You’ve seen them: Dogs, dragging a heavy chain or wire from their necks, tied to a stake or a tree or a dilapidated doghouse. The scene around them is equally forlorn—an overturned food dish, a belt of bare ground where the dog paces the day away. They bark, they snarl, they whimper. They have nowhere to go.
For years, the problem of dog “tethering”—leaving dogs outside for long periods of time while attached to a lead—has attracted national attention. Now, the spotlight has turned to Western North Carolina.
Last month, the animal welfare group Dogs Deserve Better (www.dogsdeservebetter.com) included the region in its tour of 12 states, with stops in Shelby and Waynesville. The goal, says group founder Tammy Grimes, was “to prove that it would be very simple to go into any state and find chained dogs.”
Turns out, it was.
“We had a busy day in North Carolina,” Grimes reports. “We were inundated with calls from people wanting help. We were expecting to find at least 10 tethered dogs a day. Well, as it turned out we found as many as 100.”
Right now, just five states have laws regulating the tethering of dogs. California’s law, passed in 2006, limits the time dogs may be fastened to a stationary object to three hours or less. A Texas law passed last year places strict guidelines on how, and under what conditions, dogs may be tied outside, and makes it illegal for them to be tied out at night. Where tethering restrictions are in place, penalties take the form of other humane laws, beginning with warnings, a notice of violation or citations, followed by fines, which in some states reach as high as $500.
Many counties and municipalities have their own rules. But while one county in North Carolina—New Hanover—has moved to ban tethering outright, the state has yet to enact its own law limiting the practice.
A bill introduced by state Sen. Janet Cowell, S.B. 1172, would change that, limiting a dog’s time on a outside chain or tether to no more than six hours a day and bringing other humane guidelines to bear. But currently, the bill is stalled in the General Assembly.
Tethering, says Asheville resident and anti-tethering activist Lisa Leming, “gives the green light to so many kind of abuses.” She cites a few of the worst examples she’s seen, including a pregnant dog that appeared at a local shelter a day away from whelping, dragging a ragged chain and stake behind her.
“It’s terrible,” Leming says. “And as far as the law is concerned, it’s way overdue.”
To voice your opinion about a statewide anti-tethering law, contact Sen. Tom Apodaca (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rep. Susan Fisher (email@example.com).