A change in policy could benefit Michigan’s less-loved dogs

Dogs have been bred over thousands of years to be a “human’s best friend.” Michigan alone has an estimated 2.2 million dogs living in 1.4 million households. Our canine companions are inherently social, faithful and affectionate. They make loving companions. They teach children compassion, respect and responsibility. They are loyal protectors and a cure for loneliness. They sacrifice their lives as search and rescue dogs. Studies now show that dog (and cat) ownership provides numerous benefits to our health and well-being, from reducing heart disease, to helping kids with learning disabilities, to staving off depression. Our bond is undeniable. For all they give to us, our responsibility back to is to ensure their well-being.

However, in Michigan, chaining is still completely legal despite being unquestionably inhumane and potentially harmful to humans.

Chaining (also called tethering) refers to the act of forcing a dog to live all of his or her life outdoors on a chain attached to a stationary object. Our tethered canine friends must live in a cruelly confined space -- eating, sleeping and eliminating all in one small worn down spot. The dog’s movement is tightly restricted, making it difficult to get comfortable and to find protection from harsh weather or other threats.

Because of their social nature, forcing a dog to live his or her life continuously on a chain in a state of social deprivation is known to cause depression, anxiety and frustration. Not unlike children, puppies and young dogs that are not properly socialized, that go unprotected from negative experiences, also tend to endure lifelong fearfulness.

Tethering also leads to physical suffering. Chained dogs are at greater risk of pain and injury from arthritis, neck sores (from chains that wear down the skin or become embedded), eye hemorrhaging, parasites, fly bites and urine burns. Michigan’s freezing temperatures frequently cause death (most chained dogs are short-haired breeds), as does accidental strangulation.

Without consistent attention and care, often forgotten, chained dogs commonly go unfed and must contend with frozen or dry water bowls and are denied the most basic veterinary care.

In addition to owner neglect, chained dogs are also greater targets of intentional cruelty. Unsupervised and unable to escape, they are easy victims of harassment and callous acts.

Further, chained dogs can become a community danger. Increases in territorial behavior, fearfulness and poor socialization make them more prone to aggression and likely to attack those who enter their space. There are many documented cases of chained dogs biting children or getting loose from their chains to attack passing people and pets. Chained dogs are nearly 3 times more likely to bite than an unchained ones and cause as many childhood deaths as firearms. It is also known that dog fighters keep their dogs tethered, often on heavy logging chains, to help spur aggression.

At the Humane Society of Huron Valley we receive many calls from concerned citizens about outdoor chained and poorly treated dogs. Unfortunately, there is little help we can provide because the owner is following the law. When state animal cruelty laws can be applied the animal has already suffered needlessly or it is too late.

Some worry that an anti-chaining law might overly restrict needs to tether dogs for temporary tasks. But such a law can and should allow for the use of tethers to restrain a dog for brief periods of time needed to complete temporary tasks (e.g., getting fresh air, elimination, spending time outdoors with the family). The goal of such a law is to promote, not hinder, responsible, compassionate care.

Perhaps Michigan can follow 19 other states and more than 140 U.S. local communities in banning or strictly regulating chaining/tethering? Such regulation will provide a tool to prevent neglect and to help in the battle against dog fighting; help make a safer, more responsible community; and ensure that our dogs receive the care they deserve to be healthy, well-adjusted pets. The best place for our loyal canine companions is inside with their family.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

