Friday, February 10, 2012

No relief for tethered dogs...

As a relative newcomer in the realm of serious animal advocacy, I am still in the period of learning the depth and details of the issues.  Part of my learning involves coming to understand the political and legislative issues of animal welfare.

I recently attended a meeting of the House Agriculture sub-committee at which HB 888 was discussed.  This bill had sought to grant permission (in accordance with the Dillon Rule) to localities to enact tethering ordinances.  Numerous people spoke convincingly about why localities need the freedom to manage the tethering of companion animals to promote the wellbeing of the community.  Only one person spoke in opposition citing that there were too many laws already.

Animal management is administered at the local level and thus if localities are to do their job effectively, they need the tools and freedom to do so – unless we prefer state or federal management.

Despite wide support, the bill was killed. Committee members noted that since tethering has not been defined as a “cruel practice”, they cannot then grant permission to address it.  

For those who don’t know, unrestricted tethering is a horribly common and cruel practice exemplified by attaching a dog to a heavy chain for the duration of that dog’s entire life, and leaving the dog with such minimal attention that it lives in its own fetid waste, suffers endlessly from want of food, water, shelter from cold, relief from heat, worms and parasites, lack of exercise, lack of socialization, and lack of medical attention until it finally dies a slow, lonely, tragic death.

Female dogs tethered in this way are often un-spayed and susceptible to breeding from whatever wandering male gets lucky – leaving the pups to the same desperate life or worse.  All tethered dogs are susceptible to attack from wandering dogs –a notable recent national case involved a tethered dog that was eaten by wolves.

Data on the safety hazards with tethered dogs is extensive and readily available.   And yet, as our delegates on the sub-committee pointed out so well, we - citizens, caretakers of “our” animals, children of God, humans – have not defined this as a “cruel practice” and thus must be denied the freedom to govern this in our own communities.

Your legislative representatives have spoken.  However if, like me, you feel that our humanity has not been well-represented and you believe communities should be allowed to effectively manage their dog populations, then please talk to your state and local representatives.
Don’t wait for the next legislative session.   Speak to your representatives now and regularly.  Otherwise they will continue to take the easy path and disregard our humanity.  Virginia’s General Assembly site is an excellent resource ( and you’ll be surprised at how easily you can make your voice count.  Your voice is what defines our humanity.   The wellbeing of our communities and the animals therein depend upon it.