Time to overhaul state animal cruelty law

Johnson City Press • Dec 6, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Dogs are social creatures, but sadly some pet owners don’t treat them that way. That’s why it’s important for local animal control officials to identify tethered outdoor dogs and make sure they have sufficient housing and bedding for winter.

Chaining a dog to a tree is a very poor way of caring for that animal. The fact is severe behavioral problems are created when dogs are forced to endure weather extremes at the end of a few feet of chain.

Unchainyourdog.org, a website that outlines the cruelty and behavioral problems created by keeping dogs on a chain, says we humans “have many forms of entertainment: movies, music, friends. Your dog only has you. If you can’t give a dog a good life, should you have one?”

Aggression and other behavioral problems caused by chaining dogs have prompted a number of communities to ban the practice. The city of Asheville, N.C., has passed an ordinance that prohibits the tethering of dogs. The measure is aimed at dogs who spend most of their lives tied to posts, stakes or trees.

ChainFree Asheville, an organization that pushed for the new rule, offers to build fences for dog owners who can’t afford them. Johnson City could certainly benefit from an organization like ChainFree Asheville.

In 2008, Johnson City commissioners declined to take action on a proposal from the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Control officials to ban the chaining of dogs inside the city limits.

Commissioners were told by their legal staff the city does not have the authority to approve such a ban because it would exceed the state’s own animal cruelty laws. In short, a bad state law pre-empts sensible local control.

It’s time for state legislators to remove this reprehensible prohibition. We encourage local elected leaders, animal shelter officials and animal humane organizations to speak to our local lawmakers about changing the law.

And while they are addressing animal welfare issues, Tennessee lawmakers should finally do something about closing down the so-called “puppy mills” that are an embarrassment to our state. Animal welfare activists say dogs born into large puppy farms often suffer from disease, neglect or abuse.

Many of these animals end up abandoned in local animal shelters. And it’s usually up to local animal control officials to clean up after busted puppy farms. In both cases, local taxpayers are the ones bearing the costs.

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