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John Q. Public
Fri, 05/15/2015 - 7:08pm
That's all very interesting, but haven't you learned anything? If you want that law passed, just tell the legislature that states with anti-tethering laws have higher rates of economic growth, a lower unemployment rate, and the law will "create jobs". None of that has to be true; just say the buzzwords, though, and anti-tethering will go from first reading to enrolled (with immediate effect!) in under a week.
Sun, 05/17/2015 - 12:41am
My kids race sled dogs. These dogs are socialized and exercised regularly. They are fed daily and get fresh water at least twice a day. The kids do housekeeping duties a minimum of twice a day. The dogs get fresh straw in their houses every week. These wonderful, healthy dogs are completely vetted, licensed and microchipped. If anti-tethering were to become law, my kids will have to get rid of these dogs because they are not house pets. Boy will I be glad to tell three girls they have to find new homes for the dogs in a different state that doesn't have a tethering restriction. I understand there is neglect of animals, a couple of our dogs have come from neglect situations - they came from the owners living room, not a picket. I understand some people don't take proper care of their pets, but penalizing everyone who is responsible, because of those who aren't, simply put, is wrong.
Beth Contreras
Tue, 05/19/2015 - 11:10am
In Michigan, sled dogs would be exempt from such an ordinance, along with a few other exemptions. This law would target non-working dogs who suffer horribly, mostly in urban areas. With such exemptiins, I hope you would support any proposed tethering legislation that would protect the vast majority of dogs who don't get the quality care your dogs do :-)
Tue, 05/19/2015 - 4:18pm
My dogs aren't working dogs. They are also accomplished escape artists despite my 5 ft chain link fence that encloses the entire yard. So, am I going to be exempt from being harassed for using a chain set up to keep my dogs in the yard? No? Oh. Then perhaps this legislation would do more harm than good because an awful lot of folks NEED to use a tether or chain set up to keep their dogs from wandering off their property while giving them time outside.
Thu, 05/28/2015 - 9:23pm
I don't think you fully understand what it means for a dog to be tethered. If your dogs are sled dogs, they are let off of their chain to go practice, or race, or whatever it is they do. They are not CONSTANTLY on the chain. Your dogs have the human interaction that they need, they get the food that they need, and I'm sure they have the shelter that they need. Tethered dogs are forced to stay outside in one spot for their entire lives. They are outside in the blazing heat, or in the freezing cold and usually without any shelter. Their owners probably (hopefully) give them some food and fresh water daily, but that is it. They are very neglected dogs who never get the chance to run around because they are always on their chain. Of course some dogs need to be tied up when going outside, that is just common sense. What this article is trying to say is that it is not fair for a dog to be tied up to a chain always and forever. Your dogs are not tied up to a chain 24/7, they are well taken care of. I don't think you would have to re-home your dogs if this law were to be passed.
Thu, 06/04/2015 - 10:23pm
A dog can be neglected, outside or inside. Dogs crated indoors all the time except to "do their business" outside are leading a pitiful life. Isn't the issue neglect? And don't we already have laws concerning neglect? Perhaps we need better enforcement of existing laws. But that would be a lot more expensive than merely passing a law.
Fri, 05/29/2015 - 6:58pm
Get a fence!!!
Wed, 06/03/2015 - 12:40am
If you've got a spare 3K+ sitting around, you are free to build one for me. Good luck containing my dog with any fence but Fort Knox. The tether does the job no fence can, so that is what I use.
Wed, 08/12/2015 - 3:48pm
I agree with you completely. I have 2 dogs and when the weather is nice, I tether them in the yard for a few hours, when I am home. I can't have them roam free since I grow flowers to sell, and my dogs would destroy my garden. They are inside otherwise and are well taken care of. This law should be passed with some exceptions.
Pam Burns
Sun, 05/17/2015 - 7:20pm
I would definitely support this change to the law. Can info be provided to show where I can support this measure?
Mon, 05/18/2015 - 1:19pm
If the Humane Society of Huron Valley wants to push for legislation that will really help, they should contact the municipal league and get them to stop pushing for 2-3 dog limits. Cities all over the state are adopting these ordinances and owners aren't aware they are breaking the law until a code enforcer sends them a letter. Michigan has lots of rural areas. If owners living in those areas are not allowed to tether their dogs, we're going to hear more stories about dogs doing dog things when they are let outside. I don't want my dog chasing deer, running off into the woods, running into the road or getting into doggie behavior trouble. My dog doesn't want to be locked inside all day. Have you ever tried to fence beagles? They'll dig under anything, and they'll chase a scent for miles. Is it better for force them to be lap dogs and deny them the outdoors unless I can be in full time supervisor mode?
Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:25pm
Define tether. If this law passed, it needs to be specific. All tethering isn't bad. I'd rather have a dog tied up with water, etc and supervision then crammed in a crate all day every day. Maybe cruelty laws could be expanded to include tethering.
Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:50am
So, punish people who responsibly tether their dogs? Any form of containment can be abused in the wrong hands, and any animal can be abused in the wrong or uneducated hands. Collars get embedded in flesh, dogs get locked in crates all day (or rooms, or basements) or locked in kennels on concrete, owners over or underfeed their dogs (also a form of abuse). Head halters and harnesses are improperly used which can result in injury. Fact is, not everyone sees their dogs as Ann Arborites (like Tanya Hildgendorf) do. And not everyone can afford to fence in a yard (this very publication recently stated that over 900,000 households are one emergency away from slipping below the poverty line, how many of those households have dogs?). Kennels are also expensive. Are dogs, with their many benefits, now only for moneyed families? Most dogs love the outdoors. There are dogs who do not belong indoors, or who do not want to be indoors for long periods of time. There are many dogs who are capable of scaling a 6 foot fence (and most towns do not allow a fence over 6 feet) and need to be tethered outside for their own good. Tethering, when properly done and properly cared for, is an excellent and cost effective option for keeping our canine companions safe. On a chain or tether, a dog has more square feet of space to roam than he would in a kennel. He is not frustrated at the barricade in front of him (as he would be in a kennel). His paws are on soft dirt, rather than concrete. With proper clean up, a well maintained chain and collar, an insulated dog house stuffed with clean, dry straw, clean water and food, a dog can be quite happy on a tether or chain. Instead of going after responsible owners and tacking on more legislation that will not be enforced, how about EDUCATING on proper tethering? Teach and provide people the means to set up a proper chain spot and a well made dog house, and teach them to properly care for their dog.
Wed, 06/03/2015 - 9:22am
Margery, have you ever visited an Iditarod kennel? I have, and these dogs are so well taken care of. Other than believing some obscure webpage, get off your tuckus and take a tour.
Thu, 05/28/2015 - 3:50pm
While you are pressing for the no tethering law, Please do not forget the animal abuse registry that has been pushed aside for many sessions. It is called "Logans Law" I think.. Still not passed.
Thu, 05/28/2015 - 4:19pm
This is the perspective of the "pet parent" who sees dogs as children, not as working animals. The designer dog locked in a crate all day would not get the benefit of this legislation. Establishment of humane standards for tethering would be a better outcome of this concern.
Thu, 05/28/2015 - 6:02pm
I'm disappointed at the number of responses in favor of tethering dogs.. My heart breaks whenever I see a tethered dog. Every dog has a right to be treated with humane respect and NOT as property to be stored on a tether.. They deserve kindness and socialization. I follow the Detroit group CHAINED who are doing wonderful outreach and public education for the chained dogs in Detroit. I'd love to help on a State campaign.
Wed, 06/03/2015 - 12:48am
Truth about Tethering Dog owners deserve laws based on facts. Not fear. Humane restraint safeguards both pets and the community. Loose running dogs are a nuisance and may bite. A Cornell University study found that proper tethering is a safe and humane method of confinement. Solid, dog-proof fencing is expensive and not permitted in some areas. Anti-tethering laws may negatively impact poor, rural, and minority communities. Anti-tethering laws may sound humane, but may actually do more harm than good. Animal rights extremists deliberately distort statistics – there is no factual basis for anti-tethering laws. Responsible owners need all options to humanely confine their dogs! The CDC does not support anti-tethering laws. The AVMA does not support anti-tethering laws Anti-tethering laws are the latest craze. Strict leash laws safely, humanely control and contain dogs. Caring owners exercise caution and adequate supervision of their dogs, regardless of the restraint method they choose. A tether is a “tool” and any tool can be abused or misused. Are we going to outlaw hammers because someone commits a murder with a hammer? Tethering in a humane manner meets the physical and psychological needs of dogs while accommodating the needs of the