Community Support: Your Tethering Law Passed. Now What?
Create long-term change by providing resources to dog owners
Effective laws are an important tool for saving companion animal lives and reducing their suffering. But they are only part of what is needed to create long-term social change in a community. Most pet owners love and want the best for their pets. But with 23 million pets living in poverty, many pet owners lack access to basic pet care information, services and resources and need support from animal care service providers.
It is not safe to assume that just because a law passed, people know about it and are able to comply without assistance. No one wants pets to lose their homes unnecessarily due to owners' fears of law enforcement, fines they cannot afford or standards they cannot achieve without help.
To be as effective as possible in addressing the problem of tethering, we urge advocates and enforcement agencies to consider the following questions as they relate to the ordinance the community has passed.
- How will information about the new laws and requirements for pet care be shared throughout the community to ensure awareness?
- What can and will be done to support pet owners, remove barriers for compliance and encourage healthy pet-keeping?
- How will law enforcement, social services and animal welfare groups interact to ensure that punitive measures are a last resort and violations are first addressed with information and resources?
Coalition to Unchain Dogs and Fences for Fido are two examples of community organizations helping tethered dogs by helping their owners. These organizations recognize that many families who tether their dogs love them, but feel they don't have any option other than tethering. They may be lacking the financial resources to build a fence or the information needed to resolve the behavioral problem that caused the dog to be tethered in the first place. Groups like these often tailor their resources to the individual situation, offering information and services that may include wellness care, spay/neuter services, vaccinations and fences or fenced enclosures for dogs.
Amanda Arrington, founder of Coalition to Unchain Dogs, recognizes the importance of having community support to end tethering, even if an ordinance has passed. "Very early on, Coalition to Unchain Dogs learned that tethering was a very visual representation of a much larger issue—that certain people and segments of our community lacked access to pet care information and services, including spay/neuter, vaccinations, preventive veterinary care and more," says Arrington. "In turn, building fences for dogs is just one piece of our organization's mission to comprehensively serve our community and ensure everyone is connected to resources for their dogs that most of us take for granted. Passing a tethering ordinance did not guarantee fewer dogs would be chained and more would be living happier with their families; providing concrete support to families is what produced those results. As an organization, we would never advocate for an ordinance without options being available for those impacted by the ordinance. We've seen change occur in the communities where we work because we respect the struggles many people are experiencing and understand our role is to offer alternatives that wouldn't exist otherwise."
Kelly Peterson, founder of Fences For Fido, agrees. "While the heart of Fences For Fido will always be building fences, as an organization we recognized it was not enough to simply build fences," she says. "In order to be responsive to the needs of our community, we needed to address the overarching problems associated with long-term tethering. And, while FFF will always be respectful of the families we serve, we needed to elevate the standards of care, to move the needle forward and ask our clients to search out better ways to meet the needs of their four-legged family members, yet not absolve our own responsibility as an organization to be there for them."