Suffolk should ban tethering completely

Published 9:22 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2013

By Michele Thames

As the primary animal advocacy agency in Suffolk, the Suffolk Humane Society would like to make known its official position on the tethering of dogs in Suffolk. We support a ban on tethering and believe the practice is fundamentally inhumane and cruel.

We, as well as many experts such as the American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Humane Society of the United States, many veterinarians, dog trainers and others, believe dogs are social creatures that crave and thrive on companionship and interaction with other people and animals.

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More than 200 communities in more than 30 states have banned continuous tethering, or tying up or chaining a dog, not just because it leaves the animal an easy target, but also because dogs, which are highly social, pack animals, can become neurotic, anxious and even aggressive when forced to live their entire existence in a confined area.

Since they cannot flee and have so much pent-up energy, chained dogs become a public safety hazard, and they are almost three times more likely to attack than untethered dogs. Sadly, their victims are most often children.

If tethering remains legal in Suffolk, it should be regulated. Here are a few suggestions from the Suffolk Humane Society:

  • Establish a time limit of three hours or less, as is the case in some other Hampton Roads cities.
  • Puppies or sick or injured dogs are not to be tethered.
  • The length and weight of the tether should be long enough and light enough for the dog to move freely. (There are cases of dogs whose skeletal structures have been changed because of massive chains tied to them.)
  • The ordinance should require that tethers remain tangle-free, because many dogs become entangled and cannot reach their food, water or shelter.
  • The tether should attach to a properly fitted harness and allow the dog free access to food, water and adequate shelter.
  • The dog should have access to the maximum available exercise area, and this area should be kept free of feces.
  • Tethering should be prohibited during extreme weather. (In summer, dogs may die of heat exhaustion and are tormented by fleas and parasites, and in winter, dogs may freeze.)
  • Tethered dogs should be spayed or neutered.
  • Dogs should not be tethered under conditions in which they could be strangled or become injured.

We welcome the opportunity to provide more detailed information from experts on why tethering is inhumane as well as a public safety issue. We also welcome the opportunity to help implement changes through humane education and outreach.

Suffolk is one of the fastest growing cities in Virginia. Addressing this issue will only enhance Suffolk’s reputation as a forward-thinking, compassionate city. We look forward to a time when tethered dogs are part of Suffolk’s past.

Michele Thames is the interim executive director of the Suffolk Humane Society. Email her at