Pennsylvania House Bill 1238

State Representative Dan Miller recently posted the following:

For the first time in a generation, Pennsylvania has updated its animal cruelty law and I am pleased to announce that the changes in Act 10 become effective today.

It took two sessions, but HB 1238, which was more commonly known as Libre’s Law, was signed by Governor Wolf this past June. I strongly supported this bill both in the Judiciary Committee and the House floor, where it did not find unanimous support. HB 1238 wasn’t a perfect bill, and compromise was needed, but I am convinced that it was an important step forward in making sure animals are treated humanely in our commonwealth.

Here is a snapshot of some of the highlights of the updated law:

hb1238

Seeing this, we rejoice! Then, we take a look a the actual text of the law:

5536. Tethering of unattended dog.
(a) Presumptions.–
(1) Tethering an unattended dog out of doors for less
than nine hours within a 24-hour period when all of the
following conditions are present shall create a rebuttable
presumption that a dog has not been the subject of neglect
within the meaning of section 5532:

(i) The tether is of a type commonly used for the
size and breed of dog and is at least three times the
length of the dog as measured from the tip of its nose to
the base of its tail or 10 feet, whichever is longer.
(ii) The tether is secured to a well-fitted collar
or harness by means of a swivel anchor, swivel latch or
other mechanism designed to prevent the dog from becoming
entangled.
(iii) The tethered dog has access to potable water
and an area of shade that permits the dog to escape the
direct rays of the sun.
(iv) The dog has not been tethered for longer than
30 minutes in temperatures above 90 or below 32 degrees
Fahrenheit.

(2) The presence of any of the following conditions
regarding tethering an unattended dog out of doors shall
create a rebuttable presumption that a dog has been the
subject of neglect within the meaning of section 5532:
(i) Excessive waste or excrement in the area where
the dog is tethered.
(ii) Open sores or wounds on the dog’s body.
(iii) The use of a tow or log chain, or a choke,
pinch, prong or chain collar.

(b) Construction.--This section shall not be construed to
prohibit any of the following:
(1) Tethering a dog while actively engaged in lawful
hunting, exhibition, performance events or field training.
(2) Tethering a hunting, sporting or sledding dog breed
where tethering is integral to the training, conditioning or
purpose of the dog.

After examining the literal text of the law, we end up with this statement:

“This section shall not be construed to prohibit tethering a sledding dog breed where tethering is integral to the training, conditioning, or purpose of the dog.”

…where…tethering…is…integral…to…training…conditioning…purpose…

Let us examine this:

The dictionary definition of integral is: “necessary to make a whole complete; essential or fundamental.” Tethering is neither “necessary,” “essential,” nor “fundamental” to the keeping and training of sled dogs.

Both Mush With PRIDE (3rd Edition 2009) and the British Columbia Sled Dog Code of Practice (BCSDCP) (January 20, 2012) discuss the multiple means of confinement for sled dogs, including praising methods other than tethering – therefore proving that tethering is not “necessary.”

Mush with PRIDE states that, “runs or pens must be large enough to allow dogs to perform most behaviors that are typical of their species. It is recommended that pens provide at least 100 square feet of space for each dog housed within them. Many certified behaviorists have observed that dogs spend time exercising in rectangular pens rather than in square, so a pen measuring 10’x20’ would be very effective for two dogs housed together.” (Source: http://bit.ly/2gu7QEd)

The BCSDCP states that, “a containment system is a secure area such as a pen, run or kennel or the area within which a tethered sled dog may roam. The length of time that sled dogs are contained and the way that it is done can have a significant impact on their welfare.” They go on further to state that, “sled dogs are very social creatures and they thrive in an environment in which they can interact with their teammates. Isolating sled dogs from the company of their teammates has been associated with an increased incidence of behavioral abnormalities.” (Source: http://bit.ly/2vvzNBV)

Nowhere in their documentation does either organization state that living tethered, as opposed to penned, has any influence on training or conditioning.

Another source,  “Additional Comments on Draft Regulations for the Animal Health Protection Act Division,” submitted by Alanna Devine, BA, BCL, LLB, Director of Animal Welfare at the MSPCA; by Lauren Scott, Humane Society International (HSI)/Canada Campaigner; and by Johanne Tasse, President of Companion Animal Adoption Centers of Quebec (CaacQ), states: (Source: http://ww.bit/ly/2nWtSO6)

The Montreal SPCA, HIS International/Canada, and the CaacQ continue to support the position that permanent tethering of dogs, even those tethered in groups, is detrimental to their physical and psychological wellbeing. At the meeting outlined in the document, a musher – Ms. Caroline Morin, who houses her sled dogs in groups within large packs, explained that, “there are physical and psychological advantages of housing sled dogs in groups which cannot be achieved if the dogs are tethered.” Ms. Morin has chosen to house her dogs in packs in large parks as they are able to play, establish dominance, and express natural behaviors in a manner that they cannot do if they are permanently tethered.

Also from the document:

According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, DVM, BVMS, MRCVS, specialist in canine behavior, “Healthy canine interaction and socialization requires the dogs to be able to physically interact and play with each other – which cannot be achieved when dogs are tethered.”

He went on to state that:

”The Cornell study cannot be used to support the premise that tethering dogs in groups, is favorable for their mental well-being when compared to appropriate forms of housing dogs. There is no way that being tethered increases opportunities for socialization. Claims that tethered dogs have greater access to socialization show how subjective the research was toward what was observed.”

Therefore, due to the verbiage of the law, the tethering restrictions implemented by HB1238 can (and should) be enforced upon existing sled dog kennels in the state of Pennsylvania.

It is our hope that, by working with the humane mushing community, we can effectively eliminate such exemptions from future laws altogether. The World Sleddog Association clearly states: “Unfortunately, in some countries it is permitted to keep dogs on chains. Nevertheless, this practice should be rejected by all sled dog organizations nationally and internationally. Sled dog organizations should engage with mushers practicing this with the aim to abolish this practice.” (Source: http://bit.ly/2eqbgTU)

Members of the World Sleddog Association include Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, and Ukraine. It is time for the United States and Canada to join the global humane mushing community and abandon the outdated, inhumane method of chaining sled dogs.

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