1. What is meant by dog chaining or dog tethering?
Chaining or tethering refers to the practice of tying a dog up for the purposes of confinement. This does not refer to periods when animals are being walked on a leash.
2. What problems are associated with dog tethering?
Chaining is inhumane and unsafe for dogs. Dogs are, by nature, social beings who thrive on interaction with people and other animals. A dog kept chained in one spot for months or even years suffers immense psychological damage. A continuously chained dog usually becomes neurotic, anxious, and aggressive.
In many cases, the necks of chained dogs become raw and infected from too-tight collars. Dog tethers can also easily become entangled with other objects, choking or strangling the dogs to death.
Chaining is an extreme safety hazard for people. Dogs naturally feel protective of their territory. When confronted with a perceived threat, they respond according to their fight-or-flight instinct. A chained dog, unable to take flight, often feels forced to fight. A study by the Centers for Disease Control found that chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite. The dogs most likely to bite are male, unneutered and chained.
Tragically, the victims of chained dog attacks are usually children.
3. Are tethered dogs otherwise treated well?
Unfortunately, tethered dogs rarely receive sufficient care. They suffer from sporadic feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care, lack of exercise, and extreme temperatures. They have to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in a single confined area. Grass is usually beaten into hard-packed dirt by the dog’s continual pacing. Chained dogs are rarely given even minimal affection and are easily ignored by their owners.
4. Should dog chaining or tethering ever be allowed?
To become well-adjusted companion animals, dogs should interact regularly with people and receive regular exercise. Placing an animal on a restraint for short periods for exercise or fresh air while he is also physically accompanied by an owner is acceptable. Animals kept temporarily tethered should be safely secured so the tether can’t become entangled with other objects. Collars should be properly fitted.
The best way to confine dogs is to bring them inside or provide them with a fenced area.
5. Who says dog tethering is inhumane?
In 1996, the United States Department of Agriculture stated, "Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane. A tether significantly restricts a dog's movement. A tether can also become tangled around or hooked on the dog's shelter structure or other objects, further restricting the dog's movement and potentially causing injury."
In 1997, the USDA ruled that people and organizations regulated by the Animal Welfare Act cannot keep dogs continuously chained.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has also come out publicly against dog tethering. In a press release for Dog Bite Prevention Week, the AVMA states, "Never tether or chain your dog because this can contribute to aggressive behavior."
6. Don’t chained dogs make good guard dogs?
No, the opposite is true. Chained dogs are unable to stop an intruder. Since most chained dogs are unsocialized, they are unable to distinguish a real threat from a family friend or neighborhood child. The best guard dogs are those who live inside the house and are treated as part of the family, which is how K9 police dogs are raised.
7. Why should we pass a law to ban the continuous chaining or tethering of dogs?
Local animal control advocates receive hundreds calls every year from citizens who are concerned about chained and neglected animals. However, because dog tethering is legal, there is little animal control can do to help the dog. By the time it becomes a clear-cut case of animal cruelty under current legal standards, it is often too late to save the dog.
A dog tethering ban can also make for a safer community. Prohibiting dog chaining can cut down on dog attacks and dog bites against people and animals. Moreover, regulations against chaining gives officers a tool to crack down on illegal dog fighting, since most fighting dogs are kept on chained.
8. Are there laws against dog chaining in other states or communities?
Yes. Connecticut became the first state to pass a statewide ban in 2003 with a law making it illegal to tether a dog for an “unreasonable period” of time. Many other U.S. cities and counties have passed laws banning or carefully regulating chaining.
9. Would passage of this law cost lots of money?
No. Animal control officers are already spending time and resources responding to hundreds of reports of chained, neglected, and abused dogs. A ban would allow animal control officers to fine individuals who are constantly tethering their dogs.
What many people don't realize is that chaining is currently creating repetitive work for Animal Care and Control. They receive hundreds of calls per year about chained dogs, and they must respond to all of them. When they get to an address with a chained dog, there is little that the officer can do to address the chaining issue because Lexington's laws do not cover chaining. So their time and effort is wasted over and over again in this manner. The director of Louisville ACC, Dr. Meloche, spoke to the chaining sub-committee and told them how Louisville ACC's incoming calls have decreased, not increased, because of their recent chaining ordinance. In short, a chaining law would put an end to a problem that is currently costing ACC a lot of money and manpower.
