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    MOLLY, a one and a half year old German Shepherd had a collar so embedded in her neck, surgery was required to remove it.

    RVAS was contacted to help free Molly from the chains that bound her in subzero weather.

    Was Molly's case neglect or cruelty? Help her.

    On a cold night in January a woman made an emergency call to RVAS that there was a German shepherd chained outside in need of help after other shelters ignored her plea. The woman's voice had a strong sense of urgency to get this dog to safety as quickly as possible. The temperatures were expected to drop well below zero that evening, with a wind chill of -30 degrees. While the dog had shelter, she couldn't bear to see any animal purposely left outside in these conditions.

    Unfortunately, there is no law in Iowa that prevents dogs from living their lives on a chain.

    Despite the woman’s plea with law enforcement, the welfare check showed no signs of neglect, cruelty or abuse. Molly, the 1-1/2 year old German shepherd, would remain outside through the bitter temperatures.

    Tuesday evening, while sitting in a local bar, the woman overheard a man's request to find a home for a German shepherd. She quickly engaged in conversation and discovered that this was the dog she was concerned about.

    She then learned Molly’s story.

    Neglect, Cruelty, Or Both.
    A victim of abuse, Molly was rescued by this gentleman after witnessing her being hit by her former owner. He couldn't bear to see the dog cowering in fear, so he convinced the man to turn Molly over to him. But living with his terminally ill mother left him unable to provide her an inside home, so he tied her outside until his living situation changed or a home could be found. Weeks turned into months and Molly became, yet another statistic…a dog living a life on a chain.


    During a routine feeding, he patted Molly on the back of her neck and she cringed. Molly cowered but he thought it was because she had been hit in the past. He didn’t notice that the chain of Molly’s collar was slowly becoming embedded in her neck, and infection was setting in. Because the chain was loose under the chin and her hair covered the top portion of the collar, the embedded collar went unnoticed. But one woman’s persistence to save a life paid off. She convinced the gentleman to relinquish Molly to RVAS, where after immediate assessment it was discovered that the collar was embedded so deep into the neck it would have to be surgically removed. (View photos here. Warning: Photos are surgical photos.)

    And then there is Cookie. Another German Shepherd. A little over 2 years old, Cookie was seized by animal control after a complaint came in that she was chained outside, shivering in the pouring rain. She had no shelter. Upon arrival, the Animal Control officer discovered Cookie was living in deplorable conditions, including a water dish that was filled with green algae. Cookie was weak and emaciated. Not able to provide the extensive medical services Cookie would need, RVAS was contacted for assistance.

    Cookie had a uterine infection so severe that it almost cost her, her life. She was heartworm positive, and would require a long process of treatment. After several months of medical care and rehabilitation, Cookie was given the all clear as a healthy dog and adopted. She resides not only inside with a loving human companion, but has a German shepherd buddy as well!

    But not all dogs are as lucky as Cookie & Molly.

    Last week a woman called looking for someone to come and pick up her dog that had died. The husky / shepherd mix and had been whimpering the day and night before. The owners had intended to take it to the vet the next day, but when they returned home from work in the afternoon their dog had died…at the end of a chain, outside in single digit temperatures…alone. The woman spent 5 minutes convincing the RVAS representative that this dog was well cared for and loved. Was it neglect? Was it cruelty? Was it both?

    Good Intentions
    This case appears black and white, but there is a large gray area in solving the problem and protecting the animals from the ignorance of pet owners. This woman was convinced that the dog was “happy” outside. The problem, however, is that the dog being outside all the time, also made the dog invisible. Because the dog lived out of sight, out of mind, it is most likely the owner missed behavior changes, changes in the dog's eating habits and other small nuances that would have told her the dog needed medical attention. What’s sad is that we will never know. She had no interest in learning the cause of death, just disposing of the remains. In this case, "good intentions" to get the dog the medical care it deserved came to late.

