Thursday, August 21, 2014

What I learned from a year of rescuing chained dogs

My little dog Sassy and Ben

Since June of 2013 I ran No Chains All Love Dog Society - an organization that rescued and rehabilitated chained dogs in Nova Scotia - we rescued 40 dogs who had been chained their whole lives - some of them had been chained their whole lives and some of them had been just chained part time, and a few of them hadn't been chained at all - and we found them homes where they could live inside and become just normal dogs.

It was the hardest, and the easiest job you could imagine.

It was the hardest because of the humans - and it was the easiest because of the chained dogs - I have rescued a lot of dogs, and chained dogs for the most part have been the easiest dogs to rehome and rehabilitate. Especially the ones who have lived outside 24/7 - which is the opposite of what their reputation would have you believe, and is also the reason why it made the humans the hardest to deal with.

Everyone thought that rescuing chained dogs was a really noble, important thing to do - but no one wanted to help - no one wanted to foster a chained dog, no one wanted to actually help the rescue - but everyone thought it was a great idea.

Anyone who I asked to help with the rescue thought that any chained dog they brought into their home was going to "wreck their home" - would piss everywhere, tear their house apart when they went out - and no way would they have anything to do with that - because the dog had never been inside they thought the dog was going to be totally wild.

So no one - even seasoned rescuers - were willing to help.

And that couldn't have been further from the truth.


So because of that - of the 40 dogs I rescued - I ended up taking 22 of those 40 into my own home - I did have a few spectacular people volunteer to help out - but mostly it was shelters across Nova Scotia - the Lillian Albion Shelter, the Cape Breton SPCA, King's County SPCA, Doghouse Boarding and Daycare, - and Camp Bow Wow in Dartmouth - who fostered most of the dogs I took in - without them I couldn't have done what I did.

And what I learned from the 22 dogs that I took in is that chained dogs when they are thrown into the backyard - usually in puppyhood - is that whenever they are put out permanently - that's where they are frozen in time - so whenever you bring them back in - is what stage they come back in as - so a lot of time you are rescuing a 10 year old puppy, or a 5 year old puppy - so they are a JOY to rescue - who doesn't want to bring a puppy into your house?

Ace and my little dog Bubby

Statistics say that chained dogs are 2.8 time more likely to bite than dogs that aren't chained - but once you release them from their chains - they revert to what they were like before they were chained - so if they were put out at 8 months old - you get an 8 month old dog in your house - you get all the problems of an 8 month old dog - but you get all the wonderful things of an 8 months old dog.

As for pissing everywhere and wrecking your house - it is so untrue - I have had 22 dogs come through my house in the last year and it still looks exactly the same as it did a year ago - all my furniture is still intact - mostly!

Just a couple of minor things gnawed - and I come and go like a normal person does.


Chained dogs are very quick to house train - it's like they know that outside is where they're supposed to go to the washroom since outside is the only place they've ever used the washroom - so pissing everywhere is nonsense.

There are a couple things though in the last year that have gone awry that have made me decide that I can't continue to do chained dog rescue - and the most important thing is my own dogs - I just can't continue to put my own dogs through the constant stream of new animals coming through the door.


They have put up with so much I can't believe all that I have put them through. When I rescued dogs I didn't ask any questions - I didn't ask if the dog was dog aggressive, I didn't ask if he had had negative interactions with another dog - I just said "thank you very much for giving me your dog" - and put the dog in the car and drove him from their home to my home - and walked through the door and hoped very much and they didn't kill my dogs when we walked through the door - I was so lucky in the last year that none of the chained dogs were really dog aggressive and I didn't have any problems. I did have one really bad encounter with fostering a dog - but it was with another rescue when I had to do an emergency foster and it was over food aggression and I was really lucky my little dog Sassy - wasn't killed - that was the only negative interaction I had the whole year - with a dog from another rescue.

