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    Bill By State Sen. Lowenthal Would Prohibit Tethering, Chaining Or Restraining Dogs Subject To Certain Exceptions, Advances To Verge Of Final Passage

    (Aug. 10, 2006) -- A bill by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) that would forbid anyone from tethering, fastening, chaining or restraining a dog to a dog house, tree, fence, or other stationary objects -- subject to certain exceptions (full text and details below) -- has advanced to the verge of passage by the state legislature.

    On August 9, SB 1578 cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 12-4 vote -- with area Assemblymembers Betty Karnette (D., LB) and Jenny Oropeza (D., Carson-LB) both voting "yes" -- and now heads to the Assembly floor after previously passing the State Senate. If approved by the Assembly, it would go to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger...who holds a potential veto pen and has not publicly weighed-in on the measure.

    The bill's prohibitions on dog tethering allow certain exceptions: (a) by using a running line, pulley or trolley system; (b) pursuant to the requirements of a camping or recreational area; (c) for no longer than necessary for the person to complete a temporary task requiring the dog to be restrained for a "reasonable time" -- defined as three hours within a 24-hour period or a time otherwise approved by animal control; or (d) while engaged in an activity conducted pursuant to a state license if that activity is associated with the use or presence of a dog.

    Under the legislation, violation of the prohibitions could be handled as either an infraction subject to a fine up to $250 or prosecuted as a misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months.

    The Assembly Appropriations Committee's legislative analysis stated in pertinent part:

    According to the [bill's] sponsor, the California Animal Association, chained dogs create a public safety threat as they can become aggressive due to intense confinement, lack of socialization and the inability to escape from perceived threats. In a 2000 report on dog breeds, the Center for Disease Control noted that a 1991 study in Denver of medically-attended dog bites suggested that chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs. The sponsor also notes that chaining dogs is an animal welfare issue, as chained dogs are forced to eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in a confined area, are rarely exercised, and often suffer from lack of proper food, water, shelter and veterinary care.

    Under existing law, animal control officers may intervene only when a chained dog poses an immediate animal welfare or public safety threat.

    ...Opposition. The Animal Council argues that "anti-tethering laws have become popular based on the fiction that tethering is abusive and creates dangerously aggressive dogs." The Council also argues that existing law addresses this issue, and notes that a number of local tethering laws exist, as well as statewide law under Penal Code Section 597t. The Council maintains that fencing is not always available, feasible or safe and that tethering may be the best and safest option. In addition, the California Farm Bureau and the California Cattlemen's Association believe that the bill would impose undue restrictions on family farms and ranches that use dogs.

    To view the current text of the bill [caveat: may subsequently be amended] SB 1578.

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