One thing that is on the top of everyone's mind in the animal advocate community is the plight of chained dogs.
We see them suffering everywhere in the province and there is almost nothing we can do about them because if they have even the most nominal shelter and access to some kind of water - then it's legal to keep them in that condition in Nova Scotia.
Everyone knows that's wrong - and there is a movement - to make the changes that are needed - now.
I have some ideas about what changes can be made, and they are slightly different than what others are suggesting - and I'm going to put them forward here, for whatever they are worth.
I've been involved with chained dog issues for almost 10 years, so anti-chaining legislation is something I've been following for quite awhile. I really don't think we need to reinvent the wheel in Nova Scotia.
There's other places in Canada and the US who already have anti-tether legislation in place - just a couple of those places are Delta, British Columbia, Hillsborough County Florida and Cumberland, North Carolina - they both have unbelievably fabulous anti-tethering legislation.
One thing that my type of legislation is different from that the one's that are being proposed both by the provincial government and the "humane organization" they are working with - is that I believe this legislation should be in MUNICIPAL by-laws - not PROVINCIAL laws.
Everywhere else in North America that you find anti-tether legislation - it is within municipal legislation. Even here in Nova Scotia - if you look at the fantabulously wonderful Parrsboro municipal bylaw - they talk about anti-tether regulations in their bylaw.
There's several reasons why I think it should be in municipal bylaws and not provincial legislation.
In Nova Scotia the Nova Scotia SPCA enforces the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act for the whole province. They currently have about 2.5 Cruelty officers for the whole province. That is not enough manpower to deal with all the chained dog complaints that would come in if we had actual anti-tether legislation enacted. The complaints would never be dealt with.
Every municipality in the province has an animal control officer - so if every Municipality enacted an anti-tether bylaw - when complaints came in - there's a hope that those complaints would be dealt with - and some animals might be saved.
The Provincial government is currently not even planning on enacting any anti-tether legislation - what they are planning on is including the topic in some kind of "regulations" - which are really just policies and procedures that the NS SPCA will have to follow - not really actual laws - so we want to have any teeth for anti-tether legislation - putting them into municipal bylaws is really the only way to go.
So on to what other cities bylaws actually say in their anti-tether bylaws:
Delta, British Columbia -
No person may keep or leave a domestic animal, other than a spayed cat, unattended outside for more than an hour, unless it is provided with outside shelter to ensure protection from heat, cold and wet that is appropriate to the domestic animal’s weight and type of coat. Such shelter:
(a) must provide sufficient space to allow the domestic animal the ability to turn around freely and to easily stand, sit and lie in a normal position;
(b) must be at least 1 ½ times the length of the domestic animal and at least the domestic animal’s length in width, and at least one hundred ten percent (110 %) as high as the domestic animal’s height measured from the floor to the highest point of the domestic animal when standing in a normal position;
(c) must provide sufficient shade to protect the domestic animal from the direct rays of the sun at all times;
(d) must contain bedding that will assist with maintaining normal body temperature for the domestic animal; and
(e) must be regularly cleaned and sanitized and have all excrement removed and properly disposed of daily.
37. No person may cause, permit or allow an animal:
(a) to be hitched, tied, or fastened to a fixed object where a choke collar forms part of the securing apparatus, or where a rope or cord is tied directly around the animal’s neck;
Hillsborough County Florida's bylaw generally is excellent (one super thing they have is a rebate program if you spay or neuter your dog - if you speuter your dog you get money back from the city! Now that would increase the amount of altered pets, don't you think?) - their anti-tether section states:
Confinement to property; tethering.
Pet owners, harborers and keepers must use sound judgment and take reasonable steps to ensure the health and wellness of their pets in order to comply with this article. This includes the following:
(1)It is unlawful and a violation of this article for any person to tether a dog, except when:
a.The dog is in visual range of the owner, harborer or keeper who must also be physically present with the dog and attending to it while it is tethered;
b.The tether is connected to the dog by a commercially available buckle-type collar or a body harness made of nylon or leather that is of sufficient size to adequately and safely restrain the dog;
c.The tether is of a size and weight that is reasonably necessary to safely restrain the dog without placing excessive strain or weight on the dog; and
d.The dog is not tethered outside in periods of extreme weather, including but not limited to, extreme heat or cold, thunderstorms, lightning, tornadoes, tropical storms or hurricanes.
