Pennsylvania's Capital city is poised to become the largest municipality in the state to ban 24/7 dog chaining.
A Harrisburg City Council committee yesterday approved an ordinance that would make it illegal to leave a dog outside for extended periods of time, The full council is expected to consider the proposal at its May 14 meeting.
Councilman Brad Koplinski, who proposed the bill, said its language states that a dog cannot go out for a "period of time longer than is reasonable to perform a task. Ostensibly, that would mean taking a bathroom break.
"It gives animal control officers a lot of leeway," said Koplinski. "This isn't an effort to go after every instance of someone leaving their dog out for an hour, but to go after owners for whom leaving a dog outside is a form of neglect."
The bill also restricts tethering during period of inclement weather, including extreme heat (over 90 degrees) and cold (below 32 degrees) and forbids the use of choke collars and thick chains.
Animal control office Fred Lemke told the council owners of at least two dogs that he has seen tied to tire irons with heavy chains who would be in violation under the ordinance.
First-time offenders would be fined $350.
Koplinski said he has been discussing the issue with Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance for several years and since the state has failed to pass a statewide tethering ban decided to move forward with a city ordinance.
"Perhaps we can put pressure on the statehouse," he said. There are bills banning round-the-clock tethering in both the House (HB 41) and Senate (SB 522) but neither has advanced beyond committee. Efforts to tighten restrictions on dog chaining have failed in the last three legislative sessions .
Studies show that not only do dogs suffer from lack of socialization and veterinary care if they are forced to live at the end of a chain, but they can become aggressive and attack passersby.
The national anti-dog chaining group, Dogs Deserve Better has tracked attacks on children and others who come in contact with chained dogs.
Five municipalties in York County - Mount Wolf Borough and Spring Garden, Springettsbury, Heidelberg and York townships - have passed versions of anti-tethering ordinances, requiring residents to bring in outside dogs during severe weather and forbidding continuous tethering.
There is currently no dog-tethering bill under consideration in the Philadelphia City Council, but Noelle Marconi, legislative director for Councilman Bill Greenlee, who has supported animal welfare bills in the past, said it's an issue they may look into.
If the Harrisburg ordinance is approved, the city would join more than 100 communities in 30 different states have passed laws to regulate the tethering of animals.
Koplinski said his bill is aimed at preventing fatal incidents like one in Harrisburg where a tethered dog hanged himself by falling off a balcony.
"We've got dogs in our city that are in distress," he said. "We have to make sure before the hot weather hits that we take action to stop the bad actors against man’s best friend."