaining, his response is unequivocal. “A blanket ban on tethering is foolish,” says New. “What do you do if you don’t have a fence?”

To answer such questions, animal rights activists and organizations like PETA say all dogs should live inside “with the rest of the family,” and—like children—should only be allowed outside when supervised.

There’s hardly a notion more foreign to Mark Balkwill, a 52-year-old dairy farmer and president of the Essex County Agricultural Association in southwestern Ontario. “To me that’s cruelty to animals, keeping them in the house all day long,” he says.

Back when he was young, most farmers had chained-up guard dogs. “Your dog was your eyes and your ears,” he says. “It was like your alarm system.” Aggressive guard dogs were preferred, since they would make potential thieves and intruders think twice. “Put you back in the car, as we used to say,” Balkwill says, chuckling.

But of all the farmers in his area today, Balkwill can’t think of one who keeps a guard dog on a chain—though not for ethical reasons. Improvements in technology have allowed people to install cameras and motion sensors for security, eliminating the need for dogs to play guard. Thus, even in rural areas, perceptions of dogs have changed. “More farmers and rural people have pets,” he says. “That’s what they are. They end up being part of the family.”

As such perceptions gain traction in both urban and rural settings, sled dogs are now some of the only working dogs left. Shannon DeBruin, a 47-year-old dog breeder and trainer who runs a sled dog operation south of Edmonton called Arctic Sun Siberian Adventures, has been approached by welfare advocates accusing her of cruelty for keeping her dogs chained outside in the snow at temperatures well below freezing. “Someone who lives with many dogs and sees them on a day-to-day basis,” she says, “has a very different point of view than someone who has just one. It’s very easy to over-generalize and make giant leaps of logic.”

As DeBruin sees it, there’s a problem with how people are “anthropomorphizing” their pets; animal rights activists, she contends, are equating the way pets should be treated with the way they believe humans should be treated. “We are not allowing our dogs to just be dogs,” she says. “Why do dogs eat poop? Because they like it. We don’t. Just like I wouldn’t greet someone by sniffing his butt.”

Ron Worb, a long-time veterinarian at Winnipeg’s Anderson Animal Hospital, has also noticed a change. “The vast majority of pet owners that I see day in, day out in my practice refer to themselves as the mom and the dad.” And as would be expected from any loving parents, Worb says pet owners are constantly expecting higher standards of health care for their dogs. “We are being pushed all the time to do more and more.”

One of his canine patients, for example, is suffering from a brain tumour. In an attempt to rid their pet of cancer, its owners might spend more than $8,000 to send the dog to a special clinic for stereotactic radiosurgery. “The human-pet bond, it’s always been present, but it’s becoming stronger and stronger,” says Worb.

Part of the reason for this lies in decades of steady urbanization. As society generally becomes more detached from rural life and the farm, where wounded horses are shot and cows routinely slaughtered, the only relationship most people have with animals is that of a pet, which doesn’t exist to feed us, offer milk, or clothe us. It offers only love and loyalty. With changing demographics, where more than three million Canadians choose to live alone (according to the 2006 census) and the biggest chunk of the population are baby boomers, many of whom are living in empty nests devoid of children, pets fill a void. Humans are social animals too, after all, often relying on the strength of relationships for contentment.

At no time does the depth of such bonds become more apparent than when they are no longer there. John Sookrah, a Toronto mechanic and father of three, was deeply affected by the loss of his family dog, Sonic, a dachshund, whose death last November was unexpected. Sonic had managed to eat several lengths of dental floss, which veterinarians soon discovered had mangled his intestines. They put him down. “His passing did touch us all and made us realize he really was a part of us,” says Sookrah. “My life was actually quite devastated.”

The Sookrahs held a funeral for Sonic in their living room. “My son and I carried him in, like pallbearers,” explains Sookrah. They laid Sonic’s body down on his doggy bed in the middle of the room, surrounded by flowers, family, neighbours and friends. Prayers were said and hymns sung, including the funeral classic Amazing Grace. Afterward, a family friend read a eulogy. “I don’t think any one of us could have done it,” sighs Sookrah.

Helen Hobbs, the funeral director who organized the ceremony and offers such services—along with an urn and cremation—for about $500, often feels a family’s grief over a lost pet is deeper than that of a dead person. “I know that may sound strange to some people,” she says. “They’re so often people’s children.” Children, she adds, that never lose their innocence, their warmth or uncompromising loyalty.

And that’s why people are so passionate about dogs; why neighbours turn on each other over cruelty. At the bottom of it all—the disagreements, the controversy, the legal fracas—there’s just the love of dogs.


When did crating your dog become a crime?

  1. I feel that the article combined too many unrelated topics. Yes, there are people who have a powerful connection with pets. We live in a lonely society. That is marked as the next epidemic; loneliness. So people are connecting with animals. I really don’t see a problem with that. It could be worse. That is one topic. Then there are dogs who have lost their mind from being continuously chained outside 24/7 – 365 days of the year. These are pack animals. People who do this aren’t going to admit that they are doing something wrong but lie or justify it. “Oh, they are huntin’ dogs” “I take them here, there and everywhere.” – Anyone who can tie a dog FOR LIFE at the end of the chain may not have the ability to see what they are doing and tell the truth. They are forgotten souls dying at the end of a chain and there are no laws against it. That’s why the SPCAs say they can’t do anything about it. Who is going to stand up for dogs who are suffering at the end of a chain? We need to.   

    • I think we forget that not every dog is a pet.  Some dogs, like horses do work.  I know that ranchers who have highly trained cattle dogs keep them penned or chained because they are not particularily social animals.   They are bred to help the rancher round up the cattle.  They are expensive animals.  They are well fed and maintained and they are usually only socialized to one master.  You would not want them in your house, around your kids.  I am sure the same can be said for the Alaskian sled dogs.  They are not pets.  They are working animals.

      • You raise a good point. However, 271 chained dogs were reported in NS to the NS SPCA. I would estimate that few would be sled dogs or cattle dogs in the situation that you are mentioning above. They were at one time puppies, who probably didn’t get the proper training due a variety of reasons. Do we allow these dogs to suffer at the end of a chain? In our community the breeds range from german shepherds, boxers to golden retreivers. Several First Nations children have been killed up north by chained Husky’s. Perhaps it is time to look at their treatment as well so that communities can be kept safe. Can they be socialized and do their job? I’m not sure as I’m not a dog behavior person, but if they could, wouldn’t it be the best of both worlds?

        • Can these dogs be socialized?  I am not sure…one Alaskan dog that was supposedly socialized killed a two-day old human baby in Alberta.  I think people should not take chances.  Sometimes the things that make the dogs really good at their job are not conducive to socialization with children….more than likely the dogs need to be kept in places where kids won’t be hurt by them… tall chain link enclosures.

      • Two of the tied dogs mentioned above were Golden Retriever mixes – from someone who has had Golden mixes her whole life, these are NOT “workin'” dogs. Maybe you are referring to the purebred dogs (which are not “mixes”) that have been bred to be good at something and behave in a bred-typical way, but these dogs can be kept inside and be very very happy. If they were raised outside tied to the end of a rope, yes, being inside will make them uncomfortable/anxious because they have very little experience in that situation – in which case they were raised less humanely than they should have been. I have two dogs who have been tied out their whole lives (one who is 15, blind from having such poor health care, and is an eskimo/retreiver mix, and one who is 8 and is a pointer mix) and both LOVE nothing more than snuggling beside me on the couch. These dogs could be considered “workin'” dogs – but the truth is they really aren’t.  

        • Just because these dogs are mixes doesn’t mean they aren’t working dogs.  There are plently of mix breeds out there that work.  I have several friends who hunt with their mix breed goldens and labs.  It’s how they are trained not what they are bred for.  I’ve had several dogs through out my life, many mixed breeds, that doesn’t make me the know it all on mixed breeds.

    • Very well said shelly. The article was all over the place (would an article about legitimate child abuse devolve into an article about coddling children? Not likely). Yes, people baby their animals, yes the occasional farmer still ties their dogs up for guarding, and think the more meaner the dog the better (so do drug dealers), but the issue is Joe Average who doesn’t want his dog scratching up his new hardwood floors, or knocking stuff over, so leaves the poor mutt tied to a chain or pen outside, or crated. But ask Joe Average how his dog is treated, and it’s “great! I feed him all the time, give him water, hell, just two weeks ago I took him for a drive” when two weeks ago was actually 4 months ago, and the dog hasn’t been free since, even if it is well-fed. I’ve seen it too many times to count, and as you said, people justify it with their lies, either to others or to themselves.

      And maybe if we’d stop buying dogs and other pets who have god knows what socialization problems from backyard breeders, puppy mills, pet stores, or random strangers on the internet just because they’re a “pure bred” or “designer breed” at a “great price”, on top of taking them home at 6 weeks so they’re cuter instead of the proper health and socialization age of 10-12 weeks these dogs wouldn’t need to be crated or chained up in the first place.

      •  Also, I’m not against crating (though out of the 6 dogs I’ve had not one was ever crated, and never went to the bathroom on the floor more than once, and only one had a chewing problem that we overcame) or chaining, when used correctly. It’s the people who crate their dogs the 10-12 hours they’re at work, let them out for a bit, then crate them again all night, or the people who chain/pen their dogs for a similar amount of time or 24/7, and think it’s perfectly all right and not abuse because they feed them, water them, and scratch their ears once a day, and it’s disgusting how many of these people exist and think this way.

