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« Oregon Dog Bite Study | Main | Note for the Independence, MO Chamber of Commerce »

March 12, 2008



Anti-tethering laws, in some people's opinions, are brought in specifically TO target minorities and the poor.

That's the main objection to this kind of legislation.


Well, yes, a privacy fence certainly is a nice luxury to have, but definitely not a necessity for being a good dog owner.

It's almost presented here as if the only options are: 1) Put your dog behind a privacy fence or 2) Chain up your dog. This isn't the case.

I have never had the luxury of a privacy fence, and still manage to be a responsible dog owner. When I got my first dog when I was in my early 20s, I lived alone in a tiny apartment with no yard and I worked a pretty low-paying job. So ... I walked my dog. I know, crazy, right?

I still don't have a privacy fence, and in fact, my chain link fence has a few places where a determined dog could probably get out. So, I walk my dogs. Or, I take them out in the yard myself and supervise while they go to the bathroom or play. I know these are crazy and novel ideas. :)

Now, if this post was about the anti-chaining laws affecting people who, because of some illness or disability, cannot walk, then I think it'd have a lot more merit. I do think that people in that scenario could still supervise their dog while tethered, or possibly get help from a community group, neighbor or relative.


I read the piece about socio-economic fairness of anti-tethering laws, and the costs of fencing, and wanted to jump-in and say, "Yes. Yes. Yes. I really do get it." But I have a different perspective on the larger issue.

The thing is, no one "needs" to tether, or even fence-in, his/her dog. If you train and supervise your dog, you don't "need" either.

As I've stated many times, I trained dogs over the course of thirty years.
Furthermore, I specialized in re-training aggressive dogs for a decade. I did that work entirely on unfenced properties, and never, ever chained a dog. ...Ever.

My dogs while playing in the yard will readily stop right in front of a virtually invisible, 2' high, wire garden fence that is the only thing separating my yard from my neighbour's. ...Never had a problem. But, then again, I train dogs to obey my verbal commands and I actually supervise them when they're outside. It's not magic, and I don't know of any shortcuts to raising an obedient dog.)

Sure, there are those who say they aren't experienced in training dogs so they "need" a fence or a chain. But that argument really doesn't fly with me, when I know all I was really doing with those (even very difficult) dogs, over the years, was properly training them (as everyone should) and properly supervising them (which everyone should).

I'll admit there are points in training where a secure enclosure at home would have been more convenient. But that's for TRAINING purposes. My point being, the training is getting done, whether it's at home or elsewhere, and a fence is not required, either way. If you're not even attempting to train your dog, then you can't really use that as your justification.

The most common reason people generally chain their dogs (and to a slightly lesser degree, erect fences) is so they can leave their dogs unsupervised in the yard and/or not do any meaningful training. Of course, I'm opposed to both ways of thinking.

So while I agree that chaining is a terrible practice, and that a fence can potentially make dog ownership and certain kinds of training a bit easier, neither a chain nor a fence are anywhere close to necessities. Thus ends the basis for any arguments about the costs, etc. If you train and supervise your dog, you don't "need" either.

More to the point, reading about dog training on the Internet or at a library (hopefully before acquiring a dog) is free. Spending time each day actually working with the dog is also free, and is the only path to an obedient dog, no matter what one's income. Supervising one's dog in the yard is also completely free.


Here's where the problem lies in my mind...people come up with these laws and they sound great. Constant tethering is cruel so let's pass a law saying you can't do it! Well, how do we determine how long is too long? What if they chain most of the time but still walk their dog? And what if people break the law? What do we do then? Educate them? Help them financially? Or do we take the dog to the shelter and kill it for its own good!?

Let's look at the kill numbers for the cities implementing these tethering laws. I'm betting that these dogs end up getting killed because TETHERING is cruel. A dog should only be seized when it crosses into a cruelty issue. They shouldn't be seized just because we don't like that they're tethered.

So, who out there thinks a dog is better off dead than tethered? Because DEATH is what is awaiting these dogs at the shelter.


