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The Struggles Of Tethered Dogs

I recently visited an area outside of Virginia and was troubled by the number of tethered dogs I observed in…

I recently visited an area outside of Virginia and was troubled by the number of tethered dogs I observed in their owner’s yards. Although some dogs had adequate shelter in the form of dog houses and porch awnings, the overall disarray and dirty living conditions were disturbing. Why would someone decide they want a dog, only to relegate it to miserable living conditions outside alone?

What concerns and saddens me is that some of these precious dogs may live most of their lives with little human contact or affection. Regardless of whether they are well-fed or medically attended to, there is so much more to owning a dog. While it’s true that some of the dogs I saw may have been taken into warm, happy homes that evening, I did not know that to be true. Dogs are social animals, capable of generous love and companionship, and to think that they may not be living their best lives is disheartening.

Risks Of Tethering Dogs

Dogs want so badly to be part of a “pack.” Being a part of a pack provides a sense of “belonging, security, and the enjoyment of social interaction. Domesticated dogs look to their human family as their pack. They desire a relationship with us and want to share their lives with us. As we discussed in “Living Naturally”, throughout history, dogs chose us. They like to hang out with us and follow us around. They want to be with us. To deny this is cruel, in my opinion.

The isolation of living almost entirely alone will cause a dog to become fearful and vulnerable. Social interaction with people and other dogs builds confidence. A confident dog is unafraid and feels in control of new adventures and everyday challenges. Dogs that are subject to living on a tether with little socialization and inclusion do not feel “in control” of their situation. A once-friendly dog may become aggressive under these circumstances.

Behavioral Issues From Tethering

Even though aggression is one of the most serious problems tethered and chained dogs develop, there are many other behavioral problems that can result from living in isolation. The lack of freedom causes extreme frustration and anxiety in dogs. The restraint of a chain or tether may cause a dog to react defensively when faced with what they perceive as a threat. Other behaviors that can manifest from these conditions may include barking, whining, destructive chewing, reactivity, and chasing – as far as their lead allows. Aggressive behaviors may include biting, lunging, and snapping.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be restrained and restricted to one small area for most of your life? We would go crazy, am I right? Instinctively, dogs desire the freedom to explore their world and express their natural behaviors just as their ancestors did in packs. Dogs are engaged with their environment and have such beautiful free spirits. If a dog is not able to live as designed, it is easy to understand how it could become neurotic and severely distraught.

Training Over Tethering

The Humane Society of America provides a list of reasons why people tether their dogs, citing that many are unaware of the harm it can cause the dog. While some reasons are logistic, or perhaps educational, some can be remedied with proper training. For example, “The dog’s behavior makes keeping them indoors challenging, and the owner doesn’t know how to correct the behavior.” Or, “The dog is a repeat escapee, and the owner has run out of ideas to safely confine the dog.” The Professional Dog Trainers at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts can help to correct these behaviors and will skillfully work to ensure your dog is a welcomed and disciplined part of the family.

For owners who feel they do not have any other option but to tether their dog, a call to a local Animal Control agent may help. They may be able to make suggestions to improve the situation or provide other resources to help.

The Legalities Of Tethering

Tethering laws often allow the temporary tethering of dogs. In the city of Richmond, it is unlawful to tether a dog for more than one hour cumulatively within any 24-hour period. The state regulates the power of the city to enact ordinances and as you can see by this table, tethering laws vary from state to state. Fortunately, many cities and states have laws to protect dogs from tethering. Some states allow tethering if it is not for more than 15 minutes, and the dog is not left unattended by the owner, guardian, or keeper. A number of state laws allow a dog to be tethered for a “reasonable period of time.” While others require that tethering be limited to the amount of time necessary for someone to complete a temporary task that requires the dog to be restrained.

Humanitarian Laws That Protect Animals

We are so fortunate to live in an area where sightings of dogs on chains and tethers are rare to non-existent. Thanks to organizations, such as the Richmond SPCA and the Humane Society of the United States, who tirelessly advocate for animals during the Virginia General Assembly, compassionate and caring laws are passed to protect our pets.

The 2020 tethering legislation was a big step forward for lawmakers in Virginia. The more recent “beagle billsare another step taken by humanitarian legislators in our state, once again, putting the welfare of pets in the forefront.

While animal cruelty laws prohibit deliberate harmful treatment, much more work needs to be done to assure animals live safely, comfortably, and humanely. This is not only in Virginia but throughout the United States.

Final Thoughts On Tethering

This was an incredibly difficult blog to write. Faced with the reality that many dogs suffer at the end of a chain moved me to tears several times. These dogs are generally unhappy, lonely, and frightened. Often, they are physically uncomfortable, lacking basic creature comforts in many cases. I wanted to personally rescue them, but it is not wise to do so. Should you witness what you believe to be a tethered dog living in unsatisfactory conditions, we advise you to contact your local Animal Care and Control.  Don’t try to take matters into your own hands.

Learn more about the laws protecting animals in the state of Virginia by visiting this detailed online resource.

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