Pet owners warned over common act after dog loses leg

A brutal attack on a dog tied up in a backyard has prompted a stern warning for pet owners about the potential dangers of tethering, especially during summer.

An animal shelter in the US state of Missouri, shared alarming photos of a dog named Max who sustained horrific injuries after being targeted by two other dogs, causing his leg to be amputated — all because his movement was restricted.

Tethering refers to tying an animal to an anchor point for a prolonged period as a means of confinement, and while common, it does have some alarming risks, animal welfare experts warn.

Max the dog with missing leg after injury.
Max was attacked by two dogs while he was tied up in a backyard. Source: Great Plains SPCA

Great Plains SPCA in Kansas City explained Max was tied up in a fenceless backyard when two dogs attacked him on Saturday. "He had no way to escape so he dropped onto his back submissively as the dogs mauled him," they wrote.

When he arrived at the clinic, the pup was "bleeding, unable to walk and with infection already spreading in his flesh". "The necrotic tissue had to be removed if he were to survive. Antibiotics and his body's strength to fight the infection will be critical over the next couple of days," Great Plains SPCA said.

Tethering should be avoided, RSPCA warns

According to medical experts, "Max's situation was avoidable with proper education" about tethering, which the RSPCA says "should be avoided as a means of long-term confinement".

"Where dogs need to be confined outdoors, the best way to do this is in a suitable yard or enclosure. Where these options are not available, some people choose to tether their dogs," an RSPCA spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia. But tethering does not provide an environment that meets dogs' mental and physical needs, they added, so "the length of time a dog is tethered should always be minimised".

large bite wounds on inside of the dog's leg.
The muscles in Max's right 'armpit' were shredded and the leg had to be amputated. Source: Great Plains SPCA

"Tethered animals are at risk of overly restricted movement, frustration, stress, distress, severe behavioural issues, painful injuries, choking, entanglement, exposure to the elements and potential predation," they said. "[Plus] inhibition of the animal's ability to avoid threats, express natural behaviours, and experience positive welfare."

When is it OK for a dog to be tethered?

For dogs that are tethered, they must be provided with a comfortable resting area, adequate food, water and shelter, including protection from the weather, especially heat. There must also be opportunities for mental stimulation, such as safe food or toys, the RSPCA warned.

Max with bleeding leg and cone around his neck.
The dog was bleeding and unable to walk when he arrived at the clinic. Source: Great Plains SPCA

"Tethering of dogs may increase the public safety risks of dog bites and attacks," the spokesperson added. However, long-term tethering with no exercise has been shown to "increase frustration and aggressive behaviour towards other dogs and people".

Great Plains SPCA recommends no animal be tethered for more than 30 minutes at a time and three hours in a day, but in Australia, it depends on individual state regulations.

"Max still has a long road to recovery and is not out of the woods yet due to his infection," the medical hospital said. "He is able to walk a bit but hasn’t had much of an appetite. Keeping him fed during this time is vital for his recovery"

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