Activist chains self at Capitol to protest plight of dogs


The fight to pass anti-tethering legislation in Harrisburg took an unexpected turn today.

Here's my story for the Inquirer:

An animal-rights activist has chained herself to a doghouse she lugged to the Capitol steps and has vowed to stay there to protest the plight of dogs tethered in backyards throughout Pennsylvania.

Tamira Ci Thayne, founder of the Altoona-based group Dogs Deserve Better, says she'll sit there during the day until the General Assembly passes legislation to outlaw round-the-clock dog chaining - or until she thinks she's done all she can do to get such a bill passed.

"The bottom line for me is that chaining is wrong. To treat an animal in this fashion, it's inhumane," said Thayne, whose action started Monday. She has orchestrated protests around the country calling for anti-chaining laws.

Thayne and animal behavior experts say there is evidence that some dogs left on chains for hours at a time become more aggressive.

Activists in Pennsylvania have fought for six years for anti-tethering legislation, but have run into opposition from some farming groups and dog clubs that say owners would face penalties for merely tying dogs outside while the animals relieved themselves or while the people ate in outdoor cafés.

A bill currently before the state Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee would make it illegal to chain a dog between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for 15-minute periods. Dog owners also would be barred from tying their dogs outside in extreme heat or cold.

The Senate does not return until Sept. 20.

Thayne, who is holding her Capitol sit-in between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays only, vows to wait out the legislators.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester), a member of the informal Senate "dog caucus," which also includes Philadelphia's Leanna Washington, said: "Hopefully the legislation will have momentum and she doesn't have to stay too long."

He said he is pushing the bill because he believes chaining subjects dogs to "horrendous" living conditions. "As a humane society we should treat all animals as kindly as possible," he said.

Dinniman said he thinks the fact that the lead cosponsor is a Republican (Sen. Richard Alloway of Franklin County) should help its chances in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Pennsylvania SPCA says it responds to calls of animals dead or dying on the end of chains on a regular basis.