Arlington Breaks The Chain

Photo credit: PETA

(ANIMAL NEWS) TEXAS — The city of Arlington passed a new ordinance this month prohibiting the tethering of dogs. Since dogs are social animals and crave companionship, leaving a dog chained or tied up can lead to neurotic behavior and aggression. Read on for how Arlington is joining other Texan cities to help protect pets and people. — Global Animal
Chained dogs usually develop aggressive behaviors. Photo credit: PETA

Arlington Citizen-Journal, Susan Schrock

ARLINGTON — As an elderly woman walked up the sidewalk to her friend’s east-side home one day in February, she stooped down to pet the family dog, chained to a tree in the front yard.

The woman thought the dog was friendly. But instead of wagging its tail, the German shepherd mix attacked, tearing a chunk of flesh from her right arm and knocking her to the ground, where she fractured her hip.

“Luckily the dog had thrown her away from where it could have reached her again. She feels like the dog would have continued to attack,” said Ray Rentschler, Arlington Animal Services field supervisor.

Though the woman was hospitalized and is still using a wheelchair, the dog’s owner did not violate any city animal ordinances at the time of the attack and does not face criminal charges, Rentschler said. But a new ordinance adopted by the City Council this month makes it a crime for owners to leave a dog tied up and unattended, which animal advocates say is inhumane and could lead to aggressive behavior.

The ordinance is meant to discourage owners from treating dogs “like a cheap security system,” said Tammy Hawley, operations director for the Humane Society of North Texas.

“A chained dog is three times more likely to bite than any other animal, period,” Hawley said. “They get so stir-crazy from being in those same spots over and over they don’t know how to act. It causes them to be extremely territorial. There really are no positives to chaining an animal.”

Arlington’s new anti-tethering ordinance, similar to rules in Fort Worth, Dallas and North Richland Hills, is one of several animal ordinance revisions approved by the council to better protect pets and the people who might come in contact with them, said Mike Bass, Code Compliance Services assistant director.

After months of review and discussion, the city also banned the sale of puppies and kittens in commercial parking lots and added rules regarding dangerous dogs.

After an outcry from racing-pigeon owners, the council decided against limiting the number of pigeons that residents can own but will now require a city permit and inspections.

‘Social creatures’

Arlington’s ordinance is stricter than state law, which allows owners to restrain their dogs unattended for up to three hours within a 24-hour period. State law also prohibits owners from leaving a restrained dog unattended outside between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., within 500 feet of a school or in extreme weather.

Arlington now prohibits owners from using a chain, rope, tether, leash, cable or any other device to restrain an unattended dog to a stationary object or trolley system unless the owner remains in physical control of the animal.

“Tethering is not good for an animal. Being social creatures … they seek out their human companionship,” Bass said. “Statistics related to dog attacks and human fatalities have revealed that dogs that are tethered constantly begin to show aggressive behaviors, neurotic behaviors. Because these aggression levels build up, attacks result.”

Arlington saw a 48 percent increase in aggressive-animal calls between fiscal 2009 and 2010. The city also handled 567 animal-bite investigations in fiscal 2010.

Owners can restrain their dog while, for example, washing the car or visiting a groomer, veterinarian or animal training classes.

“Simply leaving the animal in the back yard tethered 24/7 would be a violation,” said Bass, adding that the ordinance does not consider an owner who is inside the house to be in direct physical contact with a dog restrained in the back yard.

Hand-held leashes are still allowed. Owners would also be able to tether their dog temporarily if severe weather or some other disaster knocked down the fence that normally keeps the animal from running loose.

“If the pet can be inside with you, that is a better situation because you are fostering companionship to the animal and bringing them in out of the elements,” Bass said.

‘Absolute cruelty’

Wayne DeWald couldn’t imagine chaining up his dog Rose. He brings the Lab mix to Arlington’s Tails ‘N Trails Dog Park almost daily.

“If you have to tether a dog, you probably shouldn’t have a dog,” DeWald said. “You have a dog for companionship.”

Dog owner Marisol Franco said she also supports the anti-tethering law.

“You have to give them attention. It’s just not feeding the dog and leaving them in the back yard,” said Franco, who has three dogs. “If you don’t interact with them and get them familiar with people, of course they are going to be aggressive. It’s not the dog’s fault.”

Owners caught leaving their dogs tied up and unattended will be given a warning and 24 hours to correct the violation, city officials said. Violators can face up to a $2,000 fine.

“We’re very encouraged that many communities are taking a much stronger stand to eliminate tethering,” said Inga Fricke, director of sheltering and pet-care issues at the Humane Society for the United States.

Tethers can also harm or kill pets. This year, the Humane Society of North Texas has euthanized two dogs that accidentally hanged themselves with their chains, Hawley said. Last year, a dog had to have a foot amputated after it became severely tangled in a chain, she said.

“Containment is a key part of responsible pet ownership. There has some confusion about whether chaining is containment or cruelty,” Hawley said. “It is absolute cruelty.”

North Richland Hills humane officers, who still find dogs chained up in residents’ front and back yards, continue public education efforts about the dangers of tethering.

“Any dog that lives on a chain is going to be more aggressive than a dog that is allowed to run freely in its own back yard or in the house,” Humane Officer Candi Henderson said. 

More Arlington Citizen-Journal: