Thank you for your interest in Fences For Fido! The work to relieve dogs from the isolation and frustration of living life on a chain could not be done without our generous team of volunteers and donors.The following are answers to several Frequently Asked Questions:
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, providing a new dog house, spay/neuter services, and when needed, other urgent veterinary care.
Why is chaining dogs unsafe for a community and isolating for a dog?
Dogs are social animals. Their wild ancestors live in packs. When dogs live with humans, we are their pack. A dog on a chain is separated from his pack and forced to live a solitary life. This causes emotional distress and 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, which can be dangerous, and dogs can’t reach their food, water, or shelter. Also, chained dogs are very vulnerable to attacks by other dogs and wild animals, and can become pregnant if not spayed.
Where did you get the idea for this cause?
The Coalition to Unchain Dogs 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 teach us the ropes. They were with us when we built our first fence, and 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/south Willamette Valley/Linn county as far south as Albany; the Columbia Gorge as far east as Hood River and Carson, WA; in Central Oregon including Warm Springs; the NW Oregon coast from Astoria to Waldport, and in SW Washington state as far north as Olympia.
How many fences have you built?
About 75 fences in our first year, and since then, over 1070 fences have been built throughout NW Oregon, Central Oregon, and SW Washington state. This represents over 1600 dogs unchained and we build anywhere from 4 - 10 fences per month.
How do you find out about the dogs who need fences?
We learn of our Fidos in several ways. Some families apply themselves; some are referred by neighbors, extended family members, friends or good samaritans. Our own volunteers even find many of the dogs we help! FFF also maintains strong working relationships with local animal control agencies and humane societies; therefore, we often receive referrals and applications from our 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! We learn what we can about the family’s 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. Some 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.
How much does it cost to build a fence?
On average, $800. That includes the fence, the insulated dog house, and spay or neuter.
How do you get the money for this?
We are able to do this work through 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! From our cooperating (and concerned) veterinary partners, we seek discounts on or donations of veterinary services whenever possible.
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! Donations can be made on our Web site: http://www.fencesforfido.org/index.php/donate
What supplies and donations do you need?
Money, of course! We also can use donated fence materials, either new or gently used in excellent condition. 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:
- Welded wire fencing
- Pressure-treated 4x4 posts
- 6-foot-high chain-link gates in all widths
- Concrete in 60-lb bags
- 6-ft and 7-ft metal T-posts
- WE ARE UNABLE TO ACCEPT DONATIONS OF CHAIN LINK FENCING--we rarely use it and don't have the labor to pick it up or the storage space to keep it.
Does Fences For Fido have any paid staff?
Yes. As of 2017, the organization had grown to such a point that it was no longer feasible or practical to operate administratively with strictly volunteer labor. We have three part-time employees who handle volunteer management, daily administrative tasks, veterinary care coordination, communications, fundraising, and bookkeeping.
Can I donate a used dog house?
We build dog houses with an insulated base and an overhang. Sometimes we can refurbish old wooden dog houses, and if it is an igloo-style doghouse, it must be in excellent condition with no latches, vents or parts damaged or missing. However, transportation and storage can be a challenge, so please contact us via email or Facebook and include a photo of any dog house you would like to donate.
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 new people on our fence process. 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, build dog shelters 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?
FFF has all of the tools needed for a fence build and extra work gloves. Bring a pair of kneepads or a gardener’s pad if you’d like because some of the work does entail working on the ground. 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 just before going to any 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 am unless otherwise stated for a start time. Our Crew Leaders usually arrive at the site a little earlier to get the tools and fencing supplies unloaded so that we are ready to start on time. To protect our clients' privacy and to ensure that a Project Coordinator is ready to brief you when you arrive, please do not arrive at the location earlier than 15 minutes prior to the start time. Builds usually finish by 12:00 or 1:00 pm, although occasionally they can finish earlier or later. We recently had a build finish in under two hours!
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. Given the excitement of the day, most client dogs are a little overwhelmed with all the new people and activity in their yard. Adding other dogs can introduce stress or confusion to them, so we want to lessen chances for that as much as possible. 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.
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 so it is hard for all of us to deal with feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness, or place judgment upon the guardians of these dogs. But just 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 often times 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.