Animal Welfare Activists Urge Delegates to Take Action for Chained-Up Dogs

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A central Virginia organization is urging members of a House subcommittee to vote in favor of a bill on Monday, January 29, that would make it illegal to chain dogs outside in harsh weather conditions.

“It's a huge problem in central Virginia; I had no idea the scale and severity of the problem until I started volunteering with HOWS,” says Hannan Hein, the foster coordinator for The Houses of Wood and Straw (HOWS).

Houses of Wood and Straw is an organization that helps dogs in central Virginia that are not living in good conditions. When the group receives tips about dogs left out in the cold, volunteers travel to the home with dog houses and straw to try to create a warm space if they can't convince the dog's owners to bring the animal inside. One such dog is Zeus, who was living chained up outdoors all the time.

“When we take care of outside dogs, the goal is to keep them in a safe environment and, ideally, try to slowly educate owners to bring the dogs inside themselves,” says Hein.

During the frigid winter months, the group has found countless dogs chained up in yards left alone to fend off the cold.

“When we had this recent freeze recently, we had lots of people reporting dogs to us all over the state of Virginia and the majority of them had already called animal control and they were told by animal control that there was nothing that could be done,” says Kimberly Hawk, HOWS project volunteer.

Now the group is urging the Virginia General Assembly to make chaining dogs outside in harsh weather conditions illegal.

“We basically just told them stories about what happens when we’re out in the field,” says Hawk.

House Bill 646 goes before a subcommittee on Monday, and would make chaining dogs outside in temperatures below 32 degrees and above 85 degrees illegal. People who do not bring their dogs inside would face a fine.

“Below 32 degrees is when their water freezes and it’s when it gets down into the single digits especially is when they can easily freeze to death,” says Hawk. “Above 85, depending on whether they’re in the direct sunlight or not, you know, there are a lot of dogs that do die of heat stroke.”

A similar bill to this one died in a subcommittee in 2017. Houses of Wood and Straw is urging people to contact their delegates and ask them to vote in favor of the bill, if it reaches the House floor.

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