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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices

Dogs

Terminology
Female - Bitch
Male - Male

Basic Animal Care Practices

  • Fresh, clean water (in a spill proof container) should be accessible at all times. (See also Title 13, Section 351 (17) for new definition of "adequate water").

  • Should be fed at least once a day with a good quality dog food, based on feeding instructions on package. (See also Title 13, Section 351 (16) for new definition of "adequate food").

  • Even if the dog is outside for short periods, it should have shelter available to protect it from the elements. (See also Title 13, Section 365, Shelter of Animals).

  • Important - with regard to being outside in winter weather, the breed of dog must be taken into consideration. Short haired dogs (Dobermans, Dachshunds, Pitbulls, etc.) and thin haired dogs (Afghan Hounds, Borzois, etc.) should not be left outside for extended periods in cold weather because they were not bred to withstand the cold. They should only be let outside for a short time to relieve themselves.

  • Keeping a dog outside - We do NOT recommend that dogs be constantly kept outside alone because dogs by nature are social "pack" animals and have a psychological need to be with their human packs. However, if for some reason a dog is kept outside, the owner should provide a dog house that meets the following standards (see also pg 260 in Appendix IV, Fact Sheets and Articles, "Dog House Plans Adaptable to House Any Size Dog").

    The dog house should accommodate the size of the dog; that is, it should be large enough to allow the dog or dogs to get inside and move about. However, it should not be too large because in cold weather it must permit the dog's body heat to accumulate inside the structure to provide some warmth. The dog's breed, physical condition and age must be considered when determining whether a dog house meets its needs. The structure should:

    • Be raised at least two inches off the ground to prevent it from sitting in pooled water.

    • Be shaded during the hot weather months; during the winter, the doorway should have a flap of windproof material to cover it.

    • Contain sufficient bedding, such as straw or wood shavings, that are changed often enough to remain dry and clean.

    To ensure that a dog's water does not spill, a water pail should be securely attached to the dog house. Food should be increased during the winter months to provide the extra calories necessary for warmth, and water must be offered frequently to counteract its freezing.

  • Tethering (chaining) a dog - any tethering should be done for brief periods of time to allow a dog some exercise. While state law does not specifically restrict the length of time an animal can be tethered or the type of restraint used, it does restrict the length of the chain. Title 13, Section 365(f) states that "...A dog chained to a shelter must be on a tether chain at least four times the length of the dog..." The dog should also have access to shade and protection from rain and snow. (see also pg 268 in Appendix IV, Fact Sheets and Articles, "The Facts about Chaining and Tethering Dogs").

    Problems associated with constant tethering:

    • Abnormally restrictive and can result in behavior problems (like an increased tendency to bite).

    • Chains can get tangled and result in the dog's being strangled or dangerously restricted.

    • Exposes dogs to attack by other dogs and wildlife.

    • Owners forget to check dog collars and they sometimes become imbedded in the dog's neck. (This is a case of neglect and the owner can be charged with cruelty under Section 352 of Title 13).

    As an alternative to tethering - to provide exercise only - we recommend placing a long cable between two trees or poles. A ring can be attached to the cable and the dog's chain or lead attached (clipped) to the ring.

Additional recommendations

  • The dog should have yearly veterinary exams to ensure their proper health and to provide preventative shots and medications, such as rabies shots, heartworm blood tests, medication, etc. A rabies vaccination-for both dogs and wolf hybrids-is required by law (See Title 20, Chapter 193, Section 3581a (a))

  • The dog should be spayed or neutered. This will prevent the birth of additional litters and improve the health and behavior of the dog. Check with your local shelter (See Appendix I, Animal Shelters and Rescue Organizations in Vermont) about available low-cost spay/neuter programs.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: dull hair coat; thin (ribs showing, sunken-in flanks); hair loss; diarrhea; chronic cough; heavy flea infestation with hair loss and scabs; bare ear tips and other body areas, which could indicate sarcoptic mange or frost bite. (see also pg 280 in Appendix IV, Fact Sheets and Articles, "Tufts Animal Care and Condition Scale" and pg 264, "How to Tell if a Dog or Cat May Need Veterinary Care").

IMPORTANT: Remember to check for a collar which is too tight, and for overgrown or ingrown nails, especially dewclaws, i.e., the "thumb nails" on the first digit, which tend to overgrow since they don't contact the ground.

Housing Conditions: overturned water bowl (water should be in spill proof container); no evidence that dog has been fed; no shelter from elements; ground covered with fecal matter.

Behavior: listless; depressed - the animal does not respond to attention; excessively fearful; aggressive; shy; constant scratching, biting at body, indicating heavy flea infestation or sarcoptic mange.

If any of the elements above are present, call a veterinarian to examine the animals.

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