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Posted on 11/09/2009 in Your Dog, Your Rights.

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Kanawha County, WV Tethering Ordinance

A worrisome, overly-restrictive tethering ordinance was recently passed in Kanawha County West Virginia. It’s worrisome because surrounding counties may consider similar ordinances, which will have an enormous impact on dog owners, especially hunting dog owners. Kanawha County Commission held 4 public hearings on the issue, and found what they believed to be the majority of public opinion was in support of regulating tethering dogs.
The ordinance states that dogs may not be tethered unless the following elements are met:

    • The dog may be tethered no longer than needed for the ‘guardian or owner’ to complete a temporary task.
    • The dog must be visible at all times.
    • The dog must be wearing a non-choke collar or harness with the tether connected to the collar or harness and not the dog’s neck.
    • The tether must be at least 10 feet long and weigh no more than 1/8 the dog’s weight.
    • The dog must be tethered ‘so as to prevent injury, strangulation, or entanglement.’
    • The dog cannot be tethered outside during ‘extreme weather,’ including extreme heat or near freezing temperatures.
    • The dog must be tethered at least 15 feet from a public sidewalk or road.
    • The dog must be at least 6 months old and not sick or injured.
If the dog is to be tethered on a pulley system, there are even more restrictions. The tether must be at least 15 feet in length, at least 4 feet but no more than 7 feet off the ground, and each dog must be tethered separately.

Outdoor pens are also regulated under this ordinance. Dogs are required to have 100 square feet of space for each dog over 6 months old. Also dogs may not be kept in outdoor pens when the temperature is over 85 degrees or 40 degrees and below. Animal control officers will have the power to waive the square footage requirement if they find, within their discretion, the space given to the dog(s) is enough.

Dogs are also required to have shelter during extreme weather under the new code. However, it does not speak to whether, if the dogs have shelter in their outdoor pens, they may be kept in the pens during extreme weather. The code does not provide at all what is proper for dogs during extreme weather—are they to be brought into the owner’s home? The code prohibits the following as shelters: lean-to’s, metal or plastic drums, boxes, vehicles, or porches or decks.

First offense violators of the code will be given warnings and up to 72 hours to fix the violations. Second offenses will be deemed misdemeanors and fined between $300 up to $2000. Subsequent offenses will follow the same fine guidelines, and upon the 3rd offense, animal control officers may enter the property and take the dog(s) into custody. Violators may be required to pay costs to animal care providers for care of the dog(s) while in custody.

Pennsylvania Ear Cropping and Tail Docking

Pennsylvania signed House Bill 39 into law on August 27, 2009, which regulates ear cropping and tail docking, effective immediately. Ear cropping must be performed by a licensed veterinarian. A dog with freshly cropped ears and unhealed incisions is prima facie evidence, which is legal speak for automatic proof that animal cruelty has been committed. In order not to be charged, the owner of said dog will have to show a certificate from a veterinarian that the crop was performed by a veterinarian, or a certificate of registration. Owners of dogs whose ears were cropped before the law was passed may be grandfathered in by obtaining a certificate of registration from the county treasurer. All of the requirements for ear cropping are the same for debarking dogs.

Owners are permitted under the new law to remove dew claws and dock tails themselves, up until the dogs are 5 days old, after which the procedures must be done by a veterinarian. Once again, dogs with docked tails and dew claws with unhealed incisions are prima facie evidence of animal cruelty and must be defended by veterinary records. The new law also provides that surgical birth must be conducted by a veterinarian and the owner must keep a record of such.

Finally, the new law also seeks to strengthen animal fighting laws. It is now a crime in the state of Pennsylvania to steal or acquire in any manner, any animal to be used for animal fighting.