Deadly practice could end, as S.C. considers first-ever law on chaining, tying up dogs

(Stock Image/Thinkstock) WCIV

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) — Dogs chained or tied outdoors are often exposed to extreme heat or severe weather conditions, and other potential dangers. South Carolina currently has no laws regulating the practice of tethering dogs outside, but soon that could change.

A special panel appointed by the S.C. Legislature has been meeting in Columbia to put together a set of laws regarding tethering.

The proposed legislation would ban tethering of a dog for extended period of times or more than an hour, according to the panel's chairman, Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

Aldwin Roman, the Director of Anti-Cruelty and Outreach at the Charleston Animal Shelter, called the proposal a small step but a step in the right direction.

"We've seen some pretty terrible cases of tethering where dogs are on these very, very heavy logging chains," he said.

Roman testified before the Pet Care & Humane Treatment Study Committee, which is comprised of Sheheen, Rep. Steve Moss, members of the S.C. Department of Agriculture, American Kennel Club representatives, and a number of veterinarians. For a full list of members, click here.

"Dogs are meant to roam and interact with other animals and with people," he said. "When they're on a tether, they can't do that. They're limited. They get frustrated."

He said he believes the panel finally came together amid motivation throughout the the state and a push at the grassroots level for better animal anti-cruelty laws.

"It's just getting it from people's minds and hearts to that statehouse and getting it into a law," he said.

The law would also penalize negligent dog owners for the first time.

It would be a statewide regulation on tethering, and Roman said that would still give municipalities the ability to build on top of the law with complete tether bans if desired.

"Starting with some humane tethering language I think is the way to start," he said. "I think it will make people aware of the problem."

The proposal does not include restrictions during severe weather.

Panelists discussed it during their last meeting in July, but they ultimately decided including the language would make the law too tough to get passed the General Assembly next session.

Still, it's one danger a dog on a tether faces.

"In extreme weather conditions, if it's extremely hot or in a hurricane, the dog is left outside and its chances of survival are a lot lower," he said.

But, Roman knows you have to start somewhere.

"It's a step. There's still a lot more steps to go."

If passed, it will only apply to unsupervised dogs tethered for more than an hour.

20 states and Washington, D.C. already have laws regulating tethering.

The S.C. panel used language from some of those states in drafting these regulations.

"That's the great thing," Roman said. "Other states have already developed this kind of legislation so we don't have to reinvent the wheel. We can use the language they used which they have seen succeed in their communities."

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