Rain, wind and chilly temps don't deter anti-dog chaining protester

When Tamira Ci Thayne started her one-woman vigil outside the Capitol seeking an end to 24/7 dog chaining in Pennsylvania temperatures were in the 90s. Nine weeks later, with temperatures dipping into the 40s and driving rain and wind there's no movement on the anti-tethering legislation.

But Thayne, often soaked but still fighting on, sits, chained to a wood dog house, and waits for action.

Thayne, founder of Dogs Deserve Better - a national group trying to outlaw dog chaining across the country - made it her mission this summer and fall to try to win passage of legislation that would set a time (10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for instance) when dogs could not be chained except for brief potty breaks. That, she believes, would end the round-the-clock chaining that thousands of Pennsylvania dogs endure.

She launched Operation Fido's Freedom this summer to call attention to the plight of dogs on chains and push lawmakers to once and for all end it.

Thayne's argument: that chaining is not only inhumane for the animals, but it can have tragic consequences for humans. Years in isolation, locked outside can lead to aggression and chained dogs have injured and even killed children, including a number in Pennsylvania, who had the misfortune to stray into their territory.

Even with bipartisan support the latest bill (others have been introduced and failed in earlier session) - SB 1435 - has not moved the Senate Agriculture Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Brubaker (R., Lancaster), even with a "farm dog" exemption.

Thayne, who has watched the stream of lawmakers and lobbyists trot up and down the Capitol steps since early August, brought two humane officers with her to meet with Brubaker's chief of staff, Kristin Crawford, last week to no avail.

Thayne said the officers explained to her that they support the ban and that, among other things, outlawing chaining overnight would address barking dog issues in urban areas.

"It felt like we were talking to a wall," she said. Thayne said Crawford was concerned about people working overnights who needed to leave their dogs out. Thayne said Crawford's scenario is not supported by what she's seen in her travels across the country. In her experience, dogs are chained one of two ways: either all the time or for a few minutes to go to the bathroom. Plus, she says, what kind of responsible pet owner would leave an animal out all night to face predators and extreme weather.

Crawford did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The odds are slim to none that the bill will move this session. The Senate has three more working days next week and the House is not due back until after the election and then only for a handful of days. That means Thayne and her supporters will have to start again next year.

But Thayne says for now she will stand her ground on the Capitol steps, at least until the Senate wraps up business a week from tomorrow.