Changes to state law now limit the length of time a dog can be tethered outside.
Pet owners looking to give their dogs a little privacy by chaining up Fido in the backyard will have to keep a closer eye on the clock under recent updates to Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws.
New rules that Gov. Tom Wolfe signed into law in late June, and which took effect at the end of August, limit the amount of time a dog can be tied up on a leash. An unattended dog cannot be tethered outside for more than nine hours in a 24-hour period. Also, a dog cannot be tethered unattended outside for longer than 30 minutes in temperatures above 90 degrees or below 32 degrees, according to the updated law.
“The goal of the law is not to make (dogs) be inside pets. The law is designed to get them off the chain and not have to live their life on the end of a chain,” said Lisa Stiles, the chief investigating officer for the Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
The new rules governing the tethering of unattended dogs also require that dog owners use a tether of a type commonly used for the size and breed of the dog that is at least three times the length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail or 10 feet, whichever is longer; that the tether is secured to a well-fitted collar or harness by means of a swivel anchor, latch or other mechanism designed to prevent the dog from becoming tangled; and that the dog has access to shade and water to drink.
re to follow any of these requirements, as well as the time limit requirements, would be considered neglect under the law, said Eric Duckett, humane officer for the A.N.N.A. Shelter in Erie.
The presence of excessive waste or excrement in the area where a dog is tethered, open sores or wounds on a dog’s body, or the use of a tow or log chain or a choke, pinch, prong or chain collar can also be considered neglect under the law, Duckett said.
Dogs can still be kept outside 24 hours a day if they are untethered and within a fenced pen or yard, as long as they have shelter, a clean living environment and nourishment, Stiles said. Dogs should be provided in winter weather with an airtight dog house off the ground several inches that has a flap on the door and hay, straw or cedar chips as bedding, with the dog house facing east away from the incoming weather, according to information posted on the A.N.N.A. shelter website.
The new rules don’t apply to dogs tethered while actively engaged in hunting, exhibition, performance events or field training; the tethering of a hunting, sporting or sledding breed dog where tethering is integral to the training, conditioning or purpose of the dog; the tethering of dogs is in compliance with requirements of camping or recreational areas; or the tethering of a dog for a time period, not to exceed one hour, reasonably necessary for the dog or person to complete a temporary task, according to the updated law.
Those charged with neglect under the new rules face a summary offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine; or a third-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a $2,000 fine if the neglect causes serious bodily injury or places the animal at imminent risk.
Duckett said he started getting calls recently, when temperatures started dipping below 32 degrees, about dogs being tethered outside. He said he picked up one dog earlier this week when its owner surrendered it because the owner knew he could no longer care for it. The dog was left out and “was pretty bony,” Duckett said.
Stiles said that after the new rules took effect, she sent letters to about a dozen dog owners her agency has dealt with in the past, informing them of the new requirements.
“I already had someone argue that it’s a stupid law,” she said. “I believe it’s a good law. You don’t have to make your dogs house pets, you have to get them off the chain so they’re not living their lives on the end of a chain.”
One dog owner Stiles has dealt with, who lives in Wayne Township, doesn’t have room to keep two dogs that were tethered outside inside the owner’s house, so the owner signed the dogs over to the Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Reagan, a six-year-old female boxer-Labrador retriever mix, and Reesey, a four-year-old male pug-beagle mix, are being cared for at the society’s facility in Millcreek Township and will soon be available for adoption, she said.
Stiles said she is also working with the owner of four dogs in Springfield Township to bring the owner into compliance with the new rules. The owner plans to keep the dogs, and she is giving the owner time to construct pens for them, she said.
“The main things I deal with are dogs running loose, dog bites and barking,” he said.
Tim Stevenson, the animal enforcement officer for the Millcreek Township Police Department, said he believes the new rules are a good idea. He said people don’t realize the harm that can be done by exposing a pet to harsh weather conditions even for a short amount of time, noting the problems that have arisen from dogs left in cars on hot or freezing days.
“The rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them,” Stevenson said. “It’s just a good reminder. People put their dogs outside and sometimes forget about them, not intentionally. Now with the 30-minute law, they’re going to think.”