Anyone who has been to Midtown can see that in the LGBT community, pets are often surrogate children. From the largest St. Bernard to the tiniest toy poodle, canines enjoy the privilege of being more than human’s best friend — they are family and are as close as can be. But there are some practices humans partake in where the barrier between species creates a misunderstanding for which the dog pays the price.
Some pet owners think that by putting a dog on a chain, they are protecting it from harm by keeping it close by and still giving it the freedom to roam. Kate Trahan of the Atlanta chapter of the Coalition to Unchain Dogs says otherwise.
“Tethering can create bad tendencies that make dogs most prone to depression or aggression,” she says.
Imagine if you were limited to a five or six foot radius by a rope or chain attached to a collar around your neck. Wouldn’t that work you up?
“Upon being unchained, they are much less aggressive and are much happier and playful,” Trahan explains.
Founded in Durham, N.C., in 2006, the Coalition to Unchain Dogs is a nonprofit organization that builds fences free of charge for dog-owners who do not have the resources to do so themselves and who want to stop keeping their dogs on chains in the yard.
“We don’t shame the families we work with; most people are just unaware of the harmful effects of tethering on the dogs’ psyches,” Trahan says.
Treating their clients with respect, the Coalition also targets specific neighborhoods for their marketing in order to build awareness.
“By working in targeted communities [English Avenue and Lakewood], they know us and refer us to other pet owners in the community. This way, we build a philosophy of more responsible dog ownership,” she says.
Trahan, who has been with her partner Stacy for six years, has years of experience with animals before becoming the director of the Atlanta chapter of the Coalition.
“I’ve worked in dog advocacy for several years, specifically with the Georgia Humane Society. I was a volunteer with the Coalition, and when the director position was vacated, I was asked to take the director position and lead the Atlanta chapter,” she says.
The organization is very progressive on other fronts too. It is anti-Breed Specific Legislation, or legislation that targets specific breeds. Pit bulls, for example, have a terrible reputation, and are thus the targets of laws that attempt to ban ownership of them.
As overpopulation in pets is a big problem in Atlanta, one of the stipulations of building a fence for a family is that the dog must be neutered or spayed. The Coalition helps providing funding, transportation to and from a vet, and necessary vaccinations.
“We make it as easy as possible,” Trahan says.
Once all of that is taken care of, Trahan and her crew get to work building fences.
“We’ve gotten it down to two or three hours per fence,” she says.
Volunteers work to build the fences and then go out to bond afterward over a light snack. The organization is always looking for help.
“It is a prejudice-free organization and about 50 percent of our volunteers are LGBT,” Trahan says.
Top photo: Kate Trahan leads Atlanta’s chapter of the Coalition to Unchain Dogs (courtesy photo)