How did the Coalition to Unchain Dogs get started?

The Coalition to Unchain Dogs got its start in Durham, NC in August 2006 when founder Amanda Arrington and a handful of volunteers met at a coffee shop to discuss bringing anti-tethering legislation to the Triangle area of North Carolina. They knew that the legislation would pass more easily if they could be a part of the solution by providing fences for people who could not afford them. Amanda’s optimism, leadership skills and energy made her idea a reality, as she organized a crew of volunteers to regularly build fences so that the Coalition could provide labor and materials at no cost to the dogs’ owners. The Coalition has been changing communities in the Triangle area since building our first fence in Durham in March 2007.  Since then we have grown to serve other communities and provided care to thousands of families and their dogs.  Our people-centric approach has inspired the formation of similar groups all over the country.  We do so much more than build fences, we build community! The Coalition continues to expand rapidly. In addition to building fences at an ever-increasing rate in North Carolina and Atlanta, we are assisting compassionate people all over the country in forming groups to pass anti-tethering legislation and start similar programs in their areas. To read some of the positive press we’ve received, click here.

What is special about your approach?

The Coalition to Unchain Dogs is above all a people-centered organization.  Companion animals are always a companion to a person, so we focus on helping people. Through the simple act of unchaining a dog, we’re working to change an entire community.  We:

  • Reach out to populations that face the greatest cultural and practical barriers in accessing services for their pets
  • Bridge the information gap by taking knowledge directly to individuals
  • Elevate the standard of care for the dogs and keep those expectations high
  • Drive long-term change by staying in touch before, during and long after the fence build

In short, it doesn’t start or stop with a fence. We also build relationships, trust, optimism, and a sense of openness to possibilities for ourselves and for those we help. By getting to know people and helping them see their pets in a whole new light, we’re setting in motion a process that radically changes the expectations of a family, a neighborhood, and a community.  We call it “contagious care,” but you can also think of it as a chain reaction. It’s lasting change for the better.

Do you follow up with the dogs after they are unchained?

Yes. We follow up with every single client at least twice a year, once in the winter when we deliver hay to each dog for warmth, and again in the summer when we set up or replace tarps that provide the dogs with shade from the sun. Since we focus our work and efforts in specific neighborhoods and areas, we check in with many clients weekly.

How can I volunteer?

We’re glad you asked! Please visit our Volunteer page to find out how to get started

What else can I do to help chained dogs?

1. Go viral and raise awareness. Tell your friends about the Coalition and share the links to our videos and website on your FB page and via email. Tell your friends to do the same. Chained dogs are everywhere, and by adding your voice to ours, we can bring national awareness to this issue.

2. Donate. The Coalition could not exist without the generosity of our donors and supporters. Donations in any amount can be made securely online at our website https://beyondfences.org/ or by mail to: Coalition to Unchain Dogs PO Box 3259 Durham, NC 27715 3. Advocate. Want to start a similar program in your area?  Find out how »

Can I sponsor a specific chained dog?

Yes. You can even sponsor a fence build in honor or in memory of a friend or family member. A fence sponsorship makes a great gift, especially for the person who has everything.  Learn about how you can help here.  We also help many more dogs than are listed for sponsorship, so general donations are vital. When you make a general donation, you help an individual dog.

How much does it cost to build a fence for a chained dog?

The cost of materials runs between $400 and $500 per fence, or more if there is more than one dog. We also provide spay/neuter, vaccinations, and a wellness exam for each dog. The average cost for these services is around $150 per dog. We provide our services free of charge. Coalition volunteers provide all the labor including transport of the dogs to and from their veterinary appointments.

Where do you get your funding?

Over half of our funding comes from individual donors who make contributions from $5 to $5,000. We also receive in-kind donations like dog houses, de-wormer, and used fencing materials. The remainder comes from grants and fundraising events, including the Great Human Race, Fashion Unchained, and our annual benefit concert, “Music for Fences.”

What are the requirements for the owners of the dogs?

To receive a fence, each owner must agree to have every dog on the property spayed or neutered and we provide this service for free. Each owner also signs a contract in which they agree not to chain their dogs and not to put any unaltered dogs inside the fence. The owners also agree that if they get another dog, they will allow us to have it spayed/neutered.

Why not just take the dogs away from the owners?

While we understand the instinct, the strategy of taking dogs from their owners is not one we condone and it is ultimately counter-productive. Here are six reasons why:

1. Taking a dog from its owner will almost invariably result in the owner simply getting another dog, a dog that will almost certainly live the same conditions the first dog did. So, you haven’t addressed the issue, you’ve just transferred one dog’s conditions to another.

2. Taking a dog also presumes you have another home to place it in. Just take a look on FB right now at how many people are desperately trying to find a home for a stray dog they’ve found or a shelter dog that is about to be euthanized. The reality is this: rescue groups and shelters are full. That’s why the Coalition works to improve the home that the dog already has. We call it “rescuing dogs in their own back yard.”

3. Taking a dog looks like an easy fix, but it really means that you’ve given up on the hard work of relationship building and information sharing. Think about how many dogs you will have in your lifetime. Ten, twenty, fifty? Our strategy is to bring about a change in the humans, to show them the possibility of caring for their dogs in a different way, or just to give them the little bit of help they need to do so. When we succeed, we have improved not only the life of the dog they currently have, but, potentially, the lives of the dozens of dogs they will care for during the rest of their lives. And as you often see in our videos, there are lots of kids watching and helping. They are a new generation of dog owners whose perspectives on what it means to have and care for a dog are being shaped by the experience.

4. Taking dogs also presumes that the owners don’t care about their dogs. Doing this work has shattered many of our preconceptions and has proven to us that the only way to help is with a non-judgmental approach. We have found that almost all the owners we meet do care about their dogs, and they are either doing the only thing they know to do or doing the only thing that is possible for them to do at the time. For those of you who can remember, how many of our mothers and fathers back in the 60’s and 70’s used to let us kids ride down the highway standing up on the front seat of the car, no seatbelt in sight? This was just what people did at that time, but it doesn’t mean that our mothers and fathers were bad people or that they didn’t care about us. The question really is this: once you know better, will you do better? The Coalition is about giving people the opportunity to change.

5. Takings dogs would also prevent us from helping other dogs. We have built thousands of fences. We’ve done this at street level, door-to-door, face-to-face, building trust and a reputation in our community. We often work in the same neighborhoods where fence recipients have family, friends, and neighbors who, of course, hear about the Coalition from them. We can’t tell you how many times we hear, “You built that fence for my brother (or aunt, or grandmother, or neighbor).” If we started taking people’s dogs, the network of trust and the reputation we have built would disappear overnight. The response we get would no longer be, “You’re the folks who provided services for my neighbor.” It would become, “You’re the folks who took my neighbor’s dog.”

6. Finally, taking dogs is illegal. The Coalition isn’t just about fence-building, we are about community building and the community includes a lot of people, pets and organizations. If we were to take people’s dogs, we could not be effective advocates because others would not trust or work with us. Given the choice between saving a handful of dogs by breaking the law or helping create long term, sustainable change, we choose to help our overall community and as many dogs as we can.