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2015 Legislative Issues and Trends: Tethering Bills Can Create Unintended Consequences

Smooth Fox Terrier in a field

AKC Government Relations tracked more than 25 state and local measures in 2015 that addressed the issue of tethering. This is a significant increase over the recent past. While AKC does not have a specific policy position statement on this issue, AKC Government Relations has weighed in on several measures that would have impacted dog shows, grooming, performance events, or even the ability to walk a dog.

For example, proposals in Maryland and Pennsylvania required that dogs could not be tethered outside unless the weather was within a certain temperature, even if the dog could thrive in other temperatures, or were working dogs such as search and rescue dogs who work in colder temperatures. In Michigan, all tethers to a fixed location, including grooming tables, had to be at least two times the length of a dog. A Fairfax County, Virginia proposal prohibited tethering a dog for more than for 1 hour a day for any reason. This would have even included those who do not have fenced-in yards and wish to tether their dogs in a responsible manner outside for brief periods.

As proposed, many of these measures could impact grooming, veterinary examinations, dog shows, responsible owners trying to control an escape-artist dog, and others responsible owners and activities. AKC Government Relations, federations, and clubs have been successful in addressing many of these bills. In some cases, amendments were added to state that a dog could not be tethered outside for extended periods when a weather emergency had been declared or the dog’s health or life were in serious danger. The Fairfax County, Virginia measure was amended to state that the dog could not be tethered outside unattended for more than 20 minutes.

In most cases, cases, local negligence and cruelty laws do a better job of getting at negligence and cruelty associated with tethering than specific, arbitrary tethering laws that cannot take into account the wide variety of circumstances that accompany why, when, where, how, or the duration for which a person may tether a dog. Click here to read more about the question of tethering.