Dangers of Tethering Dogs Explained to Scotch Plains Council

Ann Marie Amato speaks out against cruelty toward dogs. Credits: John Mooney
Experts say that tethering normally friendly dogs outside for long periods of time can cause them to become aggressive.

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- A group of young animal rights advocates addressed the Scotch Plains Township Council on Tuesday, March 3, to educate the governing body about the danger of chaining or tethering dogs for long periods of time.

"We came here tonight to explain why chaining dogs is dangerous," said Ann Marie Amato from Fanwood, who brought along three seventh graders who are undertaking the effort as part of a service project. "Dogs that are tethered for long periods of time don't know how to socialize. "
Amato explained that she had been contacted by a man who reported to her that his friend's dog is kept outside for hours at a time. 
"It's bizarre that we'd allow it.  Why get an animal if you just keep it outside. An animal is not a lawn ornament," said Amato, who asked the council to consider passing an ordinance, similar to one passed in Plainfield. "It is fair, smart, and well written, and I hope you consider it."

Mayor Kevin Glover thanked the advocates for educating the council on the issue and referred the matter to Township Attorney Bob Renaud.

Renaud will investigate two questions. The first is whether a municipality has the power to enact an ordinance that regulates care of dogs, and the second is whether the state had already preempted the field by passing something with regard to the issue.
"A number of municipalities banned pit bulls. However, they were struck down because state did not grant that power to munucipalities to do that," Renaud explained.
Some facts on the issue:
What is meant by "chaining" or "tethering" dogs? 
These terms refer to the practice of fastening a dog to a stationary object or stake, usually in the owner's backyard, as a means of keeping the animal under control. The the practice is both inhumane and a threat to the safety of the confined dog, other animals, and humans. 
Why is tethering dogs inhumane? 
Dogs are naturally social beings who thrive on interaction with human beings and other animals. In the wild, dogs and wolves live, eat, sleep, and hunt with a family of other canines. Dogs are genetically determined to live in a group.  A dog kept chained alone in one spot for hours, days, months, or even years suffers immense psychological damage. An otherwise friendly  dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and often aggressive.
Who says tethering dogs is inhumane?
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises, "Never tether or chain your dog because this can contribute to aggressive behavior."  According to the Association of Shelter Veterinarian’s Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, "Tethering is an unacceptable method of confinement for any animal and has no place in humane sheltering. Constant tethering of dogs in lieu of a primary enclosure is not a humane practice." 
How does tethering or chaining dogs pose a danger to humans? 
Dogs tethered for long periods can become highly aggressive. Dogs feel naturally protective of their territory; when confronted with a perceived threat, they respond according to their fight-or-flight instinct. A chained dog, unable to take flight, often feels forced to fight, attacking any unfamiliar animal or person who unwittingly wanders into his or her territory. Numerous attacks on people by tethered dogs have been documented.
Do chained dogs make good guard dogs? 
No. Chaining creates aggression, not protectiveness. A protective dog is used to being around people and can sense when his family is being threatened. A dog learns to be protective by spending lots of time with people and by learning to know and love his human family. 
Leaving a dog on a chain and ignoring him is how to raise an aggressive dog that cannot distinguish between a threat and a family friend, because they are not used to people. Aggressive dogs will attack anyone, including children. Further, statistics show that one of the best deterrents to intruders is an inside dog. Intruders will think twice about entering a home with a dog on the other side of the door. 
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