Thank you for your interest in Fences For Fido! Our work changes lives, families, and communities. It empowers volunteers and neighborhoods. And none of it would be possible withoug our generous team of volunteers and donors.
What is Fences For Fido?
We have a simple but life-changing mission: Improving the lives of dogs living outdoors on the end of chains, tethers, or in small kennels by building them a donor-funded fence free of charge. These dogs also receive a new dog house, spay/neuter services, and other urgent veterinary care when needed.
Why is chaining dogs unsafe for a community and isolating for a dog?
Dogs are social animals who naturally live in packs. Essentially, we humans are their pack. Dogs have evolved to be fully dependent on their human families for all of their physical, mental, and emotional needs. Isolation is severely distressing for dogs. A dog on a chain is separated from his pack and forced to live a solitary life. This leads to severe and sometimes dangerous behavioral problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association warn that chained dogs are about 3 times more likely to bite and have more behavior problems. It’s also difficult to provide good care to a chained dog because chains catch on obstacles, putting dogs at risk of strangulation and injury, or leaving them unable to reach their food, water, or shelter. Also, chained dogs are more vulnerable to attacks by other dogs and wild animals.
Where did you get the idea for this cause?
The Coalition to Unchain Dogs (now Beyond Fences) in North Carolina started a few years before we did. Fences For Fido was inspired by them and some of their founding members even flew to Oregon to help us build our first fence. They are the inspiration behind our Unchained Planet program, which mentors new unchaining groups around the country.
When did Fences For Fido start?
Some Portland friends built the first fence on May 23, 2009. It was for a yellow Labrador mix named Chopper who had been chained for many years. Chopper lived an un-chained life for years before his passing on December 31, 2013, and even lived indoors much of the time with his family.
Where do you do this?
Our group is based in Portland, Oregon, but we have chapters in most regions surrounding the metro area, including:
- Salem and the south Willamette Valley
- Linn County as far south as Albany
- the Columbia Gorge as far east as Hood River and Carson, WA
- Central Oregon including Warm Springs
- NW Oregon coast from Astoria to Waldport
- SW Washington state as far north as Olympia.
How many fences have you built?
When we started, our goal was to build about one fence a month. But demand was so great, we builtt 75 fences in our first year. Since then, we've built about 1,500 fences and unchained over 2,200 dogs. We currently average about 13 fences a month.
How do you find out about the dogs who need fences?
Some families apply themselves; some are referred by neighbors, extended family, friends or good Samaritans. FFF also maintains strong working relationships with local animal control agencies and humane societies and we often receive referrals and applications from these community partners.
Why would people chain their dogs in the first place?
There are many reasons why people chain their dogs. Some people simply do not know different, having been raised with chained dogs on their property. Others may have moved and do not have the resources to build a proper fence but need to keep their dog on their property. Others may have had dogs recently given to them by a family member and have no other recourse. Whatever the reason, FFF's mission is not to pass judgment but to help remedy the situation by providing free help and education when necessary.
Will you reveal my name if I refer someone's dog for a fence?
No. You can remain anonymous. You have the opportunity to indicate this choice on our online fence application form.
Do clients need to financially qualify?
No. Most of our clients are low-income and cannot afford to build their own fence, but there are no income requirements. We build fences based on the dog’s needs rather than the family’s financial status.
Some conditions seem so horrible it appears the dogs need to be removed from the home.
In doing this work, we have learned not all situations are what they seem. That said, the fence is just the beginning of our relationship with a family. We also offer spay/neuter surgeries, flea treatment, and may provide urgent medical care if the family can’t provide it. We provide guidance to families who decide they can’t take care of their dogs. But most of the families love their dogs and just need a little help and guidance.
Don’t you think it’s better for the dogs to be in the house with the family?
Yes! Dogs are social creatures who form deep bonds with their human family members. They do best when they're with their people. When we work with a family, we learn what we can about the situation and see how we can improve it.
Some families just aren’t willing or able to have the dogs inside. But most dogs are calmer and friendlier when they have a fenced yard, so it’s easier for their families to spend time with them. Some start bringing the dog into the house more, while others start spending more time outside in their new yard with the dog. Some are willing to work with a trainer to address the behavior concerns that are keeping the dog outside, away from the family he/she loves so much. In the end, we may never see the ideal situation, but we always see an improvement.
How much does it cost to build a fence?
On average, $800. That includes the fence and insulated dog house. We also provide a spay or neuter surgery when needed, and the costs vary by location.
How do you get the money for this?
This work is completely supported by the generosity of people like you and others who care. We survive on the donations of money, materials, labor, and the occasional grant. We can only do as much for the dogs in need as the available money, materials and labor permits. And there is never enough!
Are donations tax-deductible?
We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so if you’re able to claim deductions for charitable contributions, then yes! It's easy to donate right here on our Website.
What supplies and donations do you need?
Money, of course! We get small bulk discounts on materials, so usually our supplies are purchased for less than retail costs. Here are some of the supplies we regularly buy and use in our fences:
- Pressure-treated 4x4 posts in 8-foot lengths
- 6-foot-high chain-link gates in all widths
- Durable, weather-worthy dog toys such as Kongs and the like
- 6-ft and 7-ft metal T-posts
- WE ARE UNABLE TO ACCEPT DONATIONS OF CHAIN LINK FENCING--because it is heavy and difficult to move and store, we very rarely use it.
- WE ARE UNABLE TO ACCEPT DONATIONS OF DOG HOUSES. We are fortunate to have a youth program that builds our insulated dog houses in a modular style so they're easy to store, move, and assemble on-site at our fence builds.
Does Fences For Fido have any paid staff?
Yes. By 2017, the organization had grown too large to be strictly run by volunteers. We have three part-time independent contractors who handle volunteer management, daily administrative tasks, veterinary care coordination, communications, fundraising, and bookkeeping.
Can I donate a used dog house?
Sorry, we can't accept used dog houses. Most of our dog houses are now constructed by a youth program, and they're made in a modular style so they're easy to store, transport, and assembly on-site at our builds.
We encourage people to reach out and find local dogs who can make good use of a donated dog house. You might find Freecycle or Buy Nothing groups on Facebook are good places to offer up a dog house to families in need.
We protect the privacy of our client at all times and in every way. Under no circumstances may a volunteer divulge personal client information in any form.
How do I volunteer for a project?
What does a typical fence build day look like?
We can say that while there are many common components to our “builds” each situation can have its own unique twist. That could mean anything from a yard that is overrun with blackberry brambles, to a particularly muddy property requiring the spreading of wood chips or straw to help keep the dog comfortable. Many of our projects are straightforward so that the fences are built quickly. Our volunteer Build Coordinators do the best they can to alert volunteers of any unusual facets of that day’s build before volunteers arrive. Know that you will probably get a little grubby, but you will have a good time!
How does the build day unfold?
When our volunteers arrive at a build site, they will find a Build Coordinator and Crew Leader who will direct the project, as well as a few veteran volunteers to guide and assist any newer volunteers. We do our best to have a short talk before the fence building starts about the layout of that particular fence and then direct first-time fence builders to work alongside veteran volunteers for guidance. Primarily, volunteers install metal posts, secure wire fencing to wood and metal posts, cut and lay ground wire, assemble dog houses, and, most importantly, shower love on the dogs waiting for freedom!
There is usually a bit of lag time in between certain elements of the build which is usually a great opportunity to chat with fellow volunteers, take pictures, or visit with the dog! We do value your time and our crew leaders always do their best to make sure we find something for you to do! There are always tasks available for all physical and skill levels.
What should I bring to a fence build?
Mostly, just bring yourself and your love of dogs! We bring all the tools and even extra work gloves.
Some of our tasks will require kneeling on the ground, so you might want to bring knee pads or a gardener's pad. Wear sturdy shoes or boots; rain boots in winter are helpful. You can also bring water and a snack for yourself.
Bringing dog treats and toys can be very sweet, but know that some dogs may not be able to have any for various reasons – so please check with the Build Coordinator before giving treats or toys to a dog.
Also for safety reasons and out of respect for our clients, smoking, drugs, and alcohol are not allowed at build sites.
And one more important note: do make a bathroom stop before arriving at the build, as we try to avoid using client bathrooms unless absolutely necessary.
How long does a typical build take?
We normally start promptly at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. and finish in 2-4 hours, although each one is unique. Our Crew Leaders usually arrive at the site a little earlier to get everything prepared. To protect our clients' privacy and to ensure a smooth build, please do not arrive at the location earlier than 15 minutes prior to the start time.
Can I bring my kids with me to a fence build?
Our builds are considered construction sites and chained dogs can sometimes be unpredictable. For these reasons, our insurance requires us to limit our volunteers to participants 18 years and older. No one under 18 years of age is allowed at our fence builds.
Can I bring my own dog(s) with me?
Please leave your own dogs at home. However, if you do bring your pup with you to a fence build, he or she MUST remain safely contained in your vehicle parked offsite. Volunteers’ dogs are not allowed on the client’s property at all. Please also consider weather, available shade, and other factors before deciding to bring your dogs.
Is carpooling available?
If you would like to help at a project but don’t have access to a car or prefer to rideshare, please email the Project Coordinator of a particular activity. He or she is usually able to email the group of other participating volunteers to see if rides are available, especially for those projects further away than most.
Why are builds often so far out of town?
We simply go to where the dogs are living and schedule builds wherever we are needed. We get applications for fences from all over Oregon and southwest Washington.
Anything else I should know about volunteering?
We know that sometimes we are seeing dogs in very difficult and sad situations. It can be challenging to deal with feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness, or not place judgment upon the guardians of these dogs. Please remember the fence is not the end of our contact with the family—FFF never just walks away, and sometimes what we are seeing is not the whole story.
This is just the beginning of our relationship with the family and it can be very sensitive, especially on the day of the build. With all the commotion, families experience a wide range of emotions and they handle it in all different ways, so we want to be sure that any communication with the family is positive and friendly. By welcoming the family into our day, we are securing that long-term relationship with the family, which is truly in the best interest of all the dogs we help.
Can our group sign up to build a fence?
We LOVE partnering with other organizations; however, we are unable to accommodate private group fence builds because we need our fence crews staffed with many experienced volunteers to ensure the fence will be built within the allocated timeframe of one morning and to mentor any new volunteers that have joined us for the fence building.
If you have a group of 6 or less, feel free to sign up for a fence project. This size group will enable us to still have plenty of experienced builders on that particular crew. We respectfully request that you do not sign up a group of more than 6 members for a fence project as this will make it difficult to build the fence in one morning. We are happy to have larger groups join us for our bed-making parties that are scheduled throughout the year. Thank you for your understanding and interest in participating in a day that truly changes lives for everyone.
Are you affiliated with any other animal welfare or political group?
We are an independent animal welfare group, trying to improve conditions for dogs and educate their families. Many of our board members and volunteers are also involved in many other causes, so as much as possible we try to support other animal causes whenever appropriate and consistent with our mission. Beyond that, we’re not connected to any other agencies, political groups, or organizations and our mission is simply to improve the living conditions of dogs.
Will you check on a neglected dog (horse, cat, etc.) in my neighborhood?
We wish we could help everyone, but we do not have animal cruelty enforcement authority—we are a non-profit organization that simply builds fences for chained or tethered dogs. Law enforcement agencies are required to investigate reports of animal abuse and neglect. Oregon & Washington laws require that animals have space to exercise, an enclosed shelter that protects against the elements, dry bedding, appropriate food and water, and veterinary care to relieve illness or injury.
As of 2014, Oregon has a tethering law which prohibits the chaining of dogs for excessively long periods of time. Washington also has a law that addresses tethering, but is less specific about time and types of chaining. If you think a law is being broken, please call the police or local animal control or humane society.