The Backyard Dog, Illegal Tethering and Isolation

Bob Ferber
Supervising Attorney
L.A. City Attorney Animal Protection Unit

Everyday as you look out your kitchen window or go into your yard,  you are forced to witness your neighbors dog tied to a dog house or stake while the family is inside or away.

Or maybe the dog or dogs are left isolated in the yard with little human contact other than being fed. He or she may be causing a nuisance as it barks at any movement including yours when you are in your yard.  If it’s a puppy it may constantly whine especially in bad weather and at night. Chained or ignored, dogs isolated from human contact, contradicts their breeding needs and natural instincts. If constantly tethered, the dog can actually become an aggressive danger.

Both California and Los Angeles now have laws that make it a crime to tether (or tie) your dog to something without a specific temporary cause such as a gardener in the yard or construction. (click here for law)

Thanks to a handful of people including the critical efforts by the editor of The Neighborhood News, Dianne Lawrence, the L.A. City Council outlawed unsupervised tethering punishable by 6 months in jail or longer, along with a hefty fine. If there’s evidence the dog actually suffered, was without food or water or was injured while illegally tethered, the owners can face years in jail.

A dog tied up 24/7 can suffer from the elements, become aggressive, antisocial, pose a serious danger to children, friends or strangers if the dog escapes. Even with so-called “safe” tethering methods like tying the dog to a clothesline-type rope or with a body harness, they can become entangled and unable to reach their food and water, a serious matter in 90 degree weather. Often tethered dogs are ignored for long periods of time and the owners come out to find the dog has strangled itself to death.

Another serious consequence of tethering or isolating dogs to backyard life is the cruel emotional impact it has
on the dog.   Dogs are by instinct and nature, active pack animals. That means they are “family-loving” beings with an instinctive need to be an active part of a family/pack where they receive and give both love, attention, play and have an opportunity to act out the qualities bred into them. If it’s a retriever, chasing something and bringing it back is as essential to its wellbeing as mothering is to a child. It isn’t optional, it’s what dogs need to be healthy, happy and safe.  Every dog has been bred for a purpose and activity. Because of the modernization of the 20th century, dogs jobs have been taken away….but not their instinct to perform.  A dog tied up on a regular basis or isolated from pack contact and instinctive activity is like a child kept in a locked room with no toys.  It will either become aggressive… or resigned, depressed and desperate for company. 

Contrary to the myths, tethered dogs are not good watchdogs. They tend to bark at everything and owners and neighbors often learn to ignore the barks. Dogs left in yards to deter break-ins are easily let out of unlocked gates or given poison by a determined intruder.  Even worse…they are often stolen as bait for dog fight training or
by thieves waiting for the reward signs. The effective and safe dog deterrents are dogs living inside the home they are to protect.

So if you know of a dog in your neighborhood that is chained or tethered, for more than a short period for a specific temporary purpose or has inadequate shelter or water and food, a fece’s filled yard (also against the law) for the sake of the dog and everyone, call L.A. City Animal Services and report it. Your name will be kept confidential. Animal Reg. will give the owners time to comply and in most cases a little education is all it takes. But while our goal is to educate and help people be responsible for their pets, make no mistake about it…if someone is intent on leaving their dog consistently tied up without supervision for hours or more at a time or all day and night or are not providing a clean environment and adequate shelter.. that person risks criminal prosecution, fines and jail time. I know …because I’m a Deputy City Attorney and my job is to prosecute those crimes.  For your own peace of mind and to help a suffering animal make the call.

If you have any questions or are not sure if you or someone you know is breaking the law, feel free to contact me directly .
Bob Ferber
Supervising Attorney
L.A. City Attorney Animal Protection Unit     310-202-3839
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
To find your nearest Animal Services:
www.laanimalservices.com. 
To report other abuse against animals, call the L.A. City Animal Cruelty Task Force at 213-847-1417 or your nearest shelter.

 

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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