community. Tethering: Securely confines dogs to protect them from exposure to injuries or illnesses. Facilitates humane care and husbandry of the animals leading to increased opportunities for human interaction and socialization. Allows dogs to interact freely with their kennel mates while simultaneously protecting dogs from aggressive kennel mates. Provides ample space in which the dogs may engage in a full range of species-specific behaviors. Provides access to the visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli of the general environment. The studies cited by those seeking laws to prohibit tethering were not scientific studies of animal confinement. Most were epidemiological studies of dog bites and their conclusions do not demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between tethering and dog bites. Advocates of outlawing tethering as a method of dog confinement frequently misinterpret the results of the studies they cite. On their website, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) states that a study published in the September 15, 2000, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 17 percent of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners' property at the time of the attack. If that is true, then it is also true that 83% of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans were NOT restrained on their owner’s property at the time of the attack. In other words, this very same study indicates that tethered dogs are almost 5 times less likely to kill a human than dogs that are not restrained. The best available current scientific evidence supports humane tethering as an effective, safe and humane method of confinement. The only controlled, scientific study comparing sled dogs primarily confined by tethering on post/swivel systems to another confinement system found no significant difference in the behavior of tethered dogs to those confined using other systems. (Reference Houpt K, Reynolds A, Erb H, Sung W, Golden G, Yeon W; “A Comparison of Tethering and Pen Confinement of Dogs.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, vol 4, no 4, 2001: 257-270.) Depending upon the length of chain, tethering with the post and swivel system as recommended provides each dog with more space to run, play, jump and engage in other species-typical behaviors than required under most animal welfare regulations, even those applicable to dogs in federally regulated industries or even modern research settings. With 6 foot chains the dogs’ play area is increased to about 113 square feet 7 foot chains allow each dog a personal playground of nearly 155 square feet. (Reference (Hubrecht R; “Comfortable Quarters for Laboratory Dogs”; Universites Federation for Animal Welfare, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.) Neglect is cruel, humane tethering is not! There are laws on the books to address the issue of inhumane tethering of dogs. Use them. EDUCATION NOT LEGISLATION!!!
Wed, 06/03/2015 - 12:50am
My dogs are outside dogs who are tethered for their safety, as we do not have a complete fence. They have fresh water, insulated houses, shade and sun, are fed good nutritious food, and visited several times a day on their tethers. They get plenty of time off their tethers in the yard and taken on daily romps on the woods or bike rides. Yet people say they abused, simply because they are housed outside and on tethers. How idiotic. Maybe if these people knew the reasons behind why the dogs are tethered they would understand. Probably not, since they are so blind to reason and close-minded, but I'll tell you anyways. One of the dogs jumps fences for fun. 6 feet is nothing to him, a fence is not a safe form of containment. Even if I'm out there in the yard with him he'll go over if he sees something like a squirrel or a toy accidentally flies over. He cannot escape the tether, so that is how I contain him, even if I had a fence. He is a hunting dog and will follow squirrels anywhere they go, and the tether prevents him from running off and getting lost or hit by a car. But the biggest reason? There's a kid in this house who is allergic to dogs. Keeping them inside is dangerous to that kid's health. The dogs are animals, they are used to being outside, they LIKE being outside and when I sneak them in, they ask to go back out within an hour. Tell me which is more cruel. Housing these dogs on tethers, outside, where THEY WANT to be, watching the goings on, running around and playing? Or inside in a crate (which is what the only other option would be), where they have little room, can't piss when they want, and cannot play? I know which one I'd pick if I were a dog, and it sure as hell isn't a crate. Some say I shouldn't own dogs because they are outside. Some have even said why bother to get dogs if there's a kid who can't be around them? Well, I got them before I moved here. Shit happens in life sometimes and you need to make tough decisions, moving was one of them, but getting rid of my dogs because of that move just was not going to happen. So they went outside, and they are no worse for wear. So go ahead and point your fingers at me, call me names, say I am abusing my dogs by safely and properly housing them on tethers. I know how well those dogs are taken care of, how well loved they are. I know better. I know the truth, and it's not remotely what you think it is.
