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Unchain That Dog

barock schloss [Flickr]

Humane Society of the United States defines "dog chaining" as the practice in which a dog owner tethers a dog outdoors to a stationary object for extended periods of time.  That practice poses a serious threat to the animal's physicial and psychological well-being.


This week the Birmingham (Alabama) City Council unanimously passed a law making it illegal to chain a dog - or to tether it improperly. When tethering a dog (or any animal), according to the new ordinance, the animal must have a harness or collar that fits the animal comfortably, and the tether should be attached to a running line. A chain cannot be used, and the tether cannot be attached to a fixed point. In addition, the animal cannot be tethered for more than eight consecutive hours.

Tethering is used to keep the dog confined, often as an alternative to fencing, which can be expensive. Part of the danger to the dog is its inability to get away from a predator, whether it is another animal, or a human who intends to harm it or even steal it.

Dogs are naturally social creatures. That’s why they make such good pets. They enjoy interaction with humans, so the isolation of being confined in one area for extended periods of time can have a psychological effect. A dog that is routinely kept on a chain or tether may feel trapped and become an unhappy, aggressive animal.

A few miles down the road, the City of Tuscaloosa amended its local cruelty ordinance fourteen years ago, limiting the tethering of pets outside for no longer than one hour, using a non-choke collar and a tether that is at least ten feet long. In addition, tethered dogs must have access to food, water and shelter.

The truth is, leaving a dog unattended puts the animal at risk, something a conscientious pet owner should try to avoid. Wherever you live, whether there is a tethering law or not - if you need to confine your pet, put it safely inside a fence; and provide adequate protection from the weather along with access to clean, fresh water.

Better yet, attach a leash to that collar and take your canine buddy for a walk. The exercise will be good for both of you, and you’ll be amazed at the bonding that takes place on both ends of the leash. After all, the joy of owing a dog is all about the relationship, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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