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How to help a chained or penned dog

Worthy Dog Rescue receives many heartbreaking emails and phone calls about chained dogs from neighbors or concerned citizens who want to know what can be done, and how they can help a dog in distress.

Each situation is different, and we’ve found that what works in one situation doesn’t necessarily work in the next one. To date, Worthy Dog Rescue has succeeded in getting thousands of dogs off chains nationwide since we started in August 2002. And through legislative change, tens of thousands have been released from the chain due to laws that volunteers and concerned citizens have worked tirelessly to pass.


First, inquire with your city or town to see if there is an anti-chaining ordinance in your area. If there is not, learn what your state statutes are. In most states, it is illegal for the dog to lack food, proper shelter and potable water, so even if there is not a local ordinance, you can demand that an Animal Control officer and/or Sheriff Departments enforce this statute.

The best way to ensure a better life for a chained dog near you is to befriend the caretaker. Find a reason to strike up a conversation with them and when the time is right, ask him/her to meet the dog, bring treats (sometimes for both the dog and the caretaker) to help pave the way to a successful interaction.

Be open and friendly. Once you have an open dialogue going, ask them how you can HELP them, because it allows them to see you as an ally as opposed to their enemy. This question is also an open-ended one, meaning it doesn’t allow for a simple ‘no’ answer. This will also allow you the opportunity to share the options available to them. These may include: help with house-training or obedience training, donating a crate for house-training, help with fencing, walking the dog daily, or fostering and house-training the dog and returning him/her or even, or even fostering and finding the dog a new home.

A deal can sometimes also be worked out where Worthy Dog Rescue help pays to vet and spay/neuter the dog in exchange for them bringing him/her into the house and chaining or penning NO other dogs outside.

Always offer services first and leave relinquishment of the dog as the last offer. Often, the caretaker will state that they would like to re-home the dog and that’s when you reply “I can help you with that.”

Never use words like “abuse or neglect” when approaching a caretaker of a chained dog, this will put up a wall and the door will close and it will be very hard to build a rapport if this happens. Try to remain as calm as possible, and gently speak from your heart about what you feel a dog needs, and why living chained or penned does not meet these needs. If you are met with aggression or defensiveness, leave them information, and most importantly a contact phone number, and leave the property.

Never offer to “buy” a dog as this gives the wrong impression that they can make money off their dog and Worthy Dog Rescue does not believe that dogs should become commodities. If dogs become a dollar figure, the caretakers will simply get another dog.

Stealing a dog is not an option and Worthy Dog Rescue does not condone this. Again, you may feel you may be helping this one dog, but the chain will soon have another poor, lonely, neglected dog at the end of it and the cycle continues.

If you find an abused or abandoned dog that is in immediate danger, contact local law enforcement to refer you to the organization with jurisdiction for animal care and control in your area. Provide the exact street address and specific location of the dog, along with a description. If the dog is chained or penned, and you believe he/she has been abandoned, please impress on the animal control the seriousness of the situation. Be aware that in cases of extreme danger or threat of death to the animal, you must make sure law enforcement takes you seriously.

Worthy Dog Rescue is here to help and you can contact us for more helpful tips on how to help a dog you are concerned about at info@worthydog.org.