        Someone below mentioned having to “up your game” when you get a pet, and I couldn’t agree more. Getting a pet WILL make your life different, and you WILL have to make changes to accommodation them. If you’re not open to that, then do the world, your future pet, and shelters a favour and don’t get one.

    •  I didn’t think this article was all over the place at all, it was right
      on target start to finish, all related to trends re: the love of dogs.
      Excellent, informative read. Congrats to the reporter.

  2. This comment was deleted.

    • If thats what you chose to do then you should be locked up, shooting an animal is ILLEGAL! it would only make sense if an animal has caused physical harm towards you not just wondering in your yard. You low life! You must think your some big cause you can hurt an animal well i think you need to get over yourself because its a sin and you should be treated the way you hurt an animal 

      •  I think it’s a damn shame that someone like you, who hasn’t a clue about spelling and punctuation, thinks anyone will take what they write seriously.  Next time, get a dictionary and make sure all your words are spelled correctly. Then, get a book about grammar and make sure you have used proper punctuation. Then, type in a comment. 

        You should spend less time worrying about dogs and more time worrying about your pitiful excuse for an education.

        •  Maybe he/she was “wondering” in his yard.  This type sound like an escapee from somewhere dire.

        • I think it’s a damn shame you were so mean hearted in your comment to animaladdicted. Life is too short to put other people down like that.

        • um was your comment made towards me?

      • trolllll

      •  It seems to me that is was a sin to kill your fellow man, didn’t read anywhere in the bible about killing animals to be a sin.

    •  And I’d be happy to treat you the same.

    •  I hope you are just trying to get a rise out of people & not really serious. If you are serious then I suggest you need major help. Try fencing your yard for a start if you are that worried. Otherwise go live in a cave rather than in society. Do unto others….I’m sure you wouldn’t want anything similar happen to you or yours.

    • You are sick. If you came into my yard
      I’d be happy to do the same to you

  3. And I just want to add that this isn’t about letting all dogs run free in our communities. There are laws against dogs ‘running at large.’ They need to be tied or in a pen to stay safe and to stay at home while they have some time outside and to do their business. This is about living a life on a chain or a or in a pen and not being socialized nor exercised. They lose their mind spending each day in the same place.

    • Thank you for the powerful video – unfortunately a sad, sad reality

      • Thank you for watching. It’s sad indeed, but it’s time to look at it and try and do something about it. It’s humane education at its core. How we treat others, pets and the earth is a reflection of who we are. To chain a dog all the time is bullying. The owner is in control of a form of torture. It is time to take a stand and speak up for them or things that aren’t right in our community. Our voice matters. Again, thanks.

    • Sickening!

  4. Who cares about huskies in the snow? Duh! I care about having to watch the neighbor’s dog die at the end of a short chain, left in freezing cold or extreme heat, day and night, never being let off the chain to do what dogs do. That is to be a companion or pack member with full socialization. Dogs befriended humans for their share of the fire! It’s not about treating them like human children. It’s about treating them humanely. We don’t keep fish in the sand! Let us pass laws that stop the continuous chaining of our loyal companions and pets. Bring Fido Inside-O.

  5. No, not because animals are surrogate children (although to some they are).  Because we as a society are becoming more enlightened and aware, and our consciousness has developed so that our definition of animal cruelty has expanded and changed. This affects every area where we come into contact with animals; household pets, farm animals and marine mammals.  We will not tolerate the way we treated animals 100 years ago, any more than we would tolerate slavery.  I feel for Rob, and my dog doesn’t like to stay in either.  So he needs to get a fence.

    •  Thank you for Psych 101

  6. This is another example where busybody do-gooders force their opinions and practices on others. I treat my dogs very well thanks. I also believe “crating” is a very effective and safe way to house train a puppy. If you do-gooders want your house covered in dog poop so be it, stay OUT of mine.

    • Our vet recommended crating….I am not sure how these people generalize that it is cruel when the dogs are happy to go to their crate and never bark or cry when they are in it.

      •  My two little ones (Papillon and Yorkie-Mix) are adults and sleep in their respective crates every night.  This is safer for them and eases my mind as to what they are up to when I am sleeping.  They go in to their crate willingly when I say “Sleepy time”, and snuggle into their blankets and never make another sound til I release them in the morning.  Now, someone please tell me where the cruelty in this lies…….

    • Bravo!!! Well said!! :-)

  7. The mistake people make is blaming a particular tool (crates, leashes, etc.) for the problem. The real issue is the discretion (or indiscretion), effort level and education of the human(s) involved. The man who tied his hunting dogs outside likely has appropriately exercised and socialized dogs who benefited from the way he tied them out, where the “wrong” person for those dogs may have had them tied in the yard in a harmful fashion. If people made the real effort that’s required to have a healthy and happy pet–in some cases by “upping their game” and in others by choosing not to bother because they’re not that committed–most problems could be solved. 

