The Westchester County Legislature has begun discussions on ways to revise county humane laws to include restrictions on tethering dogs. CLAAW has submitted a letter to the Westchester County Legislature along with copies of laws passed in municipalities and other counties around the country. We have done this in order to advocate for a strong law that prohibits unattended, lengthy and dangerous tethering of dogs and other animals.
Here is the letter sent last week to every member of the Westchester Board of Legislators:
TETHER LAW STATEMENT FOR WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY
Dear Legislator Covill, Legislator Cunzio and Legislation and Public Safety Committee Members:
We, at CLAAW, appreciate the opportunity to submit this statement for consideration regarding the proposed Westchester County Tether Law.
CLAAW is an organization focused on supporting local laws that help protect animals from harmful conditions. We have worked on laws pertaining to animal welfare with multiple municipalities across Westchester. Relevant to the matter of tethering animals, our work includes support, research and development of a tether law passed in Port Chester, NY. We wholeheartedly support efforts to bring a tether law discussion to a Westchester County public hearing. We, however, urge this Committee to revise the current draft law which allows for dogs to be tethered 17 hours a day without any supervision. This is far too long to provide any benefit and is in fact, detrimental to the animal.
Research on Tethering Dogs
Many municipalities across the nation have passed tether laws due to research that has shown the negative impacts to both dogs and communities when lengthy tethering is allowed. The USDA, for example, issued a statement against tethering that included this finding, “Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane…” The American Veterinary Medical Association states: “Never tether or chain your dog because this can contribute to aggressive behavior.” Additionally, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reports, “Because of the psychological damage caused by continuous chaining, dogs that are subjected to it can become dangerous and vicious animals. They are more likely to bark incessantly and even attack children or adults who mistakenly enter into the area of the dog’s confinement. And if they do escape their restraint, they are not adequately socialized and are more likely to bite.” HSUS also references a Center for Disease Control report which states that, “Chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite.”
A law that allows dogs to be tethered for up to 17 hours a day goes against a dog’s nature, creates significant frustration for the dog, and ultimately is not beneficial to the dog or the community. The frustration of being tethered can cause aggressive behavior in an animal that may otherwise be docile.
Additionally, tethering a dog without human supervision creates a potentially dangerous environment for the dog as there is no barrier that prevents other animals (such as coyotes) from attacking, and the dog is trapped by the tether and has no means for escape. Unsupervised tethering also leaves the dog vulnerable to thieves who steal dogs to support illegal dog fighting operations or simply steal dogs to sell for money.
Are Tether Laws Enforceable?
Currently, there are 22 state laws and hundreds of municipalities across the US that address the tethering of animals. A community in Ashland, Oregon reached out to some of these municipalities that already had the law in effect to see how enforceable the laws actually were. The 12 municipalities they spoke with had Tether Laws that either banned tethering all together, or had a 1 hour continuous limit on the length of time an animal could be tethered. The population of these communities range from 3,000 to 800,000. In all but 1 community, the compliance rate is over 90% after warnings were issues (with many at 100% compliance). The following are quotes from several Animal Control Officers and supervisors from varying municipalities:
“This is a welcome and enforceable tool for the animal control section I oversee…This ordinance has made it possible for our officers to educate pet owners about the importance of interacting with their pets, proper activity, and exercise. It has also give us the ability and ‘the teeth’ to prosecute those individuals that refuse to comply…I highly recommend that other jurisdictions consider passing similar ordinances if they have issues with animal neglect, continuous chaining, and illegal dog fighting. Our ordinance has served us well.”
“Larry has enforced his county’s one-hour limit for a year now. Only two cases have gone to court, and each time Larry won by presenting photos of the animal. “I go by with a camera and take a photo that has the time and date imprinted on it,” he says. He goes back randomly at different times during the week. “It shows a pattern of the dog being on the chain…“Don’t go with an eight-hour limit,” he advises the city of Ashland. “There’s no way to enforce that.”
“This law has eliminated many other complaints, such as vicious dogs or dogs without water. The reason for this is that many of the tethered dogs were those abused dogs. This law has worked out fantastically. It was easier than I thought…”
Other municipalities have reported similar law enforcement experiences and this points to more evidence that Tether Laws are indeed enforceable.
Proposed Changes to Current Draft Tether Law
There are many problems associated with unsupervised tethering and CLAAW would like to suggest that Westchester County revise the proposed Tether Law to include:
- A limit of 1 hour of tethering within a 12 hour period (similar to the current Suffolk County, NY law)
- Responsible party be on the premises at time of tethering (similar to the Port Chester law and many other municipal laws, including: Miami, Fl, Austin TX, Gwinnett County, GA, among others)
- In addition to no tethering during weather alerts, dogs should not be tethered if the weather creates discomfort for the dog. If a dog, for example, is shivering in the cold, or excessively panting in the heat, outdoor tethering should not be permitted under those conditions even if there is no official weather alert.
Thank you for bringing this important topic to a legislative discussion. We are certain that Westchester County does not want to support or encourage inhumane and potentially dangerous tethering, and we thank you for considering the above suggested changes. Fortunately there is a lot of research on the topic of tethering, and CLAAW is available to help provide additional information if necessary. The above recommended changes to the proposed tether law will go a long way in providing humane protection, safety and peace-of-mind for both the dogs and the people of Westchester County.
Also see the Resources section for further information on tether laws around the country.
We urge Westchester County residents to write to their county legislator and let them know that you want a strong tether law for Westchester County that follows the guidelines listed in our letter and is similar to ones passed in Suffolk County and Port Chester.
You can find your county legislator here: District Map