Editorial: House bill goes too far on dog tethering

Published Feb 19, 2013 at 04:00AM

We’ll agree with the idea that tethering a dog — tying it up so that its movement is confined — can be cruel under certain circumstances. We don’t agree, however, with House Bill 2783, a creation of the Legislature’s House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, which would lay out far too limiting rules governing the practice.

No one argues with the notion that a dog tied to a tree by a heavy chain, unable to take shelter from the weather or sun, is not being treated humanely. Nor is it humane to deny a dog food and clean water, no matter where it’s kept. It’s also cruel to tie a dog by a prong or choke collar, either of which can cause pain if handled incorrectly.

Oregon law already gives law enforcement plenty of room to charge the owners of dogs who do any of those things, and HB 2783, which would make it illegal to tether a dog under a variety of conditions, could create problems of its own.

As one example, the bill sets 15 feet as the right length for a tether. Sounds good, but that’s long enough for an animal to become dangerously entangled, injuring himself in the process.

The bill also would set time limits on tethering, no doubt as a way to deal with the owner who chains a dog, then leaves it unattended for days at a time. Again, that’s cruel, and current law addresses the problem adequately.

Finally, the measure ignores that fact that not all dog owners are alike, and many who tether animals are far from cruel. Some — many sled dog racers, for example — have a dozen or more animals, all individually tethered in a dog yard. The animals are well fed, have water and shelter, and tethers are designed to prevent entanglement and injury. Moreover, dogs are routinely freed for exercise, and their medical needs attended to. What they often are not is household pets.

We’re all for busting bad owners for mistreating animals. But mistreatment should be judged on a case-by-case basis, as it is now. A nearly blanket restriction on tethering, as HB 2783 would create, removes that ability.