Extremists on both ends of the spectrum — the NRA on the Right and, on the Left, critical race theorists — are keeping dogs on chains.

“And homeless near a thousand homes I stood” — William Wordsworth

SB 650, a bill to ban perpetual chaining of dogs, is pending before the Florida legislature. The bill had broad bipartisan support; at least it did until the National Rifle Association objected. In an absurd claim, a lobbyist for the organization called even extended chaining “humane.” It is anything but.

For dogs, as for people, the absence of human attention and affection is tragic. Besides suffering from isolation, a chained dog suffers the added frustration of being unable to act out even the most basic of dog behaviors. The small circle in which he can move about becomes hard–packed with dirt which carries the stench of his waste (even if the fecal matter is routinely cleared away). The odor draws flies and serves as a breeding ground for parasites, which can infect him. After a few weeks, he will begin to show temperament disorders. Over time, he is likely to become aggressive. If he stays chained for months or years, he may even become mentally ill.

Americans of all walks of life and political stripes love their dogs and know that denying them basic liberties by chaining them to a stake is wrong. The NRA — which claims to advocate for freedom — should, too. But the NRA is not alone in their opposition to criminalizing animal abuse. In deference to identity politics, an increasing number of academics are likewise advocating that we turn a blind eye to chaining. 

In a recent book, University of California Riverside Professor Katja Guenther argues that treating animals as family and showing them affection are “white” values, while treating animals “as resources, whether protective (as in guarding) or financial (as in breeding or possibly fighting)” are part of the culture of people of color. She claims that rescuers who want dogs to be adopted to “those who will treat their dog as a family member” and will “care for their dog” are using dogs “as instruments for reproducing whiteness.”

Tufts Professor (Emeritus) Andrew Rowan argues that people of color have “culturally specific” “folk knowledge” that guides their “indigenous” human-animal relations and that shelter workers should lower their standards in deference to these “indigenous” relations, even when doing so is “at odds with the humane society’s own core beliefs about how animals should be cared for.”

Likewise, the University of Denver’s Kevin Morris is calling for eliminating the enforcement of animal protection laws that ban continuous chaining of dogs in backyards because “regulations for adequate care of animals” “criminalize individuals experiencing poverty and people of color who have pets.”

So much progress has been subverted by fringe politics on both ends of the spectrum. It doesn’t matter if you disdain the NRA or are a lifetime member; disdain identity politics or advocate for them, dogs deserve so much better. Dogs who are perpetually chained have few friends, literally and figuratively. We must be. And we should not allow hard-hearted ideologues to stop us from protecting them. 

Dogs offer people undying loyalty and unconditional love. In return, they ask for nothing more than a sense of belonging. To banish a dog permanently to a chain is a betrayal of what should be a loving pact. And that is no way to treat “man’s best friend.”

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