City urged to give more teeth to its dog tethering bylaw

Leaving dogs tied up unattended for hours, days is a cruel practice, a proponent of stricter bylaws tells council members

  • Jan. 28, 2013 1:00 p.m.

It’s cruel but, sadly, not all that unusual. And it’s not necessarily even meant as punishment.

But that, said Janet Olson,is what long-term tethering of a dog amounts to.

Some Lower Mainland dogs, spend all day, every day alone in a yard at the end of a rope or chain, or locked inside a confined space, she said.

It’s a practice that Olson — a proponent of legislation to ban so-called residential dogs — is hoping the City of Langley will take steps to eliminate.

Olson refers to the animals as residential dogs because they’re not treated as pets.

“They have addresses, not homes,” she said.

Olson appeared before City Council on Jan. 21 to ask them to consider enacting a ban on the unattended chaining, tethering and cruel confining of dogs.

Olson, who has made similar appeals to other Lower Mainland municipal governments, showed council a slide presentation, containing disturbing images of dogs tethered on short chains in mud-filled yards or locked inside enclosures not much larger than the animals themselves.

The dogs suffer emotional trauma of isolation — which can range in severity from boredom to insanity — as well as physical danger, including heat stroke in the summer and freezing in the winter, said Olson.

They are also at risk of becoming tangled in their rope or chain. Olson’s photo presentation contained a number of horrifying images — including of dogs that had strangled themselves at the ends of their chains after jumping over a fence.

All of the photos were taken in the Lower Mainland, Olson said.

Dogs have been bred to want to be companions to humans, she said.

“It’s devastating for chained dogs because they are social pack animals and they suffer a wide range of maladaptive behaviours when they are isolated from humans and other animals,” B.C. SPCA’s Lorie Chortyk, is quoted as saying, in materials supplied by Olson.

Not everyone could stand to watch the presentation.

Councillor Gayle Martin apologized to Olson for looking away as the photos flashed on the screen, saying she can’t even bear to watch the Sara McLachlan commercials (referring to the singer’s ads for the SPCA).

It’s because the images are so hard to look at that it’s important to address the problem, said Olson.

By enacting stronger bylaws, Langley City would actually become a safer place for its human residents, Olson said.

Tethered dogs are three times more likely to bite, she explained. And young children are especially at risk, because they are unaware of the danger.

Martin remarked that such a bylaw would only be enforceable if the City received a complaint.

She suggested staff speak with their counterparts Burnaby, a municipality with what Martin believes is an effective bylaw.

She also asked them to contact Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) to get a sense of how many complaints they typically receive in a given period.

Councillor Dave Hall noted that while some people think it’s cruel to tie up a dog outdoors, others say it is not fair to keep them inside, away from their natural outdoor habitat.

“I’d like to have a clear definition of what’s considered to be long in terms of confinement,” said  Hall.

The City’s current bylaw requires that dogs be tied up when they are kept outdoors in unfenced yards. The bylaw also requires that whatever is used to tie the animal — rope or chain — be attached to a collar and not tied directly around the dog’s neck.

Olson is asking the City to take the rules a step further, with an outright ban on tethering.

She is not calling for a limit on the length of time a dog may remained tied up, she said, because it would be too difficult to enforce, with no way to determine how long a dog has been chained.

A full ban would be easier to enforce and require fewer animal control officer hours, she added — someone is either with the dog or they’re not.

If they’re not, “It’s a clear bylaw infraction.”

At the same time, Olson said, she understands that there are people who, for the well-being of both the dog and their property, must crate a dog  while they’re away from home.

Council took no action on the issue following Olson’s presentation, instead asking staff to prepare a report.