(2)Exceptions. Provided that a dog is tethered in a manner and under conditions that do not jeopardize its health, safety or well being, Subsection (1) of this section, shall not apply to a dog that is:
a.In attendance at, or participating in, any legal, organized publicly attended event in which both dog and owner are permitted attendees or participants;
b.Actively engaged in conduct that is directly related to the business of shepherding or herding cattle or livestock or related to the business of cultivating agricultural products, as long as the restraint is reasonably necessary for the safety of the dog;
c.Tethered, chained, tied, or restrained by a veterinarian or groomer while attending to the dog;
d.Trained, or being trained, to act in a law enforcement capacity;
e.Being lawfully used to actively hunt a species of wildlife in this State, during the hunting season, for that species of wildlife;
f.Tethered temporarily while being kept in a bona fide humane shelter approved by the Department or at a commercial boarding facility;
g.Tethered in accordance with the regulations of a camping or recreational area;
h.Being cared for as part of a rescue operation during a natural or manmade disaster; or
i.Being transported in a vehicle.
(3)A dog that is sick or injured cannot be tethered as a means of confinement by the owner, harborer or keeper.
(4)A puppy under the age of six months old may only be tethered, if attended to at all times by the owner, harborer or keeper, during the entire time the puppy is tethered.
(5)In no case shall a dog be tethered outside if the owner, has been issued a "letter of dangerous propensity" for that dog by the Department, or if the dog has been declared dangerous in accordance with F.S. Ch. 767, or if the person responsible for the dog has knowledge of the dog's prior aggressiveness, unless the tethered dog is in a fenced enclosure that will prevent the public or domestic animals from coming into contact with the tethered dog.
Cumberland County North Carolina has an amazingly detailed 23 page dog bylaw which includes a ridiculously huge anti-tether section. I'm not going to copy it here, because there's no way that we would want to enact what they have there - but it's interesting reading none the less.
So after having putting Delta BC's and Hillsborough Florida's anti-tether bylaws above - do I think we could have anything so intricate here in Nova Scotia? No. But I think we could have something like -
1. No person may keep or leave a domestic animal, other than a spayed cat, unattended outside for more than an hour, unless it is provided with outside shelter to ensure protection from heat, cold and wet that is appropriate to the domestic animal’s weight and type of coat. Such shelter:(a) must provide sufficient space to allow the domestic animal the ability to turn around freely and to easily stand, sit and lie in a normal position;(b) must be at least 1 ½ times the length of the domestic animal and at least the domestic animal’s length in width, and at least one hundred ten percent (110 %) as high as the domestic animal’s height measured from the floor to the highest point of the domestic animal when standing in a normal position;(c) must provide sufficient shade to protect the domestic animal from the direct rays of the sun at all times;(d) must contain bedding that will assist with maintaining normal body temperature for the domestic animal; and(e) must be regularly cleaned and sanitized and have all excrement removed and properly disposed of daily.2. No person may cause, permit or allow an animal:(a) to be hitched, tied, or fastened to a fixed object where a choke collar forms part of the securing apparatus, or where a rope or cord is tied directly around the animal’s neck.
That is very similar to what Parrsboro's bylaw already says - except for a couple little changes. So it already exists in Nova Scotia - there's already a precedent.
I think it's enforceable. It's enforced in other places, and it would be good legislation.
One last thing I wanted to talk about is something that hopefully a few people will remember - and that is the Waddell Inquest report from 2004.
In that report one of the recommendations to parents read as follows:
"Recognize that dogs require frequent contact with social partners to maintain balanced behaviour. Social isolation as a result of being tied outside or kennelled excessively will predispose dogs to a wide variety of behaviour problems, including aggression."
The Waddell Inquest was such an important report and gave us so many insights. I have talked about it many times over the years and I hope that James Waddell's death is never forgotten - and the lessons we learned from it - continue to be taken to heart. You can read the report in it's entirety here.
In regards to the importance of my views on what we should do with anti-tether legislation, I hope other people will agree with me.