A guide to helping outdoor animals - BC SPCA
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A guide to helping outdoor animals

November 1, 2016

Concerned about a neighbour’s dog or cat that you see outside? Maybe the animal is tied up, or doesn’t have a place to hide from the rain?

You’re not alone. Last year, BC SPCA Animal Protection Officers (APOs) responded to 573 calls about tethered animals, and another 725 calls about animals not having any shelter.

What can you do to help that animal? To decide what’s next, it is important to understand the laws our APOs must follow. When they visit a property, they must determine if the animal is in distress.

The definition of distress is covered under the legislation that governs the BC SPCA, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act:

a) deprived of adequate* food, water, shelter, ventilation, light, space, exercise or veterinary care

i) kept in conditions that are unsanitary

ii) not protected from excessive heat or cold

b) injured, sick, in pain or suffering, or

c) abused or neglected

*Adequate can be a subjective term. Officers use the following definitions to help clarify when they are on site.

  • Adequate water: Access to clean, potable drinking water at all times
  • Adequate food: A sufficient quantity of suitable food to allow for normal growth and the maintenance of normal body weight and food receptacles that are clean, disinfected and located as to avoid contamination by excreta
  • Adequate shelter: A properly constructed shelter that ensures protection from heat, cold and dampness, and is appropriate to the weight and protective outer coat of the animal.

Sad tethered up dog on a chain in a wooden kennel

If an animal is tethered, but seems have adequate physical care, your best option is to consider having a conversation with your neighbour. Find out why and how often the animal is tethered outside. Be open and curious rather than accusatory: consider bringing over some baked goods and use the opportunity to build a relationship, getting to know the neighbour as a fellow animal guardian. Consider their situation, and what you might do if you were in their same situation. Are there behaviour problems? Is the dog being used as a guard dog? You can direct them to our page “How do you transition an outdoor dog to be comfortable inside?”.

If that doesn’t influence change, consider asking your municipality to adopt a bylaw limiting tethering. While the BC SPCA would prefer to see bylaws that mandate someone be present and monitoring any animal that is tethered, we’re supportive of any bylaw that promotes taking animals off tether. If you’d like some guidance on pursuing this avenue for change, please reach out to us at advocacy@spca.bc.ca.

If the animal appears to be in distress, you can contact the BC SPCA Animal Helpline at 1-855-622-7722 and the call will be dispatched to your local APO. The APO will assess and give the guardian of the animal two options: relieve the distress or surrender the animal.

When you call the Animal Helpline, be sure to have the address of where the animal is located, and a description of the colour, size and breed of the animal. It is also helpful to have some documentation of your concerns. A picture is worth 1000 words… but words are great too! You can keep a log of what you see regarding food, water, shelter, cleanliness and exercise on a daily basis. How often and how long is the animal tied up a tether? What is the weather like?

It takes a village to care for an animal. Thanks for playing a crucial role in helping to prevent animal suffering!

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