It’s interesting how a seemingly simple solution to a perceived problem can have traumatic unintended consequences. Consider tethering. A tether is a rope, leash, or chain used to restrict the movement of a dog.
Some people consider a tether an acceptable solution to correcting a misbehaving dog and they never take the time to consider the horrific consequences of tethering. Lets take a moment to think about tethering, but let’s make it a little more personal. Let’s consider the consequences on a two year old child as an example.
Imagine a two-year old child confined to a small room all the time. The toddler wakes up each day full of natural curiosity and energy, with a need to be touched and loved by those around her. She can hear them laughing and interacting just on the other side of the door; she can even smell them.
She only sees her loved ones once a day when they fill her bowl with oatmeal and her bottle with water. She loves this brief interaction and tries to lavish her love on them, but they are annoyed by her affection. She is curious and longs to be held by them. But soon they are gone and she is left alone. She has no ability to articulate what she is feeling, only that she must be “bad” to be so rejected. She is never given the opportunity to learn what is expected of her. No one takes the time to teach her to behave in a way where her loved ones would want her to be with them all the time.
She gets no exercise, and eventually gives up trying to even reach the doorknob to break down the barrier that separates them. Then she gives up hope that the door will ever open. She turns inward, depressed and lonely. To occupy her time, she crawls in circles; she sucks her thumbs raw. When someone does come into her room now, she is afraid. She doesn’t know how to behave or interact. What has she learned?
She has learned to believe that she is helpless, and that the little world she knows will not respond to her needs. She has learned that nothing she does matters. She has learned that people are to be feared. She has learned that she must defend herself by shrinking away or lashing out. What was once a curious, trusting, happy, healthy, loving little creature has been transformed into a cowering, aggressive, unstable being because her loved ones refused to share their home and lives with her.
Dogs, like children, are social beings. They have a deeply ingrained need for contact with either human beings or other dogs. When a dog is tethered (chained) outside, it does not receive the socialization it needs to maintain its mental health. Tethering also denies the dog proper exercise. Even if a dog is given proper veterinary care and is fed correctly, tethered dogs are still apt to develop serious behavior problems because their existence is ruled by the length of the tether.
Although it may seem as if the dog has plenty of room to move about, dogs still get tangled up in their chains, making it impossible for them to reach shelter, shade, food or water. Dogs that spend their lives tethered have been known to grind their teeth down to stumps. Many will compulsively lick an area of their body until it turns into a bleeding sore (granuloma). It is reported that tethered dogs inflict one quarter of all dog bites recorded.
Tethered dogs frequently become withdrawn and depressed. Compulsive barking, chewing and digging may also result. Some people tether their dogs because of bad behavior. This only compounds the problem, sometimes resulting in hyperactive or aggressive behavior in addition to the original behavioral problem. These dogs need professional training, not tethering. Unfortunately, many people who tether their dogs are unaware of the cruelty they are inflicting on their pet.
Many dogs are kept tethered because their guardians did not spend the time or energy to properly train them or because they do not have the proper facilities for keeping a dog in the first place. There are even some cultures that consider tethering acceptable because they view dogs as working animals, not companions.
Thanks to the hard work, commitment and compassion of LAAS’ David Diliberto, City Attorneys Robert Ferber and Dov Lesel, and private citizen, Dianne Lawrence, for helping me craft an anti-tethering ordinance in Los Angeles. That’s right, IT IS NOW ILLEGAL!
On August 3, 2005, the LA City Council passed LAAS’ tethering ban effective in the entire City of Los Angeles! Tethering your dog in the City of Los Angeles can now result in a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, or both!
If you tether your dog, please consider an alternative. If you know someone who tether’s their dog, let them know about this new law. Your veterinarian, members of dog clubs and dog obedience trainers can provide the information you need to correct the behavioral problems that may have led to tethering your dog in the first place.
Please call LAAS (888-452-7381) if you would like more information on the dangers of tethering and what you can do about it.