How You Can Improve Laws
Steps for improving the dog ordinance in your city or state:
- Educate yourself on the issue of chaining. Learn how chaining affects
dogs, and how chained dogs are a danger to the community. Familiarize yourself
with laws in other communities that ban or restrict chaining.
I no longer advocate for ordinances that allow trolleys/dog runs. In theory,
they are better than a short fixed chain, but it is too easy for dogs to get
tangled and strangled on trolleys. A dog died on a trolley I installed because
he got tangled up in the summer heat and couldn't get free. They just aren't the
solution. This doesn't mean everyone has to build a fence. People who can't
afford fences can bring their dogs inside to be part of the family.
- Research the current law in your own city or county. All animal ordinances
should have a section regarding the confinement of animals. A section regulating
tethering could be added to this section. Many city laws can be found on the
Web site municode.com. If your
community's laws aren't found there, check with your local library, City Hall,
or County Commission and request a copy of the animal ordinance. You should also
familiarize yourself with your state's law.
- Find a model ordinance. Look at these
laws from other communities across
America. You can use these verbatim, or combine several ordinances to create one
you think will work best for your community.
If your current ordinance is weak
on other dog issues, such as shelter requirements or cruelty, consider trying to
update those sections, too.
- Find allies. Search your community for people who will help you in your
campaign. Call your local humane society, veterinary offices (vets typically get
a lot of respect from city officials), environmental groups, dog clubs, and
animal rescue groups.
Search the web for local animal-related listserves. Send an email to everyone
you know to interest people in the issue and ask for support.
Create a flyer with a few photos of chained dogs with a tagline, "Tired of seeing
chained, neglected dogs? Call *** to help campaign for a better animal ordinance
in our city" You could even run a small ad in the newspaper.
- Know your opposition. Think about who in your community might oppose your
campaign. Hunters (who often keep hunting dogs chained or in small pens),
dog breeders, advocates for the economically disadvantaged, and sled dog groups often oppose anti-chaining legislation. The AKC has recently begun fighting chaining laws.
- Introduce your ordinance.
Go to a City Director of County Commissioner who is friendly to animal issues,
or go to your own representative. Your City Attorney may be
helpful in explaining how laws are passed in your community.
Meet with whomever enforces the animal ordinance in your community, probably the
police, humane society, or animal services. Since they will be the ones enforcing the law, it's
important to get their opinion. City employees such as police and
animal control officers usually get respectful attention at City Hall.
Download this generic
PowerPoint slide show to edit and use in presentations. Click "save to
computer." Read each slide's Speaker's Notes for more information about the
slide and how to best use it.
When you meet with
IMPORTANT: When you talk with your legislator, be sure and stress the danger
that chained dogs pose to people. Print this
and news stories
and statements from the CDC, AVMA, and
USDA on the link between chaining and aggression. Chained dogs usually become very territorial and aggressive, and when they get loose are likely to injure people. Chained dogs are also most likely unvaccinated and
Stress that an ordinance addressing chaining is a powerful tool for Animal
Services Officers to have. In every city there are repeat offenders who always
have neglected dogs in their backyard, but the dogs aren't neglected enough for
an ACO to bring cruelty charges.
An anti-chaining ordinance will give ACOs the
ability to cite these repeat offenders and end the cycle of neglect. After our
ordinance passed in Little Rock, people who had had chained and neglected
their dogs for years finally gave up their dogs. For the first time in years,
their yards are empty of hungry, flea-bitten, chained dogs who were a
constant source of worry to the neighborhood.
A chaining ban also helps crack down on dogfighters. It can be hard to bust a
dogfight, but many dogfighters do keep their dogs continually chained.
Be prepared for the argument: What about poor people who can't afford a
fence? Activist Ambuja Rosen interviewed advocates for the poor in her
both agreed that chaining is not an issue of economics.
You don't have to have a fence to have a dog! Think about the thousands of
apartment-dwellers in large cities who don't even have yards. Their dogs are
perfectly happy living inside with regular walks.
- Once you have a sponsor (or even if you don't have a
sponsor), lobby the other commissioners. Provide informational packets to all of
- Have supporters submit
letters to the editor of your local paper.
- Mobilize your supporters to contact their commissioners. Try to find
people in each ward/district to contact that ward's commissioner.
- Send lots of letters to your local newspaper. You can write several letters
yourself and read them to your friends. If your friends agree with the content,
ask if you can put their name on the letter and send it in.
- Gather signatures on petitions to present at City Hall. You can
flyer when gathering signatures.
- You can ask national organizations such as the Humane Society of
the United States to write letters for you. However, be
warned that sometimes communities resent "outside interference."
- Create a list of local organizations who support your ordinance, and find out
how many members each group has. The groups don't have to sign anything--just
give you their verbal approval of the law.
- Use the media carefully! Try getting your ordinance to City Hall
"under the radar" first. If lawmakers are totally unreceptive, then
try influencing them with media attention. However, getting your
issue in the public will draw detractors and people who think
chaining is perfectly OK.
- Public Hearings:
Most City Board meetings have a time in their meetings when citizens can make comments.
Sometimes hearings are planned where citizens can speak out on a specific issue. Take advantage of this.
Get dog bite victims, animal welfare activists, vets, dog trainers, K9 police
officers, or just regular folks to speak on behalf of the ordinance.
petitions and/or list of supporting organizations. Even if there are
only 5 supporters at City Hall that day, you can say, "Our local humane society,
the K9 Dog Club, CARE Animal Rescue Group, and the ARF Animal Group all support
this. These 4 organizations represent 600 local citizens in support of
Do not be over-emotional! Lawmakers typically have more
respect for rational, well-thought-out arguments than crying and
hand-wringing. Have facts - don't just say, "Do this because of the
poor, poor dogs." Too much emotion tends to make lawmakers
Be sure that public speakers dress professionally. You don't want to
be written off as an "animal rights nut" before you even open your
- The Vote: In the days before the vote, get as many phone calls, faxes
and emails to them as possible. Make sure they know the majority of people want
this law to help dogs.
Remind your legislators that at the end of every leash, there is a voter! Most
people who love dogs want to see them treated well, not chained 24/7.
Remember that your city/county legislators work for YOU! You are paying their
salaries and they have an obligation to listen to you. To pass a new law
requires persistence and courage. You may be told time and again to
forget about your idea. So keep at it!
Many, many cities are passing new laws! It can be done, often pretty easily. So
join the revolution! :-)
Passing a law is the BEST way to help ALL dogs in your community!
[Back to top]