Wed, 06/03/2015 - 9:37am
A dog can be abused whether tethered, kenneled, or kept in the house. It depends on the owner. The author of this sad article has no basis to generalize tethered dogs as abused and neglected. Does she realize that a tethered dog has more room to move around in than a kenneled dog? Shoot, back in the 70's, I would tie out my dog before I went to school, and bring her in when I got home. Didn't hurt him a bit, and he enjoyed surveying his domain on top of his doghouse. If people are keeping their dogs tethered outside, that dog deserves a warm, dry shelter, fresh food and water, a clean yard, and lots of love. My dogs all enjoy their outside time, and even those that get house privileges beg to be outside during the day.
Wed, 06/03/2015 - 11:09am
Important information that was researched and posted when this was tried before in Michigan...please take the time to read these FACTS. Michigan citizens are too smart to believe your poorly constructed lies... Re: Annie Carlson’s effort to get an Anti-Tethering bill passed in the state of Michigan. Dear extreme animal rights activists groups, I am not fooled by your propaganda. Citizens and Legislative Representatives of Michigan and elsewhere, the following are 5 'facts' provided by Anti-Tethering groups they want you to believe: 1. "A study by the AVMA reported that 17 % of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners’ property at the time of the attack.” **Per this study, the other 82% (!) were UNRESTRAINED on or off their owners’ property. Oh, and by the way...AVMA would like you to know, THEY DIDN'T EVEN CONDUCT THIS STUDY! (Individual investigators did...including some from HSUS). http://www.avma.org/advocacy/state/issues/javma_000915_fatalattacks.pdf **Per Sacks, Sinclair, et al (2000): ”Of the 27 fatalities in 1997 and 1998…unrestrained dogs accounted for 23 deaths, while restrained dogs were responsible for 4 deaths.” **Per lawcore.com: “…and the remainder (only 15%) of the fatal dog bite statistics are made up of dog bites from restrained dogs." 85% percent of all fatal dog bites are from UNRESTRAINED dogs. http://www.lawcore.com/animal-and-dog-bite/statistics.html 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study “Dogs most likely to bite are male, unneutered, and chained.” ***This study only looked at 18% of the dog bites reported in Denver county in 1991. This alone makes this statement invalid and inapplicable to even Denver County let alone dogs as a whole population. http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/dog3.pdf On an interesting side note, the CDC stopped tracking dog bites by breed as a risk factor (as this study was) in 1998 as they knew their findings regarding this were not science nor something to be used for public policy...as proponents of breed specific legislation special interest groups were trying to do. AVMA and CDC issued a statement on it. They were tired of these folks using a ten year old study to try to get laws changed. No really, that's what they said. Read for yourself. http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/avma... 3. Fatal Dog Attacks, by Karen Delise: “1965-2001, 25% were inflicted by chained dogs…” Here they also list reasons dogs attack, tethering not being one of them. ** Unrestrained dogs are again responsible for the significant majority (75%) of fatal dog attacks. Further, tethering isn't listed as one of the contributors to fatal attacks. This is their argument? Ha! (I can only find a broken link to the study online, seems it's a book for sale now...). 4. The AVMA does not have an official policy or position on the tethering of dogs, regardless of what these groups want you to believe. See for yourself. http://www.avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/policies.asp However, when this animal rights movement invaded Nevada, Nevada Veterinary Medical Associaiton did take a position on the bill: "The Nevada Veterinary Medical Association has also announced opposition to the (anti tethering) bill, S.B. 132.Â" which "reflects a limit of 14 hours per day for tethering". The Michigan movement is pushing for a far more restrictive bill than that, citing no more than one hour, 3 x a day, with 3 hours in between each tether period. The Nevada bill passed 2009, though AR groups seemed to have protected themselves from the bill with the inclusion of this: "The bill would not apply to dogs...as part of a rescue operation" which many of these groups claim to be. So, it's humane, safe, and legal for them, though not for the general population of Nevada's responsble dog owners. 5. 