Triumphs, Tribulations and Tethering

With the onset of The Polar Vortex and plummeting temperatures, social media blew up with stories of pets left outdoors. It was heartbreaking. Here in Pennsylvania – many discussions of the applicability of Libre’s Law broke out. Three posts specifically caught our eye as particularly compelling and thoughtful and we want to share them with our members. This is longer than our usual blogs, but we think that given the interest and discussion, many of our readers will find it useful and interesting.  Watch for future (shorter) blogs on the topic. A special thank you to Laurie Manz, Patty Gerstner and Sarah Speed for granting us permission to repost:

Sarah Speed posts on tackling tethering:

I understand how frustrating the legislative process and the nuances of language are, so here are some clarifications on the new law. First, please remember that prior to Libre’s Law, there was no limitation on tethering at all. Second, here is what the presumption rosesnow3means. There are certain offenses that constitute neglect absolutely for example, failing to provide food. If an officer sees a severely underweight dog, sees there is no food out, the office cites the owner for neglect. The owner can still fight the charge by going to court and providing evidence that the dog was not starving. The burden is on the officer to prove that the dog was being starved. The legislature has struggled with declaring all tethering as animal cruelty, they believe that there are limited circumstances where it is ok to tie a dog outside. For example, using a tether to let the dog go to the bathroom or tethering while the owner is outside gardening, but they recognize that tethering a dog outside 24/7 and in all kinds of weather is neglect. In order to reconcile these issues, they created the presumption. This means that if tethering is done in an unsafe manner or for too long or in inclement weather, the tethering is presumed by law to constitute neglect. The officer cites the owner for neglect and at court, the judge by law has to believe that neglect occurred if the officer can show that the dog was tethered in violation of that section. However, as in any cruelty case, the owner has the opportunity to provide evidence that the dog was not neglected or not tethered inappropriately. I know it’s confusing, however, for the first time in PA history there is an enforceable limit to tethering 24/7 and if the confusion is pervasive and you have evidence that the law needs to be strengthened further, please reach out in a polite and professional manner to your legislators and start working to make that happen.

While there is not a charge for tethering in and of itself, tethering is an offense under neglect. So for example, there isn’t a crime of stabbing under Pennsylvania law, there’s the crime of murder and law enforcement proves that the stabbing resulted in murder. There is a crime of neglect and one of the ways to prove neglect in Pennsylvania is to provide evidence that the dog was tethered in an unacceptable manner which constituted neglect and provides examples for scenarios which are presumed to constitute neglect and those which do not. It is an unusually worded section for the criminal code which has caused confusion and that is completely understandable and we have lots of resources available to work with law enforcement to try and clarify.
On the 30 minutes under 32 degrees language, that was designed as an exception to the rule that a dog shall be tethered no longer than 9 cumulative hours. So if an officer observes a dog tethered longer than 30 minutes in weather under 32 degrees, they write the citation for neglect and then are responsible for proving their case just like any other cruelty citation.

Yes so there’s two ways to do it. If the dog is tethered for longer than 30 minutes I’m freezing temps, then the officer can cite neglect for failure to tether appropriately. Also, the language of the neglect statute on shelter hasn’t changed, it is and remains a crime to fail to provide shelter “adequate to permit the animal to retain body heat and keep the animal dry” so if there is a dog just outside with a regular dog house, well when the temp is 10 degrees no uninsulated dog house is going to be sufficient to allow that dog to retain its body heat. So that is also a violation of the neglect statute. Bottom line this is a new law, the officers have to do some significant work and understand it thoroughly to enforce it and we all need to help them connect to those resources to bring experts to court and educate everyone on what is and is not appropriate given the facts of

There is a presumption that the dog is tethered appropriately if each of these conditions are met: appropriate collar and tether for size of the dog, access to water and shade, for not longer then 9 hours in a 24 hour period, and not longer than 30 minutes over 90 or under 32. Now remember that is still a presumption, which means that if an owner can show that all those things are true, the. court must assume that the dog was not neglected. Then the burden is on the police officer to show that the dog was still tethered inappropriately despite meeting those standards. For example, if the dog was so severely matted that the collar was inextricable and the dog couldn’t move, then even if those other standards were met, the officer can still cite for and prove neglect. Now if one of those standards are not met, for example the dog is tethered longer than 30 under 32, then the presumption that the dog was not neglected no longer applies, so the owner can no longer rely on that judicial benefit of the doubt. The officer now cites for neglect for inappropriate tethering and the owner must prove that the dog wasn’t left out too long.
To clarify, tethering for more than 30 minutes under 32 degrees simply removes the presumption that the dog is not being neglected. The officer still has to prove that the circumstances show the dog was neglected. However, that means that the officer needs to go and see the dog, document the evidence (how cold? For how long? Was the dog shivering? Is there potable water?) if the officer believes the conditions constitute neglect, then they must cite it and defend the charges. It is not a strict liability offense, meaning that if the officer can prove the dog was out for 31 minutes at 30 degrees, it’s a citation and the owner can only fight it by arguing it was only 29 minutes. It is citable as neglect but it must be proven by the circumstances. A husky on a 6’ lead rope playing in the snow for 45 minutes is not neglected but the chihuahua facing death shivering outside for 31 minutes is. The law was designed to work for both situations.

Laurie Manz posts on passing laws:

HOW CAN YOU HELP A BILL BECOME A LAW?: How did HB 1238 with tethering provisions become a law? It sure was not easy. First, almost every person who was involved in HB 1238 would probably agree that the bill is not perfect. Few bills are. That is why our early leaders came up with the idea of amendments… amend a bill to improve it. HB 1238 could use a few amendments, I certainly agree ,even thought I understand that it was the best possible version that would pass through the legislature. The tether provisions in particular have come under attack from all sides because of the recent polar vortex event and the incidents of idiots who just don’t get it and still have their dogs tethered outside. That provision could use some amending.