Tony with all my little dogs - Sassy in front, and Buttercup Bubby and Sidney in back

To put them through all these dogs in the last year I just can't put them through this anymore - it has changed them - they are little dogs - and it has taken so much time away from them too - I don't spend any time with them and little dogs need to be doted on, and I haven't done that - in the last week or so I haven't had a foster and I have really noticed a change in them - they are starting to play with each other again and it's so nice to see - I want to see more of that.

Recently one of my little dogs died - Sassy - and I really miss her, and it has really affected me - and I need to spend time with my remaining three dogs to get over that as well

So because of this, No Chains All Love is not going to rescue dogs anymore - it is just too hard for a one person organization to rescue chained dogs - there are still organizations out there rescuing chained dogs - Marley's Hope, Animal Rescue Coalitions, Litters n Critters - they are taking in chained dogs - and in the last year - the Nova Scotia SPCA has made a paradigm shift in the way they deal with chained dogs - what they have done has been absolutely amazing - they do not walk away from chained dogs anymore - and this fall - hopefully - new regulations are coming into effect that will give greater protection for chained dogs across Nova Scotia.


So hopefully it hasn't all gone to waste - and of course, 40 dogs now have homes that before had different homes that weren't quite so lovely. I put a lot of work into it, and hopefully the landscape changed a little bit - but I've got some other things in mind that I want to do - none quite so mind blowing as rescuing chained dogs of course, but at least my own dogs might get walked a little more often.

When I said this has been a one person rescue organization, that's of course not true - there have been other people helping me, and I am so grateful for everyone's help - one person that I couldn't have done this without their help is Caryl Gomes - she went with me when I went to pick up dogs, went with me to the vets, sat in the back seat after we rescued dogs and sang to them - was a true dog whisperer - did whatever was necessary to make the dogs happy and get us on our way to their happy new lives - without her I could not have done what I did.

Thank you to everyone who helped me in the last year - I really appreciate all the help that you gave, your little kindnesses have not been forgotten.


  1. Anonymous8:10 PM

    Truly remarkable, caring people like you Joan, don't come along every day. On behalf of all animal lovers, thank you so much for your time and dedication to rescuing these beautiful dogs. Time now to grieve for little Sassy and tend to your remaining furry children. You have set a wonderful example for others. My sincere condolences on your loss.

  2. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Joan what you have done in the past year or so with your rescue " No Chains All Love" is remarkable. You are a very determined person to take on such a huge undertaking. I know you did most of the work and the fostering all alone.There would be no one who would be willing to do what you have done. Rest easy knowing that you did it and made a difference in all those dog's lives. People in HRM know you and have much respect for you. Relax and enjoy yourself and your little white dogs. Jon & Brenda Hopkins

  3. Anonymous10:20 PM

    Joan, I think you are an amazing person. You have given life and hope to 40 dear souls who were living in dejection and desperation, and that is a very noble thing indeed. God has blessed you and everyone (human or animal) that has the pleasure of your acquaintance. Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless. Myrna Bowen

  4. I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet Sassy. Joan, you have really made a huge difference in the lives of many dogs. You have raised awareness of the plight and suffering of chained dogs, and educated us on the reality of living with them. We all have much to be grateful for in regards to your good work. I can fully understand you wanting to take time for your own dogs (for yourself too I hope) as we do need to put our own family first. You started something beautiful and put a great deal of love and energy into it, I'm sure good things will come forth from it. I bet your crew are enjoying having you to themselves. I hope you step away with no regrets , knowing what an amazing job you have done. Enjoy your pups!

  5. Darlene Grady-Lunn (MHDR)12:29 AM

    My continued respect <3

  6. Janice11:47 PM

    Hi Joan, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, poor Sassy. I want to thank you for your hard work and unfailing love for the rescues and I truly am thankful for our new member Tina, she has become such a wonderful family member and Mike and I are so very happy to have her and call her ours. She has become an integral part of our family, settling in with our other children, (Sammy, Leia, Hailey and even Bergen (the cat)). What a beautiful girl she is growing up to be, thank you. Many happy and peaceful moments with your family. All the best, Janice