Birmingham City Council is cracking down on animal rights abusers with a new law that makes it illegal to tether any animal to a chain, or a fixed point, for longer than eight hours.
The law, approved on July 21, punishes first offenders with a fine of $150. Second and third offenses, committed within 12 months of the first, will incur fines of $250 and $400 respectively.
The law received unanimous approval, WBRC reported.
Chair of Birmingham’s Public Safety Committee Hunter Williams said the law resulted from a large number of complaints about locals chaining their dogs to trees or keeping them on permanent tethers. Using dogs as a “cheap alarm system” causes real harm, he said.
“This is an effort to curb that type of animal cruelty,” Williams said, AL.com reported. “If you aren’t willing to responsibly take care of your animal you shouldn’t have one, and we want to make that clear in the city’s code.”
Williams hopes the new law will help stop the “passive abuse” of domestic animals.
The restriction details exactly what constitutes a “humane” tethering device; dogs and other domestic animals may only be tethered if the device allows for an “unrestrained range of movement,” preferably connected to an overhead running line or cable.
The tethering device must be attached to a “properly fitting collar or harness worn by the dog, with enough room between the collar and the dog’s throat through which two fingers may fit,” the law states.
In addition, the cable or running line must measure at least 12 feet in length but must not allow the dog access to a street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way. Chaining a dog or other domestic animal to a fixed point, such as a post or dog house, is prohibited.
An animal may not be tethered if the owner is not at home, nor may it be left outside on a tether or with a shelter during severe weather.
“In our past ordinance, our law enforcement was not able to enforce it to the extent they needed to,” Williams said, as reported by Birmingham Times, “so this makes it very cut and dry.”
According to research compiled by Michigan State University’s Animal Legal & Historical Center, 22 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have dog tethering restrictions in place as of 2019. While laws may differ, many share similarities.
More recent laws place restrictions on the amount of time that a dog can be tethered within a 24-hour period. Some states specify the type of tether that must be used, while others dictate its length or weight.
Hawaii, Texas, and Rhode Island have outlawed “choke collars,” “pinch collars,” and prong-type collars.
The vast majority of states with tethering restrictions specify that the tether must allow the animal to access food, water, and shelter at all times without risking entanglement.
Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Texas, and now Alabama restrict tethering during severe weather conditions.
Largely, penalties for infractions amount to a fine of around $100, increasing to $500 or more for repeat offenses. Dogs forced to endure cruel conditions may, in some states, be removed to a local shelter and rehomed at the owner’s expense.
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