Bills are a compromise at best. The advocates, the legislators who work on them, they give it their best effort. Do not think they do not understand the problems that those who Sweatpea Graces dogare boots on the ground face. They are well aware and not deaf to your pleas….but for every animal friendly legislator who wants to do the best for the animals, there is another out there who could care less….or who has taken a campaign contribution from one of the groups who do not want that bill enacted. Who like things just as they are. i.e. they don’t want anybody to tell them what to do with their hunting dogs….My dogs, my business, keep out of it! Even those who are friends with some of the influential legislators and think they have their ear, they can write that perfect bill….well, that legislator might have taken a nice campaign contribution on the other end and they “owe” some pay back.

Money is an unfortunate element of enacting a bill. In a perfect world, that would not be so. But we live in this world. Constituents can call and write and email and do their very best, but they often are ignored in the face of those lovely campaign contributions from big donors. How do we change this? We continue to call, e-mail, visit and talk to our legislators and maybe do one more thing we have not previously done. Pay attention to how they have voted on issues in the past, do not vote for them if they have not supported the things you care about….and if they have not, help elect new, better, animal friendly legislators who will be responsive to your voice. And….GASP…maybe even contribute to their campaigns so they stand a chance of defeating those bought and paid for whores in the legislature!!! If you do not have a good candidate to help, or if yours in not currently up for re-election, you can always help another of the compassionate candidates in their re-election bids….donations, work on campaigns, etc.

There will be a new bill introduced in Harrisburg this session. It will deal with kenneling requirements. The same old $$$$ will fight against it. Hunters will not want to be told what to do. Commercial kennels, AKA puppy mills will squeal…and the AKC will throw money at it because even the saddest, sickest pup from a puppy mill can still be registered and put money in their pocket. I would hope that everybody who has found HB 1238 inadequate will spend as much time fighting for this bill to improve kenneling laws as they have complaining about HB 1238. And you know what else you can do. You can ask for a meeting with your legislator and ask them to introduce an amendment to HB 1238 to improve those provisions that have been a problem so far.
In a democracy, you cannot blame the government. YOU are the government. You are responsible for oversight, accountability and ensuring that your voice is heard by your elected officials. Thank you to all of you who read this who are boots on the ground. Thank you for those who share the public service announcements and try to educate the public about the laws. Thank you to those good legislators who have worked with advocates to fight for legislation for the animals here in Pennsylvania. Each role is important. Each one of us are the “government” . Don’t fight against each other. We have enough enemies with lots of money on the other side. We need to work together and not tear each other down for all our best efforts.

Patty Gerstner posts on the importance of working together:

1. Without the frontline rescues, more animals would suffer. Without the advocates, more animals would suffer. Without the donors and volunteers, Cary's fat dogmore animals would suffer. Many of the same people can be found in all of these categories. Can’t we just cut each other a break and stop the finger pointing?

2. I believe that the recent PA laws, getting so much criticism, are the best things that have happened in PA for animals. Perfect….no. Huge improvement….yes. While frustrating to many of us, no serious new laws come without major confusion in implementation, enforcement, and funding. The first step is getting SOMETHING passed. The next steps are working on the details and strengthening the weak areas.

3. Bashing those who worked so hard to get these laws passed in a traditionally republican, animal unfriendly legislature is just mean spirited. Like all bills, the original hoped-for plan had to be tweaked and weakened to even get to the floor for a vote. It was “take what you can get and live to fight another day” or give up and get nothing. I choose the former. The advocates deserved their “celebration” after years of work and previous failures.

4. Those of you on the front lines are cursed with seeing all those animals we cannot help or get to too late. I get that your hearts break. But, I think some of you might be blind to the good that IS happening. The weather laws are being talked about on local TV stations, in the papers, on the internet and in local restaurants and gathering points. Do you not see that the public is being educated? Can’t you see that countless dogs are being brought indoors (I don’t care if it is from education or pressure from the neighbors or fear of the law) that would have been left outside just 2 years ago? Tragedies averted are not as visible but demonstrate real progress nonetheless. These are the cases you don’t HAVE to rescue because the change in the culture, prompted by the law, is slowly happening.

5. Stop bashing Governor Wolf. At least he was open to the bill getting to his desk. Previous governors were not. Just keep nagging him to take the next steps.

6. Quit complaining about PA taxes if you want the resources for your favorite causes.

7. Stop bitching about the legislators who have consistently introduced admittedly imperfect bills and risk the ire of the NRA, farm bureau, the sportsman’s groups and their fellow politicians. They were heroes and now all they hear are complaints? Work with them to pass more and better bills in the future. Do not alienate the only friends we have in Harrisburg.

8. Speaking of politicians. How about not voting for those in PA, who by their records, do NOT support animals. Every year, Humane PA PAC puts out the report cards and yet we keep electing those who don’t give a damn.

9. How about re-evaluating your support of the NRA who consistently inserts itself into any animal debate even when it has nothing to do with them?

10. Why not reach out to the experts in rescue and advocacy and ask them what you can do (other than complain) about moving forward. And rescues and advocacy group, how about giving us some specifics….not complaints, but real actions? Give me a “to do list” and I’ll do it. Otherwise, I’ll figure it out.

And from us – Humane PA:

And lastly, we from Humane PA, want to give a huge thank you to the humane society police officers and law enforcement who are braving the cold and saving animals, the members of the media and legislators who are educating people about the law and the importance of bringing animals in, and all of you who continue to work to pass stronger laws for animals in Pennsylvania.



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Categories: Animal cruelty, Pennsylvania Law and animals, Spotlight


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