There are seven dogs chained in yards near Sarah Hensley’s house, exposed to whatever weather and insect pests the season brings. Two years ago Hensley lived in a different part of Oakwood Lincoln Park, and there were three dogs on chains there, year round.
“One was a boxer mix, and they’re not built for cold weather. It drove me crazy, but I didn’t know what I could do – so I just kind of cried into my beer about it,” she said. “Now there are seven dogs chained up close to my house. A friend sent me a video of one of the dogs being sleeted on, and I just got really sick of it. I decided I’d had enough.”
Problem is, she knows she can’t “liberate” them, and she wasn’t sure about how to attack the problem, so she started researching the issue and talking to Keith Hogue, supervisor of animal control, and Tracey Berry of codes enforcement, plus attorneys Charles Thomas and Tom Mullin.
“The law sees any pet as property, so I could be arrested for theft, or cited. I would be punished much more heavily than someone is punished for keeping a dog tied up. In the past, I have talked to owners and gotten them to surrender these dogs to me, and I have rehomed them,” she said.
Although she’s in the process of formulating a systematic approach to changing the law, she has also started a fundraising effort to provide warm bedding and collapsible doghouses. She has been pleasantly surprised at the amount of support and encouragement she’s been able to muster through social media.
She’s not new to the cause of animal welfare, and she kicked her involvement up several years ago when she lived in San Francisco and became active in a rescue organization called Third Coast Transport. She made a trip down the California coast to rescue a paraplegic poodle from a kill shelter. That’s where she met Carmella, a sassy, friendly pit mix who had been almost bred to death and abandoned. Hensley decided she couldn’t leave her behind.
Carmella is still with her in a household that includes Mary Jane, a corgi mix she’s had for 11 years, and Emmy Lou, a foster dog who has been with Hensley for two years and is dying of cancer.
She’d like to do more than treat the symptoms. She plans to create a 501(c)(3) dedicated to the cause of animal welfare and wants to organize education efforts through school assemblies and block parties.
And she’d like to see changes in the law, and to that end, she appeared before City Council last week. She’d like to see revised ordinances, and she’ll be looking for a council member (or two or three) to help her take up the cause.
She is confident that others will join her.
“I’m learning legalese, which I really didn’t understand. I’m taking it a step at a time, and the City Council meeting catapulted the cause. I just know I need to get it on the radar. Most people don’t want to do wrong by their dog. They’re either taught to do it that way or just don’t know better.”