    • I agree, banning crates or whatever is similar to banning certain breeds as has been attempted with pit bull bans. They don’t address the problem which is largely people getting dogs for all the wrong reasons and unprepared to put in the time and effort that a dog requires.

      I volunteer at a shelter and you can easily see the results, sometimes in dogs that have been so poorly trained and socialized that they need months of work to have a hope of being adopted by anybody.

      We have one poor dog that was left tied up so long the chain collar had become attached to the skin in back of her neck and had to be removed by the vet. She has a scar that would break your heart. The chain wasn’t the problem, it was the people who had this helpless animal in their care.

      We have had dogs rescued from breeding mills who had never been out of a crate in their lives – the nails had grown right into the pads of the paws of one and there were several others that cringed in terror of the outside world when first taken out for a walk. This is obviously not how most people use a crate for their pet.

      It’s not tying up or crating that’s the problem, it’s ignorance, plain neglect and outright cruelty of people.

      Good luck banning that.

  8. We had the crate-no crate debate in our house when we got our beloved chocolate lab 10 years ago. We had no experience with puppies so relied on the breeder to give us advice. We crated him. The breeder said his “den” would give him a sense of security and would give us peace of mind (that he wouldn’t chew and poop his way around the house).
    As a little guy, the crate door was only closed at night and when there was no one at home. He was quite content to be there. As he got older, the door was never closed but he still slept in there and we often found him in there if no one was home.
    Last year we had to move his crate to another room, one where he spent most of his time with us. For the first time, the crate seemed to serve no purpose for him so we have packed it up and put it away for good.
    I can’t understand how this can be considered cruel so would appreciate PETA, the SPCA and other proponents of outlawing this practice to think again.

    •  Good comment NG. When we get another puppy to replace our old girl, who died at home, on her bed at the age of 16 plus years, we’ll ‘crate’ her as we did with both our others. A safe, loving and effective way of house training.

    • Good response NG.  That’s exactly how we raised our chocolate lab, now 6 and crate free.  We live in a gated community where all dogs must be leashed at all times and where no fences are allowed.  When we are outside our dog is tethered, otherwise she would never be able to be outside. With coyotes and foxes visiting regularly, our dog owners just know better than to leave their dogs tied up outside at night, especially since most are small dogs.  Our community has a fenced dog run for pack play. 

    • You are so right NG.  People complain that dogs get bored in the crate…well dogs get bored in the open house too.  Bored dogs chew and the time I didn’t crate our dogs when they were young, they chewed on my cupboards.  I have heard of larger dogs eating parts of the leather couch (out of boredom)…then the dog suffers a bowel intussception and you are looking at major surgery.  Now, really is so bad to crate an a dog for their own protection?  Who are these foolish people?

  9. Having lived in the NWT for many years and having owned two Alaskan Malamutes, it would have been cruel to keep these animals indoors in winter. From an evolutionary point of view, they were adapted for minus forty with hairy feet, thick double coats and a tail that could cover the face. We now own a Labrador retriever who is quite happy to be outside to about minus twelve, in a fenced run with trees and an insulated dog house stuffed with hay.  She comes in at night.  Most dogs like to be outdoors where the sights and sounds are so interesting. Behavour issues for those dogs which havve not been bred as toy or lap dogs, seem to be directly related to confinement indoors…a bit like children actually. 

    Maybe we need to take a long hard look at the ethics of owning dogs and living in cities.

    • Sure…there may be exceptions…however most of the chained dogs that live near me pace, growl and have lost their minds from being chained for weeks, months and years on end with no social interaction.  

      • I think the point Artic_alison is making is very good….big dogs that need to be chained in a yard don’t belong in a city.  You rarely see a lap dog on a chain.  Why can’t people in the city be happy with small dogs?

    • I agree with you about keeping dogs with a heavy coat indoors. I own a dog that grows a heavy coat and she gets very depressed unless she can spend time outside when it is cold.  We end up shaving her because her mood gets so low and she does not shed much.  She even has paws that look like Uggs.  People with short-haired dogs have no idea how much a heavy-coated dog LOVE the cold weather and snow.  Our dog is just a lap dog and she rolls all around in the deep drifts.  She would stay out all day in cold if she could.

      •  All you have to do is look after her and brush her some every day.

        • Look after her?…..she is looked after…she still loves the snow and cold when she has her heavy coat.  Do you think a polar bear would do well inside?

          • Often dogs will have a heavy coat BECAUSE they are left outside. Our dog loves to nose in the snow and have a brisk run but she also loves to be WITH those she loves wherever they are and inside is where we are. She also get vigourously brushed every day, which she loves  Dogs are said to be “pack animals” and when you take one as a pet you are her pack.  Just because she loves the snow and brisk air is not an excuse to crate, chain, or put her on a running line.

            And I wouldn’t have a polar bear for a pet. Stupid question.  Polar bears are not pack animals. Male polar bears are known to eat their young.  I have seen them do so in the Arctic and sub-Arctic.They are known t

          • We don’t leave our dog outside….I just said that when she grows her thick coat, she loves to be outside….and she grows the coat in the summer too.  That is why we shave it off.  The dog is the size of a minature daschund…we would never leave her outside.  She and our other dog (who is very old) live like queens in our house.  They sometimes sleep in their crates at night; otherwise they are whereever they want to be, usually on the furniture.  I am not sure why you got the idea that my dog is relegated to the outdoors or on a chain but she isn’t, she just enjoys the snow….ALOT!

  10. My 10 year old lab lives on his chain while I am at work, I built him a beautiful fenced in area which he hated. He is a chain dog.When i come home he comes off. I know where he is , his house is shaded, has water, he is safe. Neighbours can visit him, he gets to see life going by. Unless someone unhooks him he is safe. He spends nights inside.

  11. If people don’t know how to look after animals properly, or refuse to, they shouldn’t be allowed to have any.

    •  I think that I’ve said this very same thing many times. Except that I interchanged a couple of words. Like parents and children. Of course, since that notion will never fly, let’s pick on dog owners instead. Good, bad… doesn’t seem to matter much to some organizations.

      • I agree entirely about parents and children, however this thread was about dogs.

        And the principle is the same in any case…it’s abusing something helpless and smaller than yourself.

        Humans have to learn not to do this at any time.

  12. I used to hate dogs because of all the barking, jumping on me etc.  After watching Ceasar Milan’s show I realized that it’s the owners and not the dogs that are to blame.  It took a year of research to find the right breed.  A dog needs exercise, discipline and affection…in that order.  Dogs are pack and den animals so a crate is fine but only for short periods of time.  Mine sleeps in his crate every night and loves it.  (he runs into it at night and does not bark unless a strange person approaches our house.  Stupid is as stupid does……

  13. Oh my!  My Jack Russel is not only spoiled and loved, she is very high strung!  She sleeps in a closed crate at night because she loves her bed and feels secure in it.  If we leave it open, she freaks at every strange noise and feels its her job to run out and bark out warnings to us at all hours of the night.  Hey, seriously, sleeping in a closed crate at night is like in nature when dogs crawl deep into their dens for peace and security.  It’s not unlike ourselves when we close and lock our bedroom doors.  Dogs don’t hunt and protect at night; they crawl into little holes and settle down.  Now, if I don’t close her door, she sits there and gives me this look like, “Yeah, my job is done for the day, thank you.  So close it already so I can settle down and have a good night’s sleep why dontcha.”

  14. My Scottish Terrier loves her crate, 99%+ of the time the door is open, and she goes into it of her own free will when she wants to take a nap or chill out.  When we travel she will spend up to 10 hours in it with no problems, and goes into it willingly that same night when she wants to sleep, so I can’t see a problem here.

  15. There should be no debate.  Dogs are not only social animals but give unreserved love and loyalty to those that love them. There is no such thing as a dog “owner” – you are either a dog tyrant or a dog lover. In a long life I have had several dogs which I did not realize wanted ME not the backyard. Since I wised up we have had other dogs who have been absolutely the best friends. 

    Anyone that mistreats a dog or any animal should be chained out in his own backyard in snowstorm.

    My biggest pert peeve is dog “owners” who choose large vicious dogs than they think of as an extension  of their won warped personality and then never take care of them.  I”ve seen a Rotwieler that was a big mush because it’s owner loved him. A s far as the ‘Oh, she’s a hunting dog’ that is a lot of crap.  A dog will do anything to gain a friend.   A good hunting dog is one who kills the guy with the gun.

    There’s an old saying: “dogs look for someone to love; cats look for staff”
    Am I prejudiced in favour of dogs and against those who mistreat them? 

    You bet your   Bubsy!!

  16. Save up for a fence and then buy the dog.

  17. Canada is not a democracy any more. We are in a oligarchy. Oligarchy is the rule of a minority. The difference is that we are rulled by many minorities. Any organized, active minority can impose its will over the majority. This imposition of rules such as no tethering dogs, policemen wearing turbans, and many others are being imposed on us by these minorities. 

    • Then I’d say it is time to take our country back from these thugs.

