This brief overview describes state laws (22 states and D.C.) that concern the tethering or chaining of dogs. It also includes a table of those state laws dealing with tethering with links to the text of the laws.
“In which states is it illegal to chain or tether your dog?”
Tethering or chaining a dog simply means that a person ties a dog with a rope, line, or chain to a stationary object. As of 2019, 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws on dog tethering/chaining. While the laws themselves vary from state to state, they do have several consistent features. Some state laws allow a dog to be tethered for a reasonable period of time. California prohibits tethering a dog to a stationary object, but allows a dog to be tethered “no longer than is necessary for the person to complete a temporary task that requires the dog to be restrained for a reasonable period.” More recent laws restrict the number of hours a dog can be tethered within a 24-hour period. For instance, in Nevada, it is no longer than 14 hours, in Oregon it is no longer than 10 hours, and in Massachusetts that limit is no longer than 5 hours.
Some states specify the type of tether. Hawaii, Texas, Rhode Island and several others have outlawed choke collar, pinch collar, or prong type collars. Other states dictate the length or weight of the tether. For example, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania require that the tether be three times the length of the dog. Rhode Island requires that the weight of the tether be one-eighth the body weight of the dog and Washington law states that "the weight of the tether shall not unreasonably inhibit the free movement of the dog within the area allowed by the length of the tether." Many states require that the tether allow the dog unencumbered access to food, water, and shelter without becoming entangled.
"Cruel" tethering may be included as a violation of state anti-cruelty chapters. Indiana defines “neglect” as restraining an animal for more than a brief period in a manner that endangers the animal's life or health by the use of a rope, chain, or tether. West Virginia and the District of Columbia include “cruelly chains” in its list of activities that constitute misdemeanor animal cruelty. Tethering in a manner that causes injury or even danger to the dog, including attacks by other animals, can be classified as cruel restraint under many state laws.
Finally, in the wake of dogs being left tied during natural disasters, some states provide restrictions based on weather. Pennsylvania makes it a presumption of neglect if the dog is tethered for longer than 30 minutes in temperatures above 90 or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, when a weather advisory or warning is issued by authorities, or when outdoor conditions (extreme heat, cold, wind, rain, snow or hail) pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of particular dog, duration of tethering cannot exceed fifteen minutes. In Louisiana, it is prohibited to tie or tether a dog or cat in a manner that exposes it to extreme weather conditions in designated emergency areas and in Texas it is illegal to do so during hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warnings.
What happens in those states without laws? General anti-cruelty laws could still penalize the tethering if the dog suffers neglect or cruelty under state law. In addition, many cities and counties have implemented their own laws that restrict or regulate tethering and chaining.
Citation and Link
Summary of Law
West’s Ann. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 122335:
No person shall tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog to any dog house, tree, fence, or other stationary object.
A person may temporarily tether a dog “no longer than is necessary for the person to complete a temporary task.”
West's Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 597:
If an animal is restricted by a leash, rope, or chain, the leash, rope, or chain shall be affixed in such a manner that it will prevent the animal from becoming entangled or injured and permit the animal's access to adequate shelter, