What's Wrong With Tethering?
Dogs are social beings who thrive on interaction with humans and other animals. While people with large parcels of land—and those without fenced-in yards—use tethering as a means of keeping dogs on their property, this type of confinement causes the animals a great deal of physical and psychological pain.
In addition to being deprived of socialization, tethered dogs are often the victims of abuse and neglect, suffering from sporadic feedings, empty water bowls, inadequate veterinary care and exposure to weather extremes. They are forced to eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in the same confined area, which goes against their natural instincts. Tethered dogs also suffer neck injuries from collars that have become embedded into their skin—some even strangle to death when chains become entangled with other objects. Chained in place, they are also helpless to defend themselves against abusive people, stray dogs and wild animals who may invade their space. In addition, unaltered, chained female dogs are likely to attract strays, leading to unwanted litters.
What Are the Effects of Long-Term Tethering on Dogs?
Tethering for short time periods, using appropriate equipment, in an animal-friendly environment (access to water, shelter and toys, for example) is generally harmless. However, keeping a dog on a tether for the majority of the day often leads to negative behavior changes. Tethered dogs run a high risk of becoming “stir crazy” due to the inability to release their energy and socialize with others. With dogs, boredom often leads to frustration, which, in turn, often leads to aggression. An additional contributor to aggression is that, given only a small area in which to dwell, tethered dogs are known to become irrationally protective of that area because it is essentially their whole world. Studies have shown that chained or tethered dog is nearly three times more likely to bite than a dog who is not chained or tethered.
Are There Laws that Address Tethering?
Yes—anti-tethering laws may be passed on the state or local level. Some laws ban tethering outright, while other laws may do one or more of the following:
• Prohibit tethering puppies/dogs younger than six months old
• Prohibit tethering a dog who has not been spayed or neutered
• Prohibit using a tether that is too short
• Prohibit using a tether weighing more than the animal reasonably can bear
• Prohibit using collars and halters not properly fitted for the restraint of the dog
• Prohibit tethering a dog in a way that poses a risk of injury or strangulation
• Prohibit tethering a dog outside overnight
• Restrict the length of time that an animal may be tethered
See which states have passed laws addressing the chaining/tethering of dogs.
Are Anti-Tethering Laws Effective in Reducing Dog Bites or Improving Public Safety in Other Ways?
Yes—tethering is a public safety issue as well as an animal welfare issue. Coupled with proper enforcement of animal cruelty and animal fighting laws, laws that prohibit tethering or chaining have been shown to reduce dog attacks, dog fighting and cruelty complaints. Recognizing that tethered dogs pose a higher risk of aggression, Texas’s anti-chaining law, among other things, restricts the manner in which dogs may be tethered within 500 feet of school property in an effort to reduce the dogs’ frustration and possible aggression. And Lawrence, KS, has found that its anti-tethering ordinance has led to decreased dog fighting complaints, likely because dog fighters usually tether their dogs. Lawrence allows dogs to be tethered without supervision for only one hour.
Who Opposes Anti-Tethering Laws?
Some legislators, especially those from regions where tethering is more prevalent, believe that anti-tethering legislation is elitist because it will force their constituents to erect fencing. There are also those who feel that anti-tethering laws encroach on personal property rights (in this case, the "property" in question is not only the dog, but the dog owner's land as well).
Has the ASPCA Been Involved in Passing Legislation that Restricts Tethering?
The ASPCA is committed to helping both states and localities successfully restrict the chaining of dogs.
- In 2006, the ASPCA activated our large base of California animal advocates in support of an “anti-chaining” bill, enacted that year. Because of this bill, the State of California now prohibits fixed tethering/chaining for more than three hours in a 24-hour period.
- In 2007, the ASPCA promoted anti-tethering bills that ultimately passed in two states. In Tennessee, dogs can no longer be tied, tethered or restrained in a manner that results in bodily injury or prevents access to food, water or shelter, and a Texas law restricts the tethering of dogs outdoors between the hours of 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. and during extreme weather conditions.
- In 2008, the ASPCA promoted the passage of anti-tethering measures in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The South Carolina bill passed the Senate, but died in the House. The Pennsylvania bill passed its first committee vote by a large margin (24-4), but unfortunately failed to progress any further.
- In 2009, the ASPCA supported legislation in New York City to prohibit pet owners from restraining animals outdoors for longer than three hours in any continuous twelve hour period. The measure died, but we are working to reintroduce it in 2010.
- In 2010, the ASPCA supported legislation in Connecticut that was signed into law. As of October 1, 2010, Connecticut dogs can no longer be chained in a manner that is inhumane. Among other things, the tether itself must be properly fitted and specifically designed for the purpose, and dogs must be able to walk at least eight feet in any one direction (not including the length of their own bodies). Additionally, dogs may not be tethered or confined for an unreasonable period of time.
How Can I Help?
You can take a more active role by working with the ASPCA to pass state- and local-level legislation that regulates tethering.
Stay up-to-date about current legislation related to dangerous dogs/reckless owners by joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade.
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