Have a Heart for Chained Dogs

“Have a Heart for Chained Dogs” will be observed this month from February 5-12, 2012.

What’s Wrong With Tethering?  Dogs are social beings that thrive on interaction with humans and other animals. Tethered dogs are often the victims of abuse and neglect, suffering from sporadic feedings, empty water bowls, inadequate veterinary care and exposure to weather extremes. They are forced to eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in the same confined area, which goes against their natural instincts. Tethered dogs also suffer neck injuries from collars that have become embedded into their skin—some even strangle to death when chains become entangled with other objects. Chained in place, they are also helpless to defend themselves against abusive people, stray dogs and wild animals who may invade their space. In addition, unaltered, chained female dogs are likely to attract strays, leading to unwanted litters.

What Are the Effects of Long-Term Tethering on Dogs? Tethering for short time periods, using appropriate equipment, in an animal-friendly environment (access to water, shelter and toys, for example) is generally harmless. However, keeping a dog on a tether for the majority of the day often leads to negative behavior changes. Tethered dogs run a high risk of becoming “stir crazy” due to the inability to release their energy and socialize with others. With dogs, boredom often leads to frustration, which, in turn, often leads to aggression. An additional contributor to aggression is that, given only a small area in which to dwell, tethered dogs are known to become irrationally protective of that area because it is essentially their whole world. Studies have shown that chained or tethered dog is nearly three times more likely to bite than a dog that is not chained or tethered.

“Chaining and Tethering.” ASPCA.org. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Web.  5 February 2012. < http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/advocacy-center/animal-laws-about-the-issues/tethering.aspx>.

There are laws in our quad-state area that specifically discuss tethering or chaining your dog and the penalties for not obeying the laws. Below are excerpts from each state.

VirginiaClass 4 misdemeanor, VA ST§ 3.2-6500

Each owner shall provide for each of his companion animals adequate space. For purposes of tethering “adequate space” means a tether that: is appropriate to the age and size of the animal; is attached to the animal by a properly applied collar, halter, or harness; configured so as to protect the animal from injury and prevent the animal or tether from becoming entangled with other objects or animals; ius at least three times the length of the animal, as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail.


Maryland Misdemeanor subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $1,000 orboth, MD CRIM LAW § 10-623

A person may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the movement of the dog; Or one that uses a collar that: is made primarily of metal; is not at least as large as the circumference of the dog’s neck plus 1 inch; that restricts the access of the dog to suitable and sufficient clean water or appropriate shelter; in unsafe or unsanitary conditions; that causes injury to the dog.


West Virginia – Misdemeanor with fine of not less than $300 nor more than $2,000 or confined in jail not more than six months, WV ST§ 61-8-19

It is unlawful for any person to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cruelly chain or tether an animal.


District of ColumbiaImprisonment in jail not exceeding 180 days, or by fine not exceeding $250, or by both, DC ST§ 22.1001

For the purposes of this section, “cruelly chains” means attaching an animal to a stationary object or a pulley by means of a chain, rope, tether, leash, cable, or similar restraint under circumstances that may endanger its health, safety, or well-being. Cruelly chains includes a tether that:  Causes the animal to choke; does not permit the animal to reach food, water, shade, dry ground; does not permit the animal to escape harm.

Wisch, Rebecca F. Overview of State Dog Tethering Laws.” animallaw.info. Animal Legal & Historical Center. Michigan State University College of Law. 2009/2011. Web. 5 February 2012. < http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ovustetherlaws.htm>.