MONTREAL - The Montreal SPCA is asking the Quebec government to ban keeping dogs chained around the clock as part of an upcoming overhaul of the province's animal-rights legislation.
The animal welfare organization is launching a campaign Tuesday to raise awareness about tethered dogs, which they say are more likely to be injured or neglected, are exposed to the elements, and suffer psychological damage as a result of being constantly tied.
"Dogs are social animals. They need to be in contact with other dogs, with other animals, with people," said Sophie Gaillard, the SPCA's lawyer and animal advocacy campaigns manager.
"When they're kept isolated and deprived of the ability to play or exercise they develop very severe behavioural frustration, boredom and psychological distress," she continued.
Gaillard said approximately one-third of the complaints received by the Montreal SPCA's cruelty investigation unit concerns chained dogs.
Quebec introduced a bill earlier this year that, if passed, would see the status of animals upgraded from "movable property" to "sentient beings."
The SPCA is hoping to get a ban on round-the-clock dog tethering included in the bill or accompanying regulations, which will be debated this fall.
Gaillard said the bill would not focus on people who walk their dogs on leashes or tie them up for a short time, but rather on dogs who spend every day on a chain.
Both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have recently passed legislation banning 24/7 tethering, as have some municipalities across Canada.
Gaillard says that in addition to welfare concerns, tethering of dogs is a "public safety issue" since dogs who are tied are more likely to attack humans or be involved in dogfights since they are less well socialized and cannot flee from perceived threats.
The SPCA's proposal may face opposition from some groups including the province's sled dog community, who commonly keep dogs outside on tethers.
Bernard Saucier, president of Quebec's Sled Dog Club, says anti-tethering campaigns are based on a lack of understanding, and maintains that his dogs are happier and healthier tied outside near their friends than stuck in a house all day.
"My dogs are in a park, they each have their territory, they socialize with their friends, run around their houses, go take a nap, they can urinate when they need," he said. "They get more exercise outside than lying around a house all day."
Gaillard maintains that sled dogs are still deprived of social interaction because they cannot touch each other and are rarely let free.
Saucier said his dogs cannot touch but are let off their tethers to play in small groups at times.
He said anti-tethering campaigns are the result of well-meaning people who want to ascribe human characteristics to their pets.
"There's not a dog kept in a house that's as healthy as ours," he said.
The SPCA is launching a website, cutthechain.ca, to raise awareness about the campaign.