Project seeks to give pets freedom from tethers

Unchain Charleston volunteer DeDe Tyler sits with Toby while the group builds a fence in his owner’s yard.

Despite the images that may come to mind, tethering animals with chains often has little to do with cruelty or the restraint of aggressive pets.

Many dog owners who hope to keep pets from wandering from home and onto busy streets turn to chains when they don’t have the resources to enclose their yards, says an organization working to help pet owners.

With its new program, Unchain Charleston, Pet Helpers is fencing in backyards so that local animals can enjoy the freedom they deserve.

“Having a fence allows pets the opportunity to be social without the psychological damage of being on the end of a chain,” said Pet Helpers spokeswoman Lauren Lipsey.

Tethering is legal in South Carolina as long as food and water is within reach. However, Lipsey said doing so comes with a price. “Pets have risks of increased aggression and increased anxiety when they aren’t free to explore,” Lipsey said.

“You’ll hear a lot of stories about dogs on chains biting people, but that can be an artificial aggression that may not exist if the chain wasn’t in the picture.

“It’s important to understand that the animals we’re selecting are ones that will benefit from the increased interaction with their owners, and whose owners want to provide the best lifestyle for their dogs.”

The 20-by-30-foot chain-link fence built during the group’s first event this month took volunteers eight hours to construct over two days and came at no charge to the pet owner.

Lowe’s on James Island donated supplies and provided on-site training. Lowe’s will offer supplies to Pet Helpers at a discounted rate as more projects come in.

“With us being down the street from Pet Helpers, we always work together with anything we can. ... If this is going to be a volunteer campaign, I thought if we were the supplier then we should set the standard,” Store Manager Clint Wimer said of Lowe’s ongoing support of the group.

In addition to a new fence, pet owners receive a year of heartworm preventive care, vaccines, dog food, food and water bowls and can have their pets spayed or neutered.

Unchain Charleston is the first program of its kind in the Lowcountry.

To be considered for a fence, email Pet Helpers Operation Manager Kristin Kifer at kkifer@pethelpers.org.

To volunteer, email unchaincharleston@pet helpers.org.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/ UnchainCharleston.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.