Live Humanely: When the Animal Next Door Needs Help

There is usually one in every neighborhood. A dog exiled to the backyard with no prospect of a venture beyond his restricted space or quality time with his human family. It's heartbreaking. As it is for a cat banished outside who curls up by the front door, desperately trying to stay warm and dry while the rain pours down around him.

As a compassionate, responsible animal caregiver, you know that providing proper care for a companion animal means more than just food and water. You know that dogs and cats need exercise, enrichment and loving attention to live healthy, happy lives. You also have a hard time understanding why anyone would condemn their pets to such a dismal existence.

We at PAWS feel the same way, and take hundreds of calls every year from people like you asking if there is anything that can be done to help a chained dog or a cat who is always alone. Here are a few ideas to help you, help an animal in need:

  • Talk to your neighbors. Learn why the animals live like they do. Kindly and gently share your knowledge of why dogs need walks, or about the dangers free-roaming cats face, and why both animals need to be a part of the family.
  • Offer to take their dog on walks or help them build an outdoor cat enclosure. Maybe the guardian isn't physically capable or doesn't have time. You could be providing a much-needed service.
  • If you feel uncomfortable talking with the family, anonymously mail them educational information. PAWS has lots of helpful fact sheets in our online Resource Library, as does and You can also search online for resources in different languages.
  • Report the situation to your local animal control or sheriff department. Officers can determine whether or not what is occurring is considered animal cruelty or neglect and have the authority to do something about it. Keep in mind that what you're witnessing may not be considered animal abuse under the law. For example, in many communities, there are no laws limiting the amount of time a dog can be tied up, or requiring cats to be kept safely on their guardians' property. Either way, your neighbors might feel more compelled to make changes if they hear from an officer.
  • Help strengthen animal protection laws in your community. Contact your city council or state representatives and tell them that keeping animals safe and healthy is important to you.

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