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Chain Free Dogs unshackles, frees Washington County dogs from a life in chains

Mackenzie Moore • Aug 29, 2018 at 11:28 PM

Man’s best friend should have a safe area to run freely, but even an open space can be detrimental to social and physical health.

Chained dogs are confined to one area, which makes them more likely to become territorial and aggressive. A Johnson City group of builders and animal advocates aims to unchain dogs to support healthier canine lifestyles and decrease risks of dog attacks.

Chain Free Dogs is a volunteer-led organization in Washington County that builds fences to free dogs from chains and advocates against chaining and tethering our furry friends.

“A dog’s life was never meant to be lived at the end of a chain,” Christy Rabetoy, founder of Chain Free Dogs, said. “When a dog has a fenced area rather than being tied up, owners are encouraged to play with their dogs more.

“When a dog is able to run freely within their fenced area, it promotes social interactions between the dog and family.”

Rabetoy set out to unchain dogs four years ago when she discovered Chain Free Bristol, a similar volunteer service in Bristol, Tennessee. Since then, she and three professional fence-builders have built 90 fences and unshackled more than 100 dogs from a tethered life.

“This service is at no cost for the owners,” Rabetoy said. “We run off of private donations. The only cost would be our requirement that the dog is spayed or neutered and is up to date on all vaccines.”

Chain Free Dogs works alongside the Humane Society and Washington County Animal Shelter in search of dogs in need. Once a chained dog is referred, Rabetoy and her team visit the home to confirm paperwork and brainstorm a way to incorporate a fence into the yard.

“For each household with a chained dog, we place 100 feet of chainlink fence with a gate,” Rabetoy said. “If it’s a rental house, of course we have to get permission from the owner. And we do refuse services to those who haven’t fixed and gotten vaccines for their dogs.”

Animal advocates and Johnson City’s Humane Society have been encouraging Johnson City lawmakers to adopt a new ordinance for several years — an ordinance that would ban the tethering of dogs within city limits. Thus far, all attempts have been unsuccessful, but Rabetoy remains hopeful.

“I hate seeing animals abused,” Rabetoy said. “You look at all these other cities in Tennessee — Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis and Murfreesboro — and dog-owners aren’t allowed to chain a dog in any of those places.

“Locally, we are looking at that to incorporate that in the future. Not now, because it will probably take two years.” 

Chain Free Dogs can be found on Facebook for more information, pet tips and success stories.

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