For over a month, contractor and animal lover Aliesha Medley has built free dog houses for assholes who keep their dogs chained up for most of their lives. We commend her, and at the same time, we hope that city officials can do something to enforce the state tethering law.
So far, Medley's non-profit Huts for Mutts has distributed about 30 no-frills plywood dog houses, which cost about $40 to build, and which are insulated with hay, according to KPRC. The non-profit recently got great exposure when a reporter from the station joined Medley as she gave a house to a man named Robert Brewster, who kept his pit bull, Big Head, tied to a tree. Brewester told KPRC that the dog "tears up the house" if he's left alone.
The reporter said of Brewster, "He's not trying to be malicious, he just doesn't have the means to provide proper shelter."
Texas state law states that "an owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog's movement" between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (The restraint has to be either at least ten feet or "five times the length of the dog.") The law also states that a dog can't be kept on a short line in extreme temperatures.
Medley told the Houston Press that she and her volunteers walk a fine line when they encounter instances of dogs who are unreasonably restrained. They want to gain an owner's trust, not come across as authoritarian busy-bodies.
Medley told us in an email:
First, our goal is to provide a tiny bit of comfort to the dogs that are suffering. The laws as written are completely unenforceable, so no we do not discuss any of the tethering requirements. We really don't even mention the option of getting them off the chain.
You would really need to come out and see for yourself. This is a deep cultural issue and if you go in shaming or judging we would be just shut out. We try to show them the dog has feelings and by our love and concern for the dogs well being. We try, by example, to show them how to care for the dog the best they can. And gain the owner's trust that we are compassionate to them too. This is all they have ever known, and most are not living much better than the dogs.
In extreme cases, volunteers have tried to get owners to surrender dogs. A recent troublesome case is highlighted on the group's Facebook page:
This momma had puppies last night under an abandoned house. We all worried had one crawled away because of the chain she would not have been able to reach them...to bring them back. We got them out from under house and put the dog kennel around her house, gave her comfy dog bed, and food.
We all begged him(and offered to buy her) to let us bring her home tonight to no avail. He will let us have the puppies at 6 weeks and spay momma, but I really want the momma dog.
According to the Facebook page, the owner of this brood has two other dogs living in his house. With the sudden drop in temperature this week, we wonder if the mother and her pups will be allowed inside as well. (If it drops below 32 degrees, state law says he must bring them inside).
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Meanwhile, the jerk-off who's contributing to Houston's animal overpopulation gets a free dog house. Now, this is undoubtedly good for the poor dogs, but with a problem this big, we hope that the city's animal control officers are keeping an eye out for violations of the restraint law.
Nancy Byron, a local animal welfare advocate who's been a big cheerleader for Huts for Mutts, explained it this way:
On the surface it [may] appear that Aliesha and the Huts for Mutts volunteers are endorsing the deplorable conditions under which the dogs are living but that is not the case. Going house to house in an impoverished area and offering a well built house full of hay to Dogs who are chained out in the elements, most with no shelter at all, they are building with a community who are largely uneducated on the proper care of an animal.
By offering to assist with spaying, neutering and fundamental vet care as well as convincing many to either sell or surrender their pets, these ladies are not just providing immeasurable comfort in the now, but helping to lessen the numbers of future generations that will live in the same condition or worse.
Like Medley, Byron also pointed out that the restraint law is virtually unenforceable. We hope that, if Huts and Mutts continues to get attention, the problem of unreasonable restraint gets its due attention as well. Perhaps one day the law won't be considered unenforceable.