Growling dogs tethered to trees by a short length of metal chain – it’s a common sight in parts of Bermuda.
The animals are often left out all day with just the most basic provisions of water and shelter.
Some have no interaction with other dogs or human beings and are left chained up day after day.
Today the Bermuda SPCA called for legislative changes to outlaw “cruel” tethering and protect the dogs.
The charity’s director, Kim Sherlaw, told the Sun “old fashioned and inadequate” laws severely hamper the SPCA from helping neglected animals whose care satisfies the bare minimum requirements for care.
She said: “Bermuda SPCA staff witness first-hand the neglect, fear, isolation and sadness that some dogs face, sentenced to life on the end of a chain.
“In the majority of cases the most that can be done is to make suggestions on how to improve the living environment for the animal.
“Often these suggestions and attempts to educate fall on deaf ears as the animals’ owners cannot be brought to task without stronger legislation and consistent enforcement.”
At present there is no law that bans dogs from being tethered on private property.
The Dogs Act 1979 states dogs should have access to water, reasonable shelter against the weather and are able to move freely.
But the legislation is silent on what exactly ”reasonable” shelter against the sun and rain is.
Furthermore owners are required to provide adequate food, shelter, water and care for their pets.
But again the law is silent on what exactly “adequate” is.
Ms Sherlaw added: “Chained dogs present an enormous public safety risk especially when they are kept on an unoccupied piece of property with sporadic human oversight.
“Dogs could be injured or abused or they in turn could injure a person or another animal. There is no legislation to prohibit such activity.
“In addition to having their social needs ignored, many chained dogs are deprived of proper food and water, shelter, and veterinary care. These animals’ miserable so-called lives have prompted anti-tethering legislation worldwide.
“The Bermuda SPCA is calling for reform starting with the enactment of strong-anti tethering legislation.”
SPCA chairman and vet, Dr Andrew Madeiros, told the Sun many dog owners were providing care on the fringe of what was lawful.
He said times have changed and people’s attitudes to dogs needed to change too.
Dr Madeiros added: “On many occasions our hands are tied by the law.
“We have to be able to prove the animal is suffering and is in pain as a result of the owner.
“We get calls from people reporting dogs that are tied up and bark day after day and they are shocked to find out there is no law against tethering dogs.
“A lot of these dogs have pretty unhappy lives and have no interaction with humans and are left all day.
“As a vet I see dogs who have got caught up in the chains they have been tethered in and got sun stroke because they can’t get back under shelter.
“Some animals die because they have no supervision and are left out all day.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Government vet Jonathan Nesbitt admitted that the current legislation was not perfect.
But he said that the Dogs Act 2008, which comes into force later this year, will limit the size of chain links to no more than a quarter inch.
The new act will not however outlaw tethering or provide more comprehensive guidance on what “adequate” food, shelter, water and care is.
Dr. Nesbitt said: “I do not believe that tethering by itself is wrong so long as animals have the proper provisions like water, food and shelter.
“I have a problem with it when any of the other things are missing.
“There is a vagueness in some terms like “adequate” which is very subjective.
“There is always room to improve the system.
“We tend to take the educational route first and try and help the owners understand how their dog should be treated.
“If that does not work or we see something that needs to be stopped straight away we have the power to get warrants and seize dogs.”
By Simon Jones BermudaSun