  18. I think we are forgetting there are laws against the abuse of animals.  I think we should assume most people don’t abuse their animals, so we don’t need to micromanage how they interact with their pets. When they do abuse their pet, charge them under the law.  How do you prove a dog was chained for too long a period.  Some dogs can handle being chained longer than other dogs, depending on their temperment, size, length of coat, etc.  Do you hire neighbourhood spies to catch them?  As for dogs living in the house with you at all times, can be cruel. Dogs love to be outside. We even had a samoyde  that couldn’t stand the heat of the house in the middle of winter, so would just come in for short visits.   Also farm dogs swim in smelly ponds, get mud all over themselves, roll in dung, etc., so without a daily bath, would you want them in your house….they like their dog houses most nights in the summer, and in the porch during a thunderstorm.  I know some would say do the daily bath, well not always possible on the farm. What I am trying to say, is you can’t legislate rules for every breed of dog, it still comes down to people reporting an abused animal when they see it, and then being investigated by someone who has the legal authority to do something about it. The laws are already there.  Maybe we should pass a law that it is cruel to allow a child to sit in front of a tv all day….where do we stop with all the laws?

  19. The issue is not whether the dog is tethered, crated, runs free in a fenced yard, or lives in a purse.
    Each dog’s welfare should be appraised individually: Is it distressed or happy? Extremely fearful and aggressive or well adjusted? Clean fur or covered in its own feces? Healthy or sick? Well fed or malnourished?

  20. Isn’t it about extremes and awareness? If you crate a dog for a time he or she is comfortable in the crate, that’s all good. If you crate your dog and distress is created in the animal, isn’t that not so good? If you chain a dog to do his business outside and he is kept safe and in the yard, isn’t that good? But if your dog lives outside at the end of a chain and days turn into weeks and years, don’t we know in our hearts that the dog is suffering and he may need an intervention? If an intervention is needed, don’t we need the means to do so? Right now, there are no laws against chaining a dog outside for life in NS so a chained dog remains there even after the NS SPCA visits. Education and legislation are key.

  21. I don’t know when dogs became human. I have had dinner guests bring their dog to dinner. I’ve been at dinners where guests brought their dog so it could play with the hosts dog. I was once at a 65th birthday celebration where there were more dogs than people. Even my own, married children have brought their dog to dinner. Cute as this dog is, I don’t want it sitting on my sofa or at the dinner table. There is a place for pets, be they dogs, cats or birds, and that is at their own home. I suppose society should be happy that there are laws about cruelty to pets otherwise there would never have been child protection laws.

  22. I think we need to be very careful how many rights we are going to be allowed stripped away in the name of one thing or another.  I believe for groups like PETA they don’t even think that dogs should be kept at all.  I live in farm country and it would be ridiculous to expect me to not tie my dog out or to only have him out supervised.  Sometimes at night he likes to go out and look around for hours at a time.  On the other hand there are those who don’t  tie their dogs out and they get the run of a huge property and are very well behaved.  That said they are always running the risk that the dog is going to end up on the road and get hit by a car.  A chance that I would never take.

    Yes there are people treating dogs cruelly I understand that but that is why we have humane officers in force and that is their job.  Leave me, my dog and my freedom alone; I want off this slippery slope.

    • YES!!!! Well said!!!

  23. Crates should be illegal, period.  Most often they become the Toy Box, a place to shove the dog when they’re inconvenient.  Nobody who doesn’t have a fenced yard should be allowed to own a dog.  We should license owners as they do in Germany, requiring everyone who wants a dog to take a course in how to care for them.  I suspect if every person who owns a dog had a do-over 99 out of 100 would undo the acquisitions.  They’re inconvenient and a lot of work.  And then there are the mentally challenged folk who have made pit-bulls the bete noir of the pet world.

    • How would you know about what a crate most often becomes?  Vets recommend crates. 
      How are crates any different than putting your human baby to sleep in a crib?  It is a safe place that keeps a curious infant from getting into something they shouldn’t when they are supposed to be sleeping.

    • Ignorance run rampant.

  24. I think what it boils down to is whether a dog gets
    properly exercised. I have two large dogs that get 2 hours of exercise per day
    – minimum. They are happy, well socialized, and live inside the house with the
    family. But they also get crated once in awhile when we go places dogs aren’t
    allowed. If they ban crates, will they also lift the laws on dogs in
    restaurants and stores? I would love to take my dogs everywhere with me, but
    it’s not always possible or realistic. They get tethered once in awhile and
    they enjoy watching people walk by and the squirrels in the tree. It’s humane
    when it’s in moderation and the dog isn’t going crazy because it hasn’t had a
    walk all winter (you know who you are!). I also see a lot of owners who think
    playing in their backyard is a substitute for a walk. Most behaviour problems
    usually stem from a lack of exercise. So maybe PETA and the other pet welfare
    organizations should have a campaign to promote exercise with your pet?
    Demanding laws be changed and dictating how people should live is not very
    positive and people will just get turned off by this. Why not promote dog
    health and hold a 5K dog walk/run? They could even make it a fundraiser. I
    understand there are misguided owners out there and cases of cruelty, but
    making responsible families suffer because of those cases, isn’t right either.
    Exercise promotion and public awareness campaigns would be much more efficient.

