HOWS stands for Houses of Wood & Straw, and the HOWS Project is a
community service project which exists to construct wooden dog
houses and deliver them, along with bales of straw bedding and other
essential items, to outside dogs in Charlottesville and surrounding
counties in need of more appropriate outdoor shelter.
The HOWS Project was created by Stacey Norris, its Project
Coordinator, in 2008. Since its first year of operation - with the
help of local schools' carpentry classes, Boy Scout troops, hardware
and building supply companies, individual donors, animal control
officers, and animal loving volunteers - the HOWS Project has built
and distributed over 600 wooden dog houses to outside dogs (and a few
goats and feral cats!) in need in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene,
Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson, Orange, and Cumberland. HOWS recipients
from current and past years, and other dogs that we encounter on our
journeys, receive bales of straw bedding each fall/winter season;
and other items such as water buckets, food bowls, nylon collars,
leashes, and swivels to keep tethers from kinking are distributed as
needed. Hundreds of dogs have benefited from our services.
And the HOWS Project has much planned for its 2016-2017 season.
We will provide another 80-90 houses for outside dogs in need;
organize a fall straw drive to supply as many dogs as possible with
dry warm bedding for the cold winter months ahead; further educate
dog guardians on the proper care and treatment of outside dogs; and push
for (continued) improvements to our local animal welfare codes.
Not all dogs get the opportunity to regularly share the indoors with
their guardian. In fact, some dogs live their entire lives outside,
many confined, some even chained or tethered. Current law allows for
this, but the HOWS Project does not condone it. We believe that all
dogs should be - and need to be - allowed inside. Dogs are social
creatures that long to be near their guardian, with their "pack",
seeking only the basics - love, attention, and protection.
Unfortunately, too many dogs find themselves outside alone, at the
end of a chain or in a tiny pen, and without appropriate shelter.
The HOWS Project strives to educate people about the needs of dogs;
and, for those dogs who must spend much or all of their time
outside, we provide more comfortable shelter than what they would
have had otherwise.
When outside, your dog’s shelter need be substantial enough to
protect him from the summer heat, the winter cold, the winds, rains,
snow, and ice as well.
Wooden houses are best, as they insulate in the winter and "breathe"
in the summer. Size matters too; a house should be big enough for
your dog to stand in and turn around comfortably, but not too much
bigger than that. A raised floor helps to keep the house from
absorbing the heat or cold from the ground, as well as protects the
floor from rotting. An offset opening and waterproofed entryway
cover further help keep your dog safe from wetness and wind. The
HOWS Project provides all of this, plus straw bedding to line the
inside floor when temperatures drop below 50° F.
Current law, however, does not specify any of this. The state of
Virginia merely requires that an outside dog’s shelter have a roof,
floor, and three sides. That’s it. And almost all of the
cities and counties in the state of Virginia follow the state
ordinances, even though these localities have the power to write
stricter laws to amend and further protect these companion animals. So, while an outdoor shelter
might be legally suitable, it could be a far cry from what your dog
really needs to be comfortable.