Animal Tethering Prohibitions

Updated June 2019

Several state laws and regulations address the issue of tethering companion animals, specifically dogs. Many other animal cruelty statutes likely would be interpreted to prohibit tethering where it is detrimental to the animal, though the statute may not specifically use the term "tethering."

Currently, there are 33 states and DC that place specific restrictions on tethering animals.

California law prohibits a person from tethering, fastening, chaining, tying, or restraining a dog to a dog house, tree fence, or other stationary object, with some exceptions.

The District of Columbia, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia place restrictions on the type and length of tether that may be used.

Indiana's animal cruelty laws define neglect to include instances where an animal is kept on a tether that is too small or too heavy. Similarly, Tennessee law establishes as an element of cruelty to animals, the offense of knowingly tying, tethering or restraining a dog in a manner that results in the dog suffering bodily injury.

Maine and Vermont both prohibit tethering when it is inhumane or detrimental to the animal's welfare, and specify appropriate conditions for tethering. West Virginia law prohibits cruelly chaining or tethering a dog.

Maryland law prohibits the use of any restraint that (1) unreasonably limits the movement of a dog, (2) restricts its access to food and water, (3) has a primarily metal collar, (4) has a collar that is less than the circumference of the dog's neck plus one inch, (5) causes injury to the dog, or (6) places the dog in unsafe or unsanitary conditions.

Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin have tethering laws that apply specifically to animal care facilities and kennels that specify the types and length of tethers that may be used.

Ohio law prohibits the permanent tethering of adults dogs or puppies to any object for use as primary enclosure.

Texas law prohibits an owner from keeping a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that (1) unreasonably limits the dog's movement between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., (2) is within 500 feet of the premises of a school, or (3) where extreme weather conditions are present. The law also provides requirements as to the appropriate type of collar and tether length.

Nevada adopted a bill in 2009 that prohibits a person from restraining a dog using a tether, chain, tie, trolley or pulley system or other device that: (1) is less than 12 feet in length; (2) fails to allow the dog to move at least 12 feet or, if the device is a pulley system, fails to allow the dog to move a total of 12 feet; or (3) allows the dog to reach a fence or other object that may cause the dog to become injured or die by strangulation after jumping the fence or object or otherwise becoming entangled in the fence or object. The law further prohibits a person from using a prong, pinch or choke collar or similar restraint and prohibits tethering a dog for more than 14 hours during a 24 hour period.

Hawaii also adopted a law in 2009 that defines cruelty to animals to include tethering, fastening, tying, or restraining a dog to a dog house, tree, fence, or any other stationary object by means of a choke collar, pinch collar, or prong collar. The law does allow a person to use such restraints when walking a dog with a hand-held leash or while a dog is engaged in a supervised activity.

Connecticut prohibits tethering a dog to a stationary object or to a mobile device, including, but not limited to, a trolley or pulley by means of a: (1) Tether that does not allow such dog to walk at least eight feet, (2) tether that does not have swivels on both ends to prevent twisting and tangling, (3) coat hanger, choke collar, prong-type collar, head halter or any other collar, halter or device that is not specifically designed or properly fitted for the restraint of such dog, (4) tether that has weights attached or that contains metal chain links more than one-quarter of an inch thick, or (5) tether that allows such dog to reach an object, including, but not limited to, a window sill, edge of a pool, fence, porch or terrace railing that poses a substantial risk of injury or strangulation to such dog if such dog jumps over such object, unless a person is in the presence of such dog. The law was updated in 2013 to prohibit a person from tethering a dog outdoors when a weather advisory or warning is issued or when outdoor environment conditions pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of such dog, unless tethering is for a duration of no longer than fifteen minutes. The law does make certain exceptions including an exception for veterinarians while performing veterinary procedures.

Florida and Arizona statutes both address tethering as it pertains to pregnant sows and Oregon law prohibits the confinement of a pregnant pig by tether or other means for a 12 hour or more period of time where such confinement prohibits the animal from turning around freely and lying down to fully extend its limbs.

Arkansas' law addresses adequate confinement for wolves and wolf-dog hybrids but specifically prohibits the use of tethering if not under the direct supervision and control of the owner/custodian.

In the 2010 legislative session, Louisiana adopted a law that creates the crime of unlawful restraint of a dog. It provides that it shall be unlawful to tie, tether, or restrain any animal in a manner that is inhumane, cruel, or detrimental to its welfare. The bill provides exceptions including restraint in accordance with accepted veterinary practices.

In 2012, Rhode Island adopted a law that prohibits a person from tethering a dog in a way that restricts movement to an area less than 113 square feet, or less than a six foot radius at ground level. The new law also prohibits using a choke type collar or prong-type collar and prohibits keeping any dog tethered for more than ten hours during a 24 hour period and keeping any dog confined in a pen, cage or other shelter for more than 14 hours during any 24 hour period.

Delaware also adopted a law that includes within the definition of cruelty to animals, the tethering of a dog for 18 hours or more in any 24 hour period, and tethering any dog for any amount of time if the dog is under four months of age or is a nursing mother while the offspring are present.

Massachusetts' law prohibits tethering a dog for more than 24 consecutive hours to any stationary object. The bill also provides additional tether requirements. For example, the dog must be tethered with something intended for a dog, the tether may not weigh more than 1/8 of the dogs body weight, must allow the dog access to clean water and appropriate shelter, and must be large enough that the dog can stand, lie down, and turn comfortably. The Massachusetts bill also allows a person to confine a dog subject to the restrictions of the bill and defines "cruel conditions" and "inhumane chaining or tethering".

Oregon recently adopted a law that makes unlawful tethering a criminal violation and sets forth standards that must be met in order to tether a domestic animal. Those standards include how and where the animal may be tethered as well as how long the animal may be tethered.

Illinois adopted a law that regulates the type of tether that must be used when tethering a dog outside. It also provides that a dog must not suffer from a condition that is known to be exacerbated by tethering and requires that the dog be tethered in a manner that will prevent it from becoming entangled with other tethered dogs.

Finally, in 2019, Virginia enacted a law that defines adequate shelter and space. When an animal is tethered, “adequate space” means that the tether is: (1) appropriate to the age and size of the animal; (2) is attached to the animal by a properly applied collar, halter, or harness that is configured so as to protect the animal from injury and prevent the animal or tether from becoming entangled with other objects or animals, or from extending over an object or edge that could result in the strangulation or injury of the animal; (3) is at least ten feet in length or three times the length of the animal, as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, whichever is greater, except when the animal is being walked on a leash or is attached by a tether to a lead line; (4) does not, by its material, size, or weight or any other characteristic, cause injury or pain to the animal; does not weigh more than one-tenth of the animal's body weight; and (5) does not have weights or other heavy objects attached to it.

Source: Staff research, AVMA Division of State Advocacy
Contact: State Policy Analyst, AVMA Division of State Advocacy