In 2007, California signed an act designed to protect dogs from inhumane treatment while at the same time recognizing that this treatment can result in vicious and aggressive dogs. The laws states that dog owners who leave their dogs chained up for more than three hours can face fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
The law prevents tethering a dog to a stationary object for more than three hours in a 24-hour period. This law does not prohibit dogs that are attached to running lines (such as when a dog is hooked to a clothesline that runs across the yard, allowing the dog the ability to get exercise) unless the running line uses a choke or pinch collar. The law allows dogs tethered to fixed objects when they are at campgrounds or other areas that require dogs be restrained.
According to Unchain Your Dog (unchainyourdog.org), California was the first state to put a time limit on how long dogs could be tethered to a stationary object. People in support of the law said it protected the well-being of dogs, who can become isolated and more aggressive when they are chained up. Critics of the law say that people who take good care of their pets could be criminalized.
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According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (as reported by Unchain Your Dog), 17 percent of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners' property when the attack took place. Even when a tethered dog is released from the chain, the dog can maintain an aggressive posture and attack other animals and people.
It is the responsibility of the dog owner to ensure the dog is treated humanely and properly restrained. If a person is harmed by a dog that was improperly restrained—such as being kept on a tether for more than three hours in California—the dog owner could be responsible for harm suffered by the victim.