What To Do If You See A Dog Chained Up Outside In The Cold

<p> Shutterstock </p>
<p> Shutterstock </p>

A Washington woman made national headlines last year when she saw a dog tied up in the cold and decided to do something about it.

The dog was obese and arthritic, and tied to a trailer in the cold and wet Northwest weather.

Judy Camp took the dog home and named him Tank.

Then she was charged with theft.

While Camp maintained that she did nothing wrong by taking the dog, she still faced potential jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. Camp, who convinced the original owners to let her buy the dog for $500, eventually worked out a sentence of community service, and relocated Tank to a place he could call home.

Tank went to a special ranch for disabled dogs in Idaho, Camp told The Dodo back in May: "He was not doing well with the other rescues."

Tank's plight is not unique. Because animals are still considered people's property, doing the right thing when you encounter a dog tied up outside in the cold can become complicated in the eyes of the law. Even though animal neglect is a crime, proving someone is committing neglect can be tricky.

Further complicating the issue is how much the law varies from town to town. While some communities have prohibited chaining dogs outside, and some states explicitly address dog chaining in the law, other places don't have laws that address chaining specifically as a form of neglect.

Luckily, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has guidelines for what to do if you see a dog tied up outside in the cold.

  • Document everything. Write down the date, time and location of the animal and any other details that might be relevant. Take photos or videos to help paint the full picture.
  • Take the evidence to your local animal control agency or sheriff's office. For your own reference, take note of whom you speak to, so that you can follow up with the complaint in a few days.
  • Call the agency or the sheriff's office after you've issued your complaint for updates and to make sure they've followed up on the situation.

While it might be intimidating to contact the authorities, consider the alternative.

"Our most constant companions - dogs and cats - feel the effects of winter weather as much as we do, only they are often cast outside to weather the cold or a storm owing to a misconception that the fur on their backs will insulate them from suffering," the HSUS writes. "Without proper shelter, food and water, these domesticated animals' chances of survival in frigid temperatures is greatly decreased."

If you need specific advice, you can contact the HSUS here.

Learn how to keep your animals safe in cold weather here.