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How YOU can Help Unchain Dogs

| Published on February 7, 2015

This coming week is set aside to promote awareness of the plight of chained dogs. It’s easy to feel as if “one person” can’t make a difference, but that is so not true. In fact, most big movements start with just one person.

Kelly Peterson is the senior vice president for state affairs for The Humane Society of the United States and founder of Fences For Fido (FFF), a non-profit group that builds fences for people to unchain dogs. FFF started out at a group of 10 women who felt so strongly about the plight of chained dogs, that they “stepped out of their comfort zone” to start an all-volunteer organization solely dedicated to building free fences for chained dogs.

“And, what started out as a simple project to unchain one dog a month, has turned into a movement, changing hearts, minds and laws,” Peterson says. “To date, Fences For Fido has unchained more than 1,000 dogs in Oregon and SW Washington.”

Founder Kelly Peterson and Biaggi. Image source: Nick Esposti
Founder Kelly Peterson and Biaggi. a dog no longer chained. Image source: Nick Esposti

“Fences For Fido receives inquires every week from others who want to help chained dogs in their own corner of the world,” she explains. “New groups are forming every month to assist dogs who are living their lives on the end of chains. Unchaining is a movement.  Fences For Fido literally offers years of unchaining experience and expertise, and by openly sharing these resources and best practices, we can accelerate and enable the unchaining movement, making a difference for chained dogs everywhere.”

She talked to us about how one person really can make a difference in the life of a chained dog.

Why is Fences for Fido so important?

Peterson:  “Part of the beauty of a group like Fences For Fido is that a volunteer can donate three hours of a Saturday morning and be immediately rewarded by witnessing the excitement that a dog feels the moment that he or she is released from a chain. Fences For Fido is love in action. In a matter of hours, you see a life change before your very eyes, especially the lives of our families. A dog who desperately jumped on people for attention, relentlessly barked, or who had become defeated while on a chain becomes a dog that the family invites into their world. Additionally, the yard provides a place for kids to play with their family companion, and soon, the dog who had been an outsider, becomes a cherished member of the family.”

Volunteers for Fences For Fido putting up a fence  means freedom for a dog.
Volunteers for Fences For Fido putting up a fence means freedom for a dog.

Below is what Peterson calls the “Unchaining phases.” Based on FFF’s success, it is the best process to starting an “unchaining movement” in your area.



  • Extending compassion and patience to people and their canine companions
  • Incorporating a spirit and foundation of heart-felt service and non-judgment within your mission


  • Build interest locally
  • Identify within your community where there is the greatest need (i.e., in rural communities or urban areas)
  • Bring together the founding volunteers, including a crew leader
Not good at building fences? That's okay! Peterson says loving on the dogs is one of the most important things they do.
Not good at building fences? That’s okay! Peterson says loving on the dogs is one of the most important things they do.


  • Identify the first Fido (keep a list of waiting dogs to gauge the local need)
  • Fundraise (Keeping a list will help convey the need)
  • Build the first fence and seek local press coverage


  • Become a formal organization, build organization structure
  • Create partnerships (rescues, shelters, pet retailers; spay/neuter policy, emergency vet care policy)
  • Strategies for sustainability and legislative action for leverage

Does this seem daunting to you? It shouldn’t!

Peterson says “one is enough to start…”

  • Form relationships with animal control or local humane society in your area and follow their guidance in helping chained dogs.
  • Contact your local lawmakers to suggest bills for limiting chaining and improving care standards for dogs living outside.
  • Bring together a group of friends in your area to volunteer with a fence building organization or consider forming one yourself. (Contact to learn about Unchained Planet.)
  • Befriend the family of a chained dog and hopefully in time – through patience and kindness and understanding – the family will embrace your help and suggestions.
  • Seek out low cost spay/neuter and approach the family with these options.

Want more help? Contact Fences for Fido for more information on starting your unchained movement.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. She is the founder of A Fairytail House. In her spare time, she trains and competes in a variety of performance events with her Shetland Sheepdogs and caters to her two rescue kitties. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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