Read the original article by AKC Government Relations at akc.org here.
The Virginia Senate will likely soon vote on a bill that could create a number of significant problems for dogs and dog owners in Virginia, including unreasonable tethering laws that could actually hurt dogs and a new provision that would allow local governments to pass new, stricter laws on basic standards of animal care including food, water, exercise and veterinary treatments.
Those who reside or participate in dog events in Virginia are strongly encouraged to contact the Senate today. Tell them the bill will not actually help dogs in the Commonwealth and encourage them to not allow Senate Bill 1025 to pass as written.
Visit the Virginia General Assembly website and type in your address to find the name and contact information for your State Senator.
Senate Bill 1025 contains two sections that have the potential to be problematic for dogs and Virginia dog owners:
- Tethering provisions that could actually harm dogs – Under Senate Bill 1025, a companion animal could not be tethered outside if there is a heat advisory or a severe weather warning. Although AKC appreciates that language was removed that would not allow dogs outside unless the temperature was within a certain range, it is still unclear if this would prohibit even temporary tethering in a humane manner, or even situations when the owner is with the dog. There is an exception for a companion animal actively engaged in an agricultural or hunting activity, but these terms are not defined, and it is unclear how this section would be enforced.
Current law already requires that a tether allow an animal to stand, sit, turn around and lie down. It also requires that the animal have a properly applied collar, harness, etc. that will prevent the tether from getting tangled and ensure the animal will not get strangled or injured. It also states that when freedom of movement could endanger the animal, the owner is permitted to restrict movement.
However, Senate Bill 1025 would seem to contradict current protections for animals by arbitrarily requiring that all tethers be 15 feet long or four times the length of the dog (whichever is longer) unless the animal is being walked on a leash or is attached to a lead line. It does not appear to provide for situations where new requirements could endanger animals by allowing them to wander into public areas or harmful situations resulting in strangulation. In addition, it is unclear whether tethering under this bill would include instances when owners are grooming their dogs outside on a grooming table, in which case this tether length could cause significant injury to the dog.
The tethering provisions only apply to companion animals. The bill removes previous requirements that made the current tethering laws apply to agricultural animals.
- Expands authority of local governments to pass new laws on basic animal care – Virginia local governments are already permitted to pass stricter laws on certain issues including dog licensing, rabies vaccinations, animal shelter regulations, etc.
Under Senate Bill 1025, this power would be significantly expanded to allow each locality to pass their own laws on basic needs such as water, food, exercise, and veterinary care as long as the laws are AT LEAST as strict as Virginia law. Current Virginia code simply states that all owners must provide these basic needs, but does not provide specifics, as each animal is different. This new provision could result in an inconsistent and confusing patchwork of animal care laws across the commonwealth. It could also result in laws that may not be appropriate for all dogs in all situations.