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Delegate wants to limit dog-chaining
A Virginia legislator seeks restrictions on pet owners who chain their dogs, saying change would cut canine aggression.

Date published: 12/12/2006


RICHMOND--Does chaining make Fido fierce?

Fewer children might be maimed and killed in dog attacks if we treat "man's best friend" as a member of the family, a Virginia legislator says.

Algie T. Howell Jr., a Democratic delegate from Norfolk, will introduce a bill in the General Assembly next month that would make it illegal for pet owners to chain their dogs for more than three hours a day.

The state of California passed a similar law in September.

"Chaining a dog is not only inhumane," Howell said, "but, in my view, makes the dog more aggressive."

His contention is supported by a recent study authored in part by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. It showed that chained dogs are nearly three times more likely to attack.

The victims are most often children. In 2002, according to the CDC, chained dogs killed as many children as gun accidents.

And a 1994 study authored by the CDC concluded that, "Biting dogs were significantly more likely to be chained."

Since 2003, the media has reported 104 Americans being injured or killed by chained dogs--75 percent of the victims children. The actual number may be higher, those opposed to chaining say, because police reports and news accounts sometimes omit details about tethering.

"Chaining dogs makes them more aggressive--the shorter the chain, the greater the aggression," said Nicholas H. Dodman, a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, Mass.

Dodman, author of the book "Dogs Behaving Badly," is director of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts.

He said in a telephone interview that keeping dogs inside as part of a family unit greatly reduces the chance of attacks. Chaining dogs--naturally social animals--induces "isolation-induced aggression, " and creates a "junkyard dog" effect, he said.

"They basically go mad," Dodman said, when chained for extended periods of time.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals in Norfolk has launched a TV public service announcement taped by Virginia Beach resident Alice Conner, whose 2-year-old cousin Jonathan Martin of Suffolk was killed in October 2005 by his family's chained dog.

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California law

In September, California banned the tethering of dogs for more than three hours a day.

"This bill helps protect dogs from cruelty and enhances public safety by preventing aggressive animal behavior that can result from inhumane tethering," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.