Woman unleashes website to take on dog-chaining
Nicole Simone, an animal lover and relative newcomer to the realm of political activism, knows she has a dogfight on her hands, but she’s not willing to heel.
The local animal rights activist has launched a website – unchainyorkregionsdogs.com – that is both an educational tool and a call to action, with the ultimate aim of forcing York Region’s municipalities to pass a bylaw prohibiting the permanent chaining of dogs.
Vaughan’s current bylaw says an animal must have a tether at least three metres long, some form of shelter and enough water, food and veterinary care to ensure reasonable health.
But there is no limit to how long an animal can remain chained in one spot, and that amounts to cruelty, Simone said in a recent interview.
“I am approaching the different councils (in York Region),” the 22-year-old York University student said. “I haven’t really gotten a good response because it’s an issue that people don’t take seriously – unless a child is mauled to death by a dog that’s gotten free.
“I know of a (yard) right beside a high school in Vaughan where there is a chained dog,” she said. “He’s probably about a year old.
“All he wants to do is play, but he’s got a 5-foot chain, he’s covered in garbage, he faces having people go by him. It doesn’t make sense. Why have a dog at all?”
Simone declined to pinpoint the location of the dog, but Vaughan Today found the location. The dog was sleeping next to its shelter and was on a leash. A later visit, on a weekend, found the dog not there.
The owner of the lot confirmed bylaw enforcement personnel had investigated but said no wrongdoing was found, leaving him baffled that anyone would file a complaint.
“Somebody was calling them saying I wasn’t feeding him well and chaining him all day long, which is correct because by law I have to chain him,” he said. “They came and checked him two, three times (and) said everything was fine.
“They said: ‘We’re not going to come again. It’s a waste of our time.’ They said he was eating well, that his health was perfect.”
More than just an issue of the physical health of animals, Simone said she fears dogs like this one can become vicious following extended isolation. Without proper socialization, these animals often exhibit aggressive behaviour, which takes the issue of chained dogs from a debate on animal rights to one of public health and safety, she said.
Though the website and petition are recent initiatives, Simone and others have written email messages to various York Region lawmakers, including Vaughan mayor Linda Jackson, hoping to elicit a positive response.
Though she has received some feedback from other municipalities, Simone says she has so far failed to coax any response from Vaughan.
“I wasn’t aware that this was an issue,” said Tony Carella, councillor for Ward 2 and chair of the Leash Free Working Committee, a group looking into other dog-related issues. “If this thing is something that’s coming to the fore in the middle of the summer, I’m not surprised that this is the first I’m hearing of it, and that she might have trouble reaching other members of council.”
Aware that the silence from Vaughan might be because of the current break, Simone is planning on once again raising the issue to council after it resumes in September.
A few jurisdictions around the world have begun to move forward with legislation banning the permanent chaining of dogs, Simone said.
“Canada is a really funny place for these issues,” she said. “We’re really behind as a country compared to Europe and the States.”
Simone is hoping that York Region’s municipalities – Vaughan included – take the lead in bringing about new legislation.
“(The campaign) is going to keep going until I get a bylaw passed,” she said. “This isn’t something I’m going to give up on, because I feel like I owe it to these animals and to my safety – to everyone’s safety.”
Vaughan Today Friday, August 24, 2007 Page: 13 Byline: Philip Alves