'USDA states tethering is inhumane.' Really? **"Persons...who tether their dogs are likely to be using this means of restraint under circumstances differrent than those typical to wholesale and breeding facilities. In these cases, tethering may be a humane method of restraint." USDA Federal Register http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1997-09-25/pdf/97-25482.pdf **Study from Cornell University: “There was no indication that tethering was more detrimental to the dogs' welfare than housing in a pen." Yeon, Golden, et al (2001) http://www.ncraoa.com/PDF/Tethering/TetheringPenning Annie argues this law is 'antiquated'...outdated, and needs to be modified. Seems we just paid our legislators in 2007 to take a good look and update it. House Bill no. 4551 introduced in 2007 passed. Effective 2008. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2007-2008/billintroduced/House/h... http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(afmzlv55pwgglf55tsj1qxag))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=2007-HB-4551 Then, why would Annie use this word 'antiquated' instead of 'updated' or 'modified' to describe this obviously recently modified law? Maybe it's because in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's State of the State Address on January 19th, 2011, he stated this as one of his requests to the legislature..."Third, we will propose the elimination or modification of antiquated laws." Just a hunch... http://eupnews.com/2011/01/transcript-of-governor-snyders-state-of-state... Annie also states, "In severe cases, they also may develop deep scars or dangerous infections if their collar becomes embedded in their necks as a result of long-term tethering." A collar embedded into a dog's neck is the result of an owner who neglects to loosen the collar as a dog grows...whether that dog is kept on a tether, in a pen, a crate, a fenced yard, or a home. Working with Animal Rights Activist Annie on this effort is Michigan State Director of HSUS Jill Fritz, who is overseeing all legislative and lobbying activities in Michgian for HSUS. Who is Jill Fritz? "Before joining HSUS in 2006, Fritz was the national coordinator of World Farm Animals Day, a project of the Maryland-based Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), and a student coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She was also a radio producer at San Diego's KPBS." Yes, Michigan, you read that right, PETA, FARM, and HSUS. Jill has also operated in CA, MN, and WI. http://humanewatch.org/index.php/people/detail/jill_fritz/ Jill and Annie were interviewed by the Mid Michigan Pet Experts Talk Show that aired on April 30, 2011 on WILS Lansing. When asked how folks can help and learn more about the missions of HSUS just discussed on air, Jill responded with a different organization. Michiganders For Shelter Pets. Sounds nice. Sounds like an organization that simply donates direct to shelters. When you go to the site you see that if you'd like to contact the group, you can contact Jill. MSP takes donations throught the MI Pet Fund. Money goes to support AR lobby activities...initiatives of HSUS. Why would Michigan Director of HSUS tell folks to go to this organization to help HSUS...instead of the HSUS? Maybe because HSUS has been sued under the Racketteer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act? Maybe because 6 congressmen have requested an investigation into their tax exemption status? I wonder if they think directing their money donations through other organizations that seem to be organized by them will throw the IRS off their tail? Sure leaves me with a whole lot of questions, you? To hear the interview online, go to www.wils.com direct yourself to the show's audio recordings. Now, if this isn't who you want representing you to your legislators, you 'd better speak up. May 1st, 2011 was the one year anniversary of Naples, FL passing an anti-tethering law. Here's how it turned out: "For Commissioner Jim Colletta, his district has experienced a surge in reports of dog attacks to both humans and livestock last year." I am not fooled by your propaganda. FACT: Tethers don't abuse and neglect dogs, irresponsible owners do. Abuse and neglect of an animal is already a felony in Michigan. Don't waste taxpayers' money on anti-tethering laws. Do your own research and contact your lawmakers today, tell them you you know the facts. http://www.house.michigan.gov/find_a_rep.asp http://www.senate.michigan.gov/FindYourSenator/byaddress.htm Rick.Snyder@michigan.gov For far more interesting reading and facts, check out www.humanewatch.org
Wed, 06/03/2015 - 11:55am
I have raised, trained and raced sled dogs for 20 years. My dogs are primarily on chains, I do have some that live in kennels, I have some I have build kennels for and they cried non stop till they went back on their chains. My dogs are very well taken care of and each dog has their own swimming in the summer. They get off to play every day and run. I am also a trainer and to say that dogs chained are aggressive is not true, I see more dogs that live in a house, crate. kennel that want to bite me then on chains. Punish the ones the miss use how a chain is supposed to be used as a typed of containment, not as a place to live. But my sled dogs do enjoy their chains and freedom