I agree with Marjorie, surprise, surprise. However, there is another important reason for having a decent fence - to keep intruders, two- or four-legged, out. No matter how well trained my dogs are, that won't protect them from marauding dogs or others.

I don't leave my boys outside alone unless I'm just running in for something from the house. I'm still happier to have my fence, which was expensive but necessary to protect them.

I walked at my old place morning and night and used a cable for the big guy when we were outside. I'm no great dog trainer, not bad but not great. It was just a little extra security for Mr Exuberance who liked to chase anything that moved and could easily hop my 4.5 foot fence.


Well, natch, I agree with you, Caveat. Even though my current residence is the first that is fenced, that "fencing" is laughably inadequate in keeping any determined dog in or out.

But I will say this in agreement with your comment, I have a short span of split cedar rail fencing between the side of my house and the cedars that make up the westerly property line. When I had a problem with a neighbour's at-large, intact, male, Labrador Retriever (aren't they all?) (this one was chocolate, though...finally something other than yellow), I had to put up some of that 'garden fencing' below the bottom rail, to keep it out. (The Lab was small enough to go under.) I didn't mind the regular visits so much as the regular defecating. Since I put up the secondary barrier, I haven't found any "surprises" in my yard.

A good fence is a terrific thing, with all kinds of benefits. But anyone who says they "need" it because they have a dog is someone who's mainly looking for an excuse not to train and supervise his/her dog, in my books.

S Kennedy

I personally want and have fencing but its not six ft. high, however it keeps most deer and other dogs out. A recent estimate to fence 6' redwood for 48 feet (get ready--) was almost $4,000. So obviously it's pretty expensive. I don't presume to tell people how much to tether a dog, but I would imagine that it's probably not a good idea for long amounts of time. The brunt of the enforcement would be on lower income people as mentioned, so any combination of reasonable methods is good. Most fence jumping dogs, if really determined, can scale just about any fence; or the diggers will go under it. A portable kennel with secured top could be a lot cheaper than the fence; there could be a run attached.


I went for the treated lumber, 5' high, double planks to let some air and light through, a foot of lattice on top. Cedar is way out of my price range. So is that cool new stuff made out of recycled tires and wood chips.

Cost me $20 (I think, can't remember) a linear foot including posts and auguring. One double gate and two singles included, plus hardware.

It also provides some privacy which if you saw my property you'd agree I need. I only fenced about 1/2 my lot.

So yeah, it isn't cheap even for the treated stuff but it works for me.


I think Michelle is right about the enforcement issues ... and these dogs should not be seized and killed, definitely. I think Brent is right that this presents an opportunity to do some good, some community education and help some people rather than seizing their dogs.

But, really, I don't think it's fair for the article to imply that this is just a money issue, that being "low-income" somehow prevents you from caring properly and humanely for your dog. I know plenty of low-income people who are wonderful dog owners, who keep their dogs inside (which is free) and walk them (which is also free.) If you do those things, there is no need to chain or fence a dog.

I think what this is really about is a huge sense of entitlement. Too many people think they are entitled to own dogs AND not supervise/responsibly care for them. Aside from the animal welfare issue, there is a public safety issue. As someone whose dog has been attacked by a Rottweiler who jumped a fence while we were out walking (clueless owner not at home - a kind neighbor risked his safety to intervene and my dog had to go to the vet - of course, clueless owner didn't pay the bill) and rushed by a pit bull who had lunged and barked at us every time we walked by and then finally chewed through his tether (clueless owners not home when I went back and knocked on their door to tell them their dog was loose - after I got my dog out of the way) and who goes through a can of citronella spray per month, I have little sympathy for people who whine that they don't have the money to legally keep their dog outside unsupervised. Can you guarantee me your dog won't get out? No? Then keep it inside your house.

Monica Schreiber

A good discussion here. Anti-tether laws are not perfect, but I simply can't buy the "I'm too poor not to chain my dog" argument. Owning a dog is a huge financial and time commitment that will last upwards of 15 or more years. If people cannot afford to properly care for a dog, they should think long and hard about getting one.

Owning a dog is not a right. I would love to have a horse, but I could not care for it properly or devote enough time to it. So I don't get a horse. Period.

It comes down to this: Chaining a dog for its life (or extended periods of time) is simply a bad, antiquated habit. Because it "has always been done" some people assume it is ok. But societies evolve. That's why we are constantly refining our laws. It is high time we plug some holes in our existing animal welfare laws and stop suggesting to people that it is appropriate to chain a dog to a stake in the yard and leave it there for 10 years to pace the same patch of dirt and excrement.

Think how ludicrous it would be for someone who was stopped by the cops for having a broken headlight to say, "Officer, I just can't afford to have that fixed." There are costs to being part of the social order. There are costs to having a dog. Let our laws err on the side of promoting compassionate pet ownership rather than err on the side of suggesting to people that it is ok to chain a dog for its life.

Monica Schreiber

Michelle D asked "Who out there thinks a dog is better off dead than tethered?" Well, as in all things in life, there is a continuum here - shades of gray. A dog that is chained for half the day while its owners are at work, but is otherwise exercised, loved and given a warm bed at night - well, then life is better than death.

But my god, if you saw even a small proportion of the chained dogs that I see in my volunteer work with Dogs Deserve Better, you'd vote immediately for a quick death at a shelter: dogs that spent 15 years on a chain, attached to a plywood box; dogs with collars embedded in their necks; blind and deaf dogs kept chained for their lives; dogs deliberately left chained and hungry so they'll be "meaner" watch dogs," hunting dogs let off the chain once or twice a year. No question - death is far preferrable to a life like that.

There are fates far worse than death for countless dogs.


Monica, I know EXACTLY what you're saying in your last post. (It's one of the concerns relating to 'no kill' facilities that keep animals languishing in cages for years.)

But I think we all agree that finding a more responsible home is the answer to habitually-tethered dogs, not death...which is also MichelleD's point, I think, too. (I'm sure you agree. I just wanted to put that out there.) A dog shouldn't die because of its owner's negligence. Yet this happens every day.

When it's a biting incident, the consensus is that it's okay to kill the dog, because it is a danger. (I always say the first option SHOULD BE finding someone to re-train the dog, as I did, successfully, for many years...just as in the Vick case.) But dogs are dying in some areas because their owners let them off-leash or they're not licensed or some other, silly, by-law infraction.

From an ethical standpoint, no dog should be killed unless it is absolutely necessary. And while I accept that issues relating to resources and whatnot must enter the decision, I find it absurd to kill a dog because its owner didn't obey some part of municipal code. Either get the owner to comply from now on, or find a new owner. Don't kill the dog.

Emily S

gee, Monica, too bad you can't ask the DOG whether it would rather be dead than alive.

There's the mentality of the animal rights "we know best" person, who is at least as great a danger to pet owners than the truly abusive one. Why PETA killed 97% of the dogs it took in last year, and why it wanted the Vick dogs dead.. because they would be sooooooooo much better off dead than alive.

Sure, we as comfortable middle class dog owners think that all dogs should be inside on our couches, perhaps dressed in sweaters with their toenails painted. (but not their fur, because that's some kind of cruelty, at least according to animal rights deranged Boulder Colorado)

Some dogs don't have that life. A FEW of those are abused and miserable.. but far fewer than you are trying to get people to believe.

Most merely live in different conditions from what YOU would prefer.

How many dogs have YOU stolen from their backyards lately, because you think their lives aren't up to your standards?


Emily S,
Too bad you can't ask the DOG if being thrown on a chain in the heat and snow 24/7 with no exercise or companionship is simply the equivalent of not getting "pawlish" on its nails or having a "Ruff Lauren" doggie sweater.

I guess all the of behaviorists and trainers that say dogs are PACK animals and suffer emotionally when forced to live in isolation must be part of the big animal rights conspiracy too. PETA must have paid them all off years ago.

Oh, excuse me. I have to go feed my dog bone bons now.

S Kennedy

Let's face it, being "low income" is not the same as being low "class" which most understand. But unfortunately, many who have grown up in a low "class" environment are also poverty stricken. In social work you learn all the ins/outs of how environment affects people. It kind of comes down to people who don't care about others very much, usually don't care about pets either. And the parent(s) of those people didn't care/or train the kids or teach much sense of what is right/wrong. This is typical for those who have not been raised with certain values, ethics or limits. The way to help change any of this does not begin by making new laws to punish. Rather, it is well known that steps taken early in a child's life will likely have a much larger impact than trying to do it after junior high. Things have not changed much in the past 50 years.


Let's not get into that sniping over DDB again. It always becomes hot. We all have our opinions on that issue.

I think that what happens to a lot of people who work at shelters and in rescue or who focus on one aspect of the big picture is that they extrapolate the small snapshot with which they are familiar to the population as a whole.

This is just human nature, not seeing the forest for the trees as the old saying goes.

However, one problem with only seeing the seamy side of things is that one forgets all the good things - the good people who care for their dogs as best they can, who treat them fairly, who teach their kids how to treat animals, etc.

I firmly believe that the good people are in the majority and that the tiny minority of callous, unempathetic, negligent individuals should not allow us to forget that.

I also agree with Emily that not everyone will use the same methods in dealing with dogs but that doesn't necessarily mean anyone is wrong.


I guess I'm in favor of Utopia, I guess.

A mere pipedream, I'm sure. But, for me, I'd sure like to see major improvement over present conditions. Poor people deserve to have dogs if they will properly care for them. And I am all for that. Adopting a dog and providing a good home is a very important civic duty, in my opinion.

Sometimes, they need a little help, whether it be in the form of education, training, or living conditions for the dogs, such as getting them off of chains.

Most people seeking to adopt or rescue a dog(s)are providing our cities and communities a great service. Dogs are abandoned, dumped, returned to shelters and fosters for a lot of reasons, and so there is over population in this particular group, it so seems.

Because of this, I believe that kind citizens who want to enjoy the companionship with dogs, but do not have the resources for low cost to free spay/neuter, adequate fencing, etc deserve the help.

They are getting unwanted animals off of the street, putting them in a home that wants them. The family may not be perfect, but deserves some help.

In Utopia, the city (out of taxes spent on useless crap) sets out to help folks who want to adopt/care for many dogs who would otherwise be roaming the city streets, requiring more work from AC and additional costs for putting the dogs down.

This city might also consider providing adequate fencing for those who qualify for aid w/ fencing.

I live in an apt and I AM opposed to keeping a dog in a fenced yard in lieu of good leash walks as well as some freedom running in off leash parks that are large enough to provide a good hike, some swimming, and as much socialization as possible.

It is actually better for my dogs to reside in an apt, because they will never be left unattended in a fenced yard, w/ possibility of escape or other problems.

I would just like to see our cities welcome all the good people who want to adopt and rescue, and to provide to them some financial and other support.

Adopters and rescues are clearly providing a service to the community as a whole, as well as paying for their own vaccs, picking up their poop, and keeping them off the streets.

I do not understand why our cities' battle people so --- people who not only want to share companionship w/ dogs, but to take responsibility for them and their care.

Think about it -- the dogs adopted out are not theirs (adopters and fosters), they are city's problem. Why punish these folks and why not help to furnish what is needed to provide a proper home?

Again, although I do not agree w/ relying ona fenced yard, even if the dog is adequately walked and exercised, the yard does provide some convenience, as well as some safety for the dogs and the community.

Maybe cities need to build fences in low income areas for the folks who wish to adopt and/or rescue?

This would require a lot of work in elevating the significance of our companionship w/ dogs and the value of their presence in our lives.


sorry --- an added note. Caring for dogs is not always a picnic, it is a HUGE responsibility -- physically, emotionally and financially. I will have to say that I adopted my 2, not just because I wanted dogs, but because I felt responsible for these 2 in particular and wanted to provide as good a life as I am able. I'm not sure where these 2 heathens would be without me -- possibly nowhere. I know it is the same for most of you.

I believe it is totally ridiculous that the city considers this ownership to be totally priviledged, while the city is doing us no favors in this venture.

You know, a little thanks now and then would be nice, instead of all these battles!

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