Any fines collected for chaining would offset the cost of enforcement and would actually make money for ACC. Louisville's law has already raised the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
10. What type of law is SOAR asking Lexington council for?
SOAR is asking the council to ban unattended chaining except from 3pm to 7pm, and allow no more than one hour of unattended chaining during this time period. This is very similar to Louisville's law, which successfully prevents lifetime chaining. SOAR is also asking for a minimum enclosure area of 150 square feet per dog for all dogs who are kept outside. People who keep their dogs continually chained or in very small outdoor pens would be affected by this law.
11. Couldn't animal cruelty laws perhaps be more strictly enforced or modified, eliminating the need for a new ordinance?
Unless a law specifically addresses chaining, people will continue to chain. Using a general cruelty law to fight chaining would require that we leave the definition of cruelty largely up to the officer, and it would therefore be very easy to challenge in court, creating increased cost and lack of enforcement.
12. What about people who say they have to chain their dog while they are at work?
There are many alternatives to chaining a dog. Dogs can be kept inside the house or inside a fenced yard. There are many resources available to help people train their dogs to be well-behaved members of the family.
SOAR has a free fencing program for low-income families and individuals with dogs who want to fence their yards, whether they are homeowners or renters. We supply the materials and the labor, though we do request that the dog owners participate in the fence building if they are physically able. We supply fencing solutions for dogs who dig as well as dogs who climb. We are willing to work with landlords to create fencing that meets their approval, and we are willing to take the fencing down when it is no longer needed. In other words, we are willing to do whatever it takes to help low-income dog owners get their dogs off chains and into secure enclosures.
Also, If violation of the ordinance is a civil penalty (which is how it works in Louisville and all over the country), then the council can choose to direct the collected fines to fund Animal Care and Control, an education program about chaining/dog safety, and/or a low-cost fencing program. Louisville's chaining law has already raised the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
SOAR would like the ordinance to take effect after a grace period of at least 30-60 days so that people can have time to get fences up or make arrangements to bring their dogs inside the home.
13. Where would tethering complaints be heard and how would fines be enforced?
The citations would be a civil penalty, like a parking ticket. Any challenges to the citations would be heard by an administrative hearing board. Enforcement of the law would be complaint-driven. A citizen would call ACC about a chained dog in their neighborhood (which people are already doing every day). The animal control officer would visit the home and if he sees a dog chained, he would issue a warning with 7-10 days to get the dog off the chain (or however long the council specifies in the ordinance). At the end of the warning period, if the dog owner had not complied, he would get a citation, and the dog would be impounded. He would have to pay the citation and the recovery fees to ACC to get the animal back.
14. How many dogs are tethered in Lexington? Is there a substantial number so setting up a new bureaucracy is cost justified when an alternate enforcement process may cost less and perhaps be equally or more enforceable than a new ordinance?
SOAR has not done an official census study on chained dogs in Lexington. But we have received calls and emails about hundreds of dogs in our city. Lexingtonians do not like chaining, and they don't want to live near it. It creates a barking nuisance as well as a safety hazard for citizens.
Chaining is popular among drug dealers and dog fighters, and police can tell you that it makes their interactions with these people much more dangerous. Chaining is also very dangerous for service people, meter readers and postal workers. A representative from the U.S. Postal Service attended the sub-committee meetings, demanding that the council do something about chaining. The USPS is tired of its employees getting bitten and endangered by Lexington's chained dogs.
Laws that specifically address chaining are already in place in 110 communities in the country, and they are working. These laws are easy to enforce and they raise money, effectively paying for themselves. They make those communities safer for people and dogs. Lexington deserves no less.
15. Where can I learn more?
Visit http://www.unchainyourdog.org or http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org for articles, statistics, photos, ordinance language, and other information about chaining.