The end of a chain is no place for a dog to have to live. Dogs and humans have co-evolved for more than 32,000 years, but despite this ages old partnership, more than 200,000 dogs still live empty lives chained or tethered outside.
Highly social animals like dogs thrive with other social beings. Dogs have an innate ability to read their human companions and dogs’ gaze following is tuned in to human communicative signals. They’re even receptive to the different tones of human voices.
But for more than 200,000 dogs, the only life that they know is on the end of a chain or rope, receiving minimal attention and access to shelter, food, and water. And while this practice is legal in most areas, communities are starting to realize the psychological and physical damage that chaining can cause. According to the Michigan State University College of Law, some communities are placing restrictions on dog tethering, including the amount of time that a dog can be chained up.
In California, dog tethering is an infraction or misdemeanor. California State law states that no person shall “tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog to any dog house, tree, fence, or other stationary object,” but a person “may temporarily tether a dog no longer than is necessary for the person to complete a temporary task.”
In Oregon, unlawful tethering is a class B violation. Dog tethering in Oregon is classified as animal neglect in the second degree under 167.325 if a person “…intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence tethers a domestic animal in the person’s custody or control and the tethering results in physical injury to the domestic animal.”
But in Washington State, despite many attempts to regulate or prohibit tethering, it is still legal. Senate Bill 5812, an act relating to unlawful tethering, was reintroduced and retained during the 2015 regular Washington legislative session and three subsequent special sessions. This bill aims to establish the “unlawful dog tethering act of 2015,” wherein it would be prohibited, “unless certain conditions are met, [to] restrain a domestic dog for more than ten hours in a twelve-hour period, or more than fourteen hours in a twenty-four hour period, using a tether, chain, tie, trolley, or pulley system.”
While more than 100 communities have passed legislation that regulates dog tethering, there are still currently no anti-tethering laws on the books in thirty states. Tethering is still legal in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Animal advocates are calling for prohibitions and restrictions on tethering. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) calls tethering “both inhumane and a threat to the safety of the confined dog, other animals, and humans.”
When dogs are tied up outside, they become lonely, bored, and anxious; and they can develop aggressive behaviors over even a brief period of time. The HSUS notes:
“A dog kept chained in one spot for hours, days, months or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive.”
In addition to the psychological issues of chaining and tethering, dogs who are chained sustain injuries from their collars and ropes. Many chained dogs have necks that are rubbed raw and their legs can also be injured if they become entangled in the chain or rope. All too often, dogs are found with collars embedded into their necks after a lifetime of being chained and neglected.
Tethered dogs are also considered to be more “dangerous” than non-tethered dogs, given their continuous lack of socialization and resulting psychological issues. A 1994 study conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) physicians found that chained dogs were 2.8 times more likely to attack than dogs who were not tethered.
A dog who is chained is limited to the length of his or her tether – that’s the extent of their worldview. Denied human interaction and companionship and frustrated by continued isolation and boredom, tethered dogs are helpless, unhappy, and alone. Sadly, they are also subjected to the elements and rarely have adequate food, water, or shelter.
Dogs Deserve Better notes that tethered dogs who are chained or tethered “rarely receive sufficient care. Tethered dogs suffer from sporadic feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care, and extreme temperatures. During snow storms, these dogs often have no access to shelter. During periods of extreme heat, they may not receive adequate water or protection from the sun.”
It’s time to break the chain, speak up for dogs, and break this vicious cycle of neglect and disposal. It’s time to educate people about the damage and dangers of tethering. And it’s time to push for protective legislation for dogs – in every state and city – to prohibit long-term chaining and tethering.