  25. Actually, dogs eat their poop because there is something missing in their diet… just sayin’.

  26. Cruelty to animals does involve long periods of chaining, caging and solitude and does lead to lonliness and losing personality, and minds, but even worse is what is being enforced on prisoners today . Example;my 23 year old grandson held in isolation ,locked up in a North Carolina jail for the past year waiting trial for a traffic accident that saw a man killed, and no bale available because he is Canadian, guilty in how he is being treated until he can prove his innocence. Tell me what that does to a person’s mentality and emotional stability. Most dogs are treated better! We should be concerned for our pets- even more so people who are cruelly treated for long periods of time.

  27. Crates have saved the lives of more dogs than spaying and neutering.

    Chaining, on the other hand, can be a dangerous practice for the general public. There’s no more dangerous a situation than a tethered or chained dog approached by a strange child. The animal feels trapped and vulnerable, elevating the risk of a bite. At the same time, the dog IS trapped and vulnerable to attack should a larger, or more aggressive stray wander by.

  28. My dog. My business. Buzz off busy bodies, and while your at it, find a real job, will ya?

  29. Peta wants to have us all be vegan and outlaw pet ownership or the caging, fencing or farming of all animals.  Getting crates banned is just a step for them.

  30. My dog is a dog.  I love her, her name is Mara, but she is a dog.  She is a Lab and she loves lying in the snow, the colder the better.  This vexes people but it shouldn’t coz they are not Labs. 

    Someone also stole her from a Second Cup at the corner of Elgin and Frank in Ottawa a couple of years ago coz they thought it wrong that I tied her up outside while I got a coffee.  I got her back, thanks to the Ottawa Police, Roy Green at CJAD and Doug Hempstead of the Ottawa Sun but it was a pain.

    I sincerely believe all would be better if people just ran their own lives and left the rest of us alone.

    Dan Shields,

  31. I just want to point out that, yes, dogs that bite are more likely to have been chained, but these dogs CAN be turned around if given the proper care and lots and lots of love. I adopted Quinn (the dog mentioned above) last month, and he is making progress everyday. He was nippy at first because it was clear he wasn’t very trusting of anyone except Nahleen (his foster Mom), but he has gotten 300x better in the past month. These animals are much more forgiving than we humans, given what some humans put them through – and they deserve to be loved and feel like part of the family.

  32. I think that people need to realize that if PETA gets their way, eventually we won’t be able to have pets at all. Say goodbye to therapy and rescue dogs. That organization is not what most people think it is. The money donated does not go to actually help combat the issues that they bring up. Proper crate training and tying out can be taught. Money could be given to free spay and neuter. Free classes on healthy vegetarianism…the list is endless but that is not where the money goes. As far as crating, if I did not crate my dog when I am not home, she would be dead. She is a rescue and had severe anxiety. She eats anything that she can find when she was left alone, before we realized her issues. She was found on the kitchen counter with broken glass all around her…basically she is now secure and calm because I know how to train her to go in her crate when we must go out. I have a very strict four hour rule, otherwise I will pay a dog sitter. My dog is as important to me as my children and I will keep her safe. And that means a crate.

  33. I should add (to the previous comment of mine) that of course I think it is cruel for a dog to live it’s life on a chain or be in a crate for 8-10 hours a day. Why even get a dog if you don’t have the time for it? But a catch all law or rule to ban crating and tethering is not the answer. A case by case investigation is needed. 

  34. I stopped reading after you called PETA an animal welfare group.

  35. Peta is not an animal welfare group.  It is an animal liberation group.  The chasm between Animalib and Animal welfare is as wide as the Grand Canyon.  This major error turns the rest of the article into fluff.

  36. We have two little dogs and a medium sized dog.  When we go out the medium sized dog goes into her room (10 ft by 14 ft ensuite) where she goes to bed at night.  She goes to her room because she thinks that she is the same size as the little ones and tends to play rough (body checking, placing a paw on the little ones when playing tag) if she is not told to settle down.  We have had may SPCA calls from a single neighbour if we leave the window open for her and she barks when they are building stuff in the back yard with their pnumatic nailers.  They have checked out the house each time they are called and have said that we are doing a great job of caring for our pets.  This person harasses anyone who owns a pet in our area yet they are the ones that make the most noise.  The dogs are only trying to protect their home.

    At night. one of the little ones sleeps on our bed and the other one sleeps in a crate.  He will keep asking for the door to be closed until it is done, or will pull it closed himself if we are too slow.  Now if we go for a nap during the day he is quite content to nap with us on the bed, but not at night.

