By Diane Jessup
For The Sentinel 

Companion Animal: Tether Tither 2


Diane Jessup

WHERE'S HIS CAPE? This dog looks like he's flying, but he's enjoying a good run off his tether.

We have all seen the sad pictures on television ads seeking money for "humane" groups: a lonely looking dog tangled up in an overly large logging chain, a plastic crate or metal barrel serving as "shelter," an overturned water dish.

These images are used to equate appropriate tethering with inappropriate neglect. PETA types, sometimes described as "humaniacs," feel the need to regulate how everyone manages their own animals and any ideas on animal management which do not square with their own personal opinions are deemed "cruel." This causes real misfortune for many dogs and their owners when it comes to mandating how an animal can be safely and humanely confined to its owner's property.

Yes, a dog can be neglected while tethered, just as it can be neglected in a kennel, crate, or even a living room. Neglect is about an owner's lack of empathy and concern, not about how a dog is contained to the property.

One argument about tethering is that it is "cruel to tie up a dog so it can't run." However, in Klickitat County it certainly could be considered cruel to allow a dog to run at large, subject to death by shooting, poison, predators, or vehicles. This is cattle and deer country, and any dog found chasing either of these species can legally be shot. Safely confining your dog to your own property is Job One of being a responsible and humane dog owner.

Is a dog on a tether worse off than a dog in a fancy kennel or in a crate in the house? In terms of space, the tethered dog is hands down better off-even when on a short tether. It's simple math: a dog on a very short 10' chain still has 314 square feet of space compared to 100 square feet in a roomy 10' x 10' kennel. On a much more reasonable tether of 20' length the animal has 1,256 square feet. Compare that to the poor dog stuck in even an extra-large crate who has only 6.8 square feet.

The fact is a tethered dog can run, albeit in circles. The animal can relieve itself when necessary and avoid its waste; things a dog in a crate certainly cannot do.

Unintended Consequences

One of the most serious misconceptions about tethering is the implication it is cruel to have an animal remain outside for extended periods of time. Certainly dogs are loving, loyal and social and enjoy the company of their owners, but just because a dog is an "outside dog" does not in any way imply it is unloved or neglected. Many dogs prefer to be outside; I have 15-pound cairn terriers who much prefer to stay outside, even in winter, and will chose to remain out even overnight if given a choice. Heavily coated Northern breeds are often uncomfortable if kept inside. Sometimes a dog's job requires it to be on patrol, particularly at night.

The worst unintended consequence of so called "humane" laws associated with tethering are those restricting the amount of time a dog can be kept outside and the failure of animals managed in such a way to grow a fur coat appropriate to the season. As any Klickitat County resident with even an iota of animal sense knows, horses, dogs, deer-all animals grow a fur coat appropriate to the season. That sleek thoroughbred horse in August looks like a wooly mammoth in January. This is Nature's way of providing protection from the cold, but animals must be exposed to the seasonal weather in order to grow that coat; house dogs do not grow thick, warm coats like those kept outside year-round. And neither do dogs which are forced to be neither in nor outside.

In a particularly glaring case of thoughtless animal management law making, the state of Oregon legislation, pushed by PETA types, have made it illegal to acclimate a dog to local weather. You read that right. Under Oregon law 167.343 "Unlawful Tethering," a person commits a class B violation if they allow a tethered dog to remain outside longer than 10 hours. Even more bizarre is the provision that a dog can remain outside for up to 15 hours if the tether is attached to running line, pulley, or trolley system. What the type of tether has to do with how a dog acclimates to cold weather is not explained.

Washington state tethering law vaguely states that a dog may only be restrained for a "period of time that is not reckless." This, of course, is open to wide interpretation.

So to pass a law demanding that dog owners who chose to leave their dogs outside during the day must bring them inside at night are creating a condition where the animal can neither produce a coat appropriate for inside or outside living. This is, in fact, animal cruelty.

Another argument put forward against safe and humane tethering is the "dogs will strangle" claim. Obviously, if a person tethers a dog in an inappropriate fashion, this would be a risk, just as tying a dog up in the middle of a road would result in the dog being run over.

Appropriate tethering practices obviously take into account hazards which must be removed from any area where a dog is to be tethered. Educating people who may not have experience with tethering will go a long way toward keeping such actions from occurring. Part 3 of this series will deal with safe and humane tethering protocol.

Tethering a dog remains a viable solution to the management of some-not all-dogs. Not all dogs will stay inside a fence. Not all dogs are appropriate to stay inside a house unattended. Some dogs will dig out, climb over, or eat through a fence. For these dogs, the alternatives can be very limited. Chain link kennels are an expensive option that don't offer the dog as much space as a well set up tether, not to mention they have the same shortcomings as fences. Confining a dog to a wire or plastic shipping type crate for hours every day is simply inappropriate and inhumane.

Even secured behind a fence, an untethered dog faces dangers. Sudden storms can knock down sections of fence, as can earthquakes. Police in "hot pursuit" can enter a yard, and many a good dog has been shot and killed for simply approaching officers. Utilities workers are notorious for leaving gates open, leading to lost dogs.


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