Anti Tethering

This middleaged grandmother is old enough to remember when people were not required to wear seat belts or use proper safety seats for infants and small children. It was less than three decades ago that the use of seat belts became mandatory in Nova Scotia. Five years ago, Nova Scotia was the third province in Canada to make booster seats mandatory for children.
Why did they have to do that? Wouldn't everyone be on the side of the angels when it comes to safety? It was done because, in a compassionate society, the most effective way to protect the innocent is with legislation.

News story such as the dog who froze to death on the end of a chain in Cape Breton are simply the latest in a long line of preventable tragedies. Each and every time this happens, the society is presented in a negative light in the public eye. People unfamiliar with the legislation are quick to assume that the society is either unwilling or unable to help. Nor can the society breach confidentiality in specific cases to justify the action they have taken.
Even worse, this perception has a detrimental effect on the fund-raising that is the lifeblood of any non profit society.

The Status Quo
Unfortunately, very few outside the animal rescue community understand that existing animal cruelty legislation does not adequately protect either the animals or the communities in which they live. When society cruelty inspectors are unable to legally seize an animal, it creates the false perception that the society condones inhumane practices. This in turn reinforces the social acceptability of the very practices that the society is seeking to change.

The Problem
Nowhere is this more evident than in the lack of anti-tethering legislation. Chained dogs sit out there for all the world to see and the society inspectors are helpless unless the dog is already in extreme distress. Every single instance where there is insufficient evidence for the society to act on a complaint has a  negative impact on public confidence in the society.

Reasons for Anti Tethering Legislation:

  • Animal Cruelty - It is cruel and inhumane to isolate social creatures. Dogs are allowed to be treated worse than livestock. Their suffering is profound and documented.
  • Public Safety - All data confirms that unsocialized dogs are a grave danger to the public, especially to children.
  • Public Nuisance - The dogs frequently bark, howl, cry, whine, escape, and menace, creating neighbourhood fear and anger. Noise complaints often results in further cruelty to the dog in the form of punishment, muzzling and poisoning. 
  • Public Expense - Complaints and impoundment and disposal cost money, and these costs continue to rise as more dogs are owned. 
  • Public Health - The areas the dogs are kept in are frequently contaminated with feces and urine and the food is a rodent attractant.
  • Lawlessness - When neighbours cannot get any action from city hall or the SPCA, they are forced to break the law by removing and rehoming the dog. A broad spectrum of people have been forced to do this, from off-duty police officers, crown prosecutors, grandmothers, single mothers on welfare, wealthy socialites, ministers, community activists, and untold numbers of ordinary people who would not otherwise dream of committing a felony. They are forced by the lack of action from political leaders and the SPCA to become lawless.

The Solution is Simple

This middle aged granny does not have to remind anyone reading this how often animal abusers have been able to slip through existing legal loopholes. Anti tethering legislation is no different. For instance, in Texas, advocates are working to change the existing law after discovering that specifying leash lengths and housing size has created loopholes that undermine the rest of the bill.

It is recommended that efforts be focused on developing legislation that focuses strictly on the following:

  •  limiting the number of hours that a dog can be chained and/ or penned outside each day
  • forbidding the practice “after hours” . General consensus in existing legislation sets a ban from 1000 pm until 700 am.
  • Insisting that someone is physically onsite at the same address as the dog whenever the dog is chained or penned.
  • Clearly limiting the definition of indoors to the principal residence.
  •  Establishing a firm weather advisory policy, with minimum and maximum outside temperatures, to include storm watches and wind chill.
  • Prohibiting the chaining or penning of any dog within a specific physical radius of a school. General consensus sets that at a minimum of 500 feet. This also reinforces the concept that anti tethering legislation is being introduced to protect the children in the community.
It is not recommended that minimum housing standards be included as part of this legislation because:

  • it invites input from PIJAC members and CKC representatives which could impede the progress of the bill.
  • Minimum housing standards are an issue that is not limited to chained and penned dogs.
  • Anti tethering legislation stands its best chance of success when it is presented as a public safety measure, and of course,
  • setting minimum standards of housing for outdoor dogs does not address the issues of socialization and public safety. A chained dog living in an insulated house is still deprived of the interaction he or she needs to be a safe part of the community

Education is not enough to stop this practice. Nor would it suffice for the society to assume that an updated position statement on the subject would be a sufficient deterrent.   When seat belt legislation was first proposed, there was a lot of opposition at the coffee shop level. In spite of the data, it was perceived as just one more intrusion on personal liberty. Thirty years later, fastening a seat belt is an automatic gesture for most.

Advocating for anti tethering legislation would be a win win scenario for the society, because it would:

  •  first and foremost, of course be of benefit to the animals,
  •  provide society inspectors with the tools they needed to properly protect the animals,
  • improve the success rate of prosecutions,
  • allows the society to take the proactive step of offering a more humane alternative to the smoke screen of public safety provided by BDL, 
  • engage the public in a shared journey that would of itself be an education process,
  • effective advocacy in this matter would provide a road-map for future legislative change, and
  •  last but definitely not least, allow the society to assume a proactive role for the animals that would help rebuild the society's reputation with the public.