  37. I subscribe to McLean’s magazine and have done so for many years.  This is the first time I have used the online service. I must say that in contrast to the very well thought out and stated “letters to the editor” in the magazine format, the level of discussion here disappointing.  Surely civilized discussion is possible over the internet?

  38. To Healthcare Provider. The statement about the baby killing in Alberta, was not an Alaskan it was a Siberian Husky. Any large dog should never be left alone with small children. They have high pitched sounds and jerky movements, which can trigger the prey drive in any dog. As for chaining a dog all day, if you own a dog, build a fenced yard and spend time with the animal. Crating is very cruel for animals who are left in a crate while people are at work. After work they stop to pick up a couple of thins and it end up hours in a crate. The same as  a human in a closet all day. Terrible for the poor dog.

  39. Yet all over the country unregulated commercial breeding goes largely unchecked, and people rarely question the origins of the puppy they find on the internet, from a pet store, or at a flea market.  Breeding dogs that live in pens or stacked in crates in cold unheated barns and outbuildings in rural areas, never held or loved let alone bathed or groomed or taken for regular Vet care, disposed of when their usefulness is done.  SPCAs are only allowed to investigate the presence of adequate food, water, shelter and overt acts of neglect or cruelty, and food could be pig gruel. The rest, they say, falls under Municipal zoning and bylaws, and few rural Municipalities target their resources at enforcement of kennel bylaws and health regulations.  Many rural areas contract out their animal control enforcement to private entities who are paid a pittance for minimal services, with no motivation for rehoming adoptable pets and little authority to investigate commercial breeding conditions and bylaw enforcement.  There is more money to be made by selling dozens if not hundreds of annual dog licenses each year to these  unsavory breeding operations than enforcing the need for a Kennel License and proper construction and maintenance of a dog kennel facility.

    In Ontario, Bill 47 proposes to take away OSPCA powers to investigate complaints of animal cruelty and neglect in agricultural settings, and yet that is where many of these “commercial breeding” operations of companion animals are found.  Bill 47 is not the answer.  Remove agricultural tax and zoning benefits from farmers who choose to move into commercial pet breeding, as they are no longer focusing  on providing the food products such zoning was meant to assist.  Implement stronger laws at the Provincial level to address accountability, so that every dog and cat is registered and can be traced back to where it originated, be it a family home or a properly licensed and constructed commercial breeding kennel, with heat, ventilation, proper bedding and sanitation/drainage, daily exercise and compassionate handling and grooming, inspected records of Vet care, and humane euthanasia by a qualified Veterinarian.   

    Promote the creation of enough low-cost Spay and Neuter Clinics to address the need in all Municipalities – change the focus of Animal Control from reactive to proactive to reduce the shelter population and euthanasia rates of unwanted pets.  Stop humanizing animal behavior and educate pet owners on how to properly and better understand what is being conveyed through actions and body language and how`they respond to it.

    Teach them what they need to know to properly socialize, train and exercise their pets throughout their lives and respect them as living beings, and the incidences of behavioral problems and bites will drastically diminish.  

  40. A bit all over the place but  a good place to start a subject on this debate.  Animal welfare is fraught with complex ethical issues.  
    As the simple motive of exploring this issue should be to find acceptable solutions, I wasn’t sure if this article did an of that.   Right now animal welfare for domestic pets is rather unscientific and often based on ideas not based in fact but in emotions.  If we are going to use the world ‘cruel’, we must be able to justify that with some evidence, preferably science based.  Can crates and chaining be useful, humane and constructive  – definitely, but the rules to achieve this must be investigated and established.  Then we have real information about how we deal with individual cases.  There are further ( and I think more serious) ethical questions about surgical interventions and mutilations in dogs including ear cropping, tail docking, castration and spaying.  I’ve never seen any fact based evidence produced on the benefit of ear cropping and tail docking, which are already banned and regulated in some countries.  Ultimately, I’m loathe to support what seem to be emotion based decisions when it comes to animal welfare.  Personally. I’m even reserved about actively promoting spay/neuter to responsible dog owners as there is so much mixed information on the pros and cons. Tethering is often a positive move forward in welfare for dogs if it is done correctly.  So is crating.  I wonder how much our pets really appreciate the promotion to furbaby.  I suspect they’d rather be outside, hunting frogs and playing in the dirt.  Do remember that the dogs being discussed in this article are a tiny minority in the world.  

  41. Animal Rights activists are anti-humanity.  They want to separate us from our animal companions.  No, from the animals we own and love.

    I’d like to feed the lot of them to my dogs, but thyat might be cruel … to the dogs.

  42. I understand people’s concerns but there comes a time where it shifts to far. I have no problem with crating or having a dog tied up if there is not fence. Some dogs are breed to work and are not happy in a house but need a job. These groups mean well and do very good work but they can go over board a tad bit also.