    Stories like these come to us all the time. A well intended citizen steps forward and rescues an animal, without a plan of action or the financial ability to care for it properly.  In Molly’s case, the gentleman had good intentions for the dog but had no means or plan once he got her into his possession. He could not bear the guilt of placing her somewhere that would cause her death. He had no idea that breed rescues exist. So he tried to care for her himself, to the best of his ability, with the finances he had. These types of situations are defined as “unintentional neglect”.

    The Law
    In Iowa alone, an estimated 42,237* dogs live their life on a chain. That’s 9% of pet owners currently residing in Iowa, who chain their dog. The numbers are astounding, but the problem isn’t limited to pet owner ignorance. In many cases it’s the law to have your dog confined by a chain.  

    Chapter 18, Article II, Section 18-55 of the Municipal Code for Des Moines condones tethering as a means of confinement:

    Sec. 18-55.  Running at large.
    (a)    A dog, properly licensed as required by law, shall not be deemed at large if:

    (1)   The dog is on the premises of the owner or a person given charge of the dog by the owner and is either:

    a.   Restrained on those premises by an adequate protective fence or by leash, cord, chain or other similar restraint that does not allow a dog to go beyond the owner's real property line; or

    According to this code, there is no “limit” to the number of hours, days, weeks or months that a dog can remained tethered.

    There’s no question that Iowa’s code and laws need to be redefined to protect the welfare of the animal, not just the human. Tethering a dog protects the dog from running at large, causing possible human injury. But it doesn’t prevent the dog from a life of suffering in their own back yard. Dogs are social animals and they need socialization with humans and other animals to achieve balance. Dogs chained for long periods of time, without exercise or socialization, are 2.8 times more likely to bite. In most incidences a biting dog is a dead dog.

    Recognizing the magnitude of the problem, RVAS has partnered with organizations whose sole purpose is to deal with the chained dog epidemic. Through education, awareness, and legislative action, together we are making a difference. There are now groups that build fences for those who qualify to help a pet owner give their dog a safe, happy and free environment. Other groups primary focus is on legislative actions to limit the amount of time a dog can be tethered. RVAS partners with Dogs Deserve Better every Valentine's Day for their Have a Heart for a Chained Dog campaign to offer viable solutions to pet owners helping them to provide their companion a chain free world. Strides are being made everyday, but it is going to take people like you working with us to change the laws, help unchain dogs and provide funding for both.

    Molly, the German Shepherd is healing and learning how to be a social dog thanks to one woman's persistence to save a life, and a foster home who opened their heart to her care. Molly will be evaluated once she is healed so that her next home is the “right” match for her. While Molly is safe, the cost to save her life came at a high price tag.  Many shelters turn these types of cases away simply because they don't have the funding to spend on one dog. Not RVAS. We rely on the generosity of animal lovers like you to help up save dogs like Molly.

    Won' t you help us with the ongoing medical care and support Molly needs so that she can heal and find a permanent home? Your contribution will help Molly, and other animals like her, who find themselves the victims of human ignorance and undefined laws that deny them the protection they need and deserve in our society.

    Help Us…Help Molly …by contributing today!

    To contribute to Molly's Medical Fund, please click here or mail to:

    PO Box 312
    Des Moines, IA 50302

    The following individuals and businesses have given generously to provide Molly the life she deserves. We thank them for their kindness, their love and their support in helping RVAS save Molly's life.
    Linda R. Blakely
    Walter & Barbara Dobbins
    Jackie Cassada
    The Masimore Family
    Performance Media Solutions
    The Peterson Family
    Joseph S. Pundzak
    Nicky Rea
    Kelly Stone
    Lisa Takes
    Cindy Testroet

    12/10/09 Molly was relinquished by it's current owner and provided medical care. Her chain collar was so embedded in her neck that it required surgery to remove it. Molly is expected to make a full recovery, but will have a scar as a constant reminder of her life on a chain. ( WARNING: Photos of Molly's embedded collar are surgical photos)




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