Couple nurses chained dog back to health as new bill aims to protect animals

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Jean Smail and her husband found a dog near death lying at the end of their driveway in early January.

The couple lives in Keaau on Hawaii island.

“(My husband) thought he was actually dead at the time until he pulled up next to him,” Smail said. “Laki was just able to lift his head up, kind of in a plea for help.”

She said they decided to call him Laki, which means lucky in Hawaiian, because they thought he was lucky to be alive.

“He probably would not make it more than a few more hours, he was that far gone,” Smail said. “Our veterinarian and our trainer said they’ve never seen a dog in that bad a condition that was still alive.”

Laki was emaciated and had a rusted metal choke chain embedded in his neck clear to his spine.

“When we found him, there was probably two inches of chain hanging off each side of his neck towards the front,” Smail said. “But no visible chain in the back. It had completely grown over.”

The Smails called the Big Island Humane Society, but they told her all they could do was put Laki to sleep.

Smail refused to give up hope. “We brought him down to our property and made him an enclosure and worked on him every day since then to clean his wounds and get him to heal,” Smail said.

Smail is a retired vet tech. She and her husband moved to Hawaii from Washington several years ago, and she’s taken in countless animals.

The Smails have had Laki for over a month. They officially adopted him on Feb. 5.

“He’s gained probably pretty close to 25 pounds,” Smail said. “He is so smart. It just amazes me that somebody didn’t see his potential.”

A friend of the Smails created a Facebook page for Laki, as well as a Go Fund Me page to help cover the cost of his vet bills.

“People from all over the world have donated to help Laki,” Smail said. “The outpouring of love and care for this dog has been even wider than I could have ever imagined.”

But the Smails are worried that this could happen again. “I’m hoping that people will stop tethering dogs on metal chains and with metal choke chains.”

Harold Han, manager of field services for the Hawaiian Humane Society, says he has seen cases of dogs injured by choke chains and tethering, but none that severe lately.

Han also warned that there are many negative impacts to chaining dogs. “A dog that’s tethered all day long can become aggressive,” he said.

State Rep. Cindy Evans authored a bill to help protect animals. House Bill 2072 prohibits certain kinds of restraints and tethers.

“I met with constituents who told me about cruelty to animals due to improper chaining and tethering,” Evans said. “What the bill does, it will put people on notice, what is proper chaining of dogs. If you do it improperly, there will be a penalty of potentially a fine. Potentially, a judge could require you to have some counseling.”

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