The group ChainFree Bristol came about when the founder, Liza Conway, discovered a big need in her Tennessee community.
“I’d been riding my bike a lot and I kept seeing these sad, chained dogs,” said Liza. “At one point I asked animal control to check on the welfare of some dogs but one of the Boxers ended up freezing to death.”
It weighed heavy on Liza’s heart. How could it not?
Have you ever noticed the demeanor of a permanently chained dog? His spirit appears broken. His face seems to be inquiring, ‘What did I ever do to deserve this?’
“They’re not happy,” said Liza. “They live in a circle of dirt. They’ve been in the same spot for so long that they’ve worn down any grass.”
It’s something that no animal should ever have to endure. That’s why many groups designated Valentine’s Day week as Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week. And DogTipper.com and others recognize all of February as Unchain a Dog Month.
For Liza and ChainFree Bristol, that’s every month.
Liza did a lot of research before starting ChainFree.
“The whole movement started with Dogs Deserve Better out of Tipton, Pennsylvania,” she said.
Then she discovered a group not far from Bristol – ChainFree Asheville.
“I ended up emailing back and forth with the founder and I drove over there to see how they did it and in September of 2010 we built our first fence.”
Since then, ChainFree Bristol volunteers have built 52 fences, giving 92 dogs their freedom.
“It’s very exciting,” said Liza. “All the dogs do the same thing; they run around like crazy and go to the bathroom all over the place!”
It’s almost like the dogs can sense what’s happening during the process.
“It’s nonstop barking while we’re building the fence,” said Liza. “We keep talking to them, ‘Give us a couple days, you’re going to be free.’ Then when the weight is removed from their neck, it’s basically instantaneous – the change in demeanor. The barking stops. It’s like they’d been protecting their area of dirt. You can’t play with a chained dog. After the chain is gone it’s so much fun to see them roll and play and roll over on their backs.”
It all starts with a knock at the door from Liza.
“I think they’re (the homeowners) surprised,” said Liza. “I show them my card and explain I’m not selling them anything. I typically have a ringed binder with the newsletters to show them how we’ve helped others to see if they have any interest in a fence. Occasionally I get a no but most people say yes.”
Liza offers no judgement.
“I just want them to accept the fences,” said Liza. “I don’t believe most people chain their dogs because they’re mean. A lot of times it’s more of a financial issue. Sometimes there’s just no rhyme or reason to the chaining. There’s a Harley Davidson in the driveway but no fence for the dog. I’ve seen families that have a dog inside and then one outside chained in the yard. I’ve seen just about every sized dog chained too – from Huskies to Chihuahuas. I generally don’t ask questions.”
But she does have some requirements.
“I make them sign a contract,” said Liza. “All dogs must be spayed or neutered. Even the inside dogs. I make the appointment for them with the Margaret Mitchell Spay/Neuter Clinic. I call the clinic to make sure they showed up. I also have the pet owner call me back to let me know if everything went okay. I can get help with the surgery with different groups like Holly Help.”
ChainFree Bristol also depends on the generosity of others in the community.
“Complete strangers send us money. I have a gentleman who owns a fencing company and he’s helped us with every fence we’ve built,” said Liza. If the pet owner needs a doghouse, I contact Roofs for Rovers – a group out of Johnson City. They deliver the doghouses to us, we put them together then take them to the homeowner. It’s totally free for the pet owner. The fence is totally free.”
In the picture below, it turned out the dogs did not all get along in their enclosure. So, ChainFree Bristol created special fencing to make sure the dogs were separated and happy with the new living arrangements.
Liza hopes that one day ChainFree Bristol won’t be necessary. She’s been an advocate for the voiceless, lobbying council members to change city ordinances concerning chained animals.
“With the ordinance now, at six months of age you can put a dog on a chain and leave it there until the dog dies. You are allowed to have four animals in your yard. If you have four dogs, you’re allowed to chain them all.”
Liza points to the example of what City of Shelbyville, Tennessee leaders have done to protect the community’s animals. Council members passed an ordinance that went into effect last month that aims to improve quality of life for chained dogs.
This is how it reads:
Chaining. Direct point chaining, or tethering of dogs to a stationary object, is prohibited.
The ordinance goes on to say dogs may be restrained by means of a trolley system, or a tether attached to a pulley on a cable run, if several conditions are met. For example, only one dog may be tethered to each run and the dogs must have a collar that fits properly.
And it gets better for dogs in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
Effective January 1st of 2017, this ordinance will go into effect:
No person shall, at any time, fasten, chain or tie any dog or cause such dog to be fastened, chained or tied while such dog is on the owner’s property or on the property of the dog owner’s landlord. (Exception – A dog may be tethered to allow for the cleaning of the dog’s enclosure or while the owner is outside with the dog and is in visual contact of the animal at all times to prevent injury to the dog.
Liza’s goal is to one day get the same ordinance passed in Bristol. In the meantime, she’ll keep building fences.
“I just want to improve the quality of life for these dogs,” said Liza. “Thank God people send me money. I’m very fortunate to have such caring people believe in what I’m doing.”
It’s hard not to when you see the before and after pictures.
Liberated at last!
Do you have a group like ChainFree Bristol in your area? We’d love to hear about them.
Through the end of February 2016, you can support ChainFree Bristol by shopping at Fetching-Apparel.com. We will donate 40% of profits to them so they can build even more fences.