Dog tethering: Where do you draw the line?

It’s not uncommon to see pooches tethered outside a convenience store while their paw-rents pop in to run errands. But when does restraining a dog become inhumane? We consult our panel of experts.
By Pets Team
Published on Monday, 30 November 2015

It’s not uncommon to see pooches tethered outside a convenience store while their paw-rents pop in to run errands. But when does restraining a dog become inhumane? The issue of dog tethering entered the media spotlight after it was brought to the attention of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in July this year that a dog was being restrained day and night by a 1.5m leash outside a car workshop in Paya Ubi Industrial Park. After AVA paid the workshop owner a visit, the animal was moved into the workshop but remained tethered by a 2m leash to a small flight of stairs behind a desk. Although animal activists subsequently launched an online petition to legislate against chaining dogs, things reached a stalemate.

The AVA still doesn’t ban the tethering of dogs, but it states that “pet owners who choose to tie or tether their pet dogs should ensure that the area where the dog is tethered is safe and comfortable, and sufficiently sheltered and ventilated. (It) should also be clean and have adequate space for the dog to lie down, stretch and move unimpeded within the confines of the restraint”.

So is tethering acceptable if these requisites are fulfilled? Local veterinarians and dog trainers pets spoke to were unanimous on the matter. “Tethering often involves tying a dog to a yard outdoors, which exposes the animal to the elements—many dogs have suffered heat strokes because of being tethered in the hot sun,” says Dr Gwenda Lowe from Amber Veterinary Practice. “Dogs need exercise, socialisation and mental stimulation. Hence, pooches that are constantly tied up develop psychological and behavioural disorders, and suffer from physical ailments, such as sores on their necks, obesity, and underdeveloped muscle strength.”

Is tethering justifiable if Fido is aggressive then? “Restraining a dog is not a feasible long-term solution to aggression, but instead, exacerbates it. It can cause a lot of frustration, which can manifest through lunging, growling, snapping, and biting. Aggressive behaviour should be tackled through training and rehabilitation, not tethering,” says trainer Michelle Chan from Pup Pup ‘N’ Away.

As a rule of thumb, a dog shouldn’t be tethered unsupervised—especially outdoors—and if necessary, it should be for no more than 10 or 15 minutes. Regardless of the type of restraint used, Dr Lowe says that the 5ʻF’s of animal freedom should not be infringed:
• Freedom from fear.
• Freedom to express normal behaviour.
• Freedom from hunger or thirst.
• Freedom from physical pain or illness, including neck injuries from pulling on a collar
• Freedom from environmental conditions, such as the sun, rain, and heat. The animal should also be able to sit, lie down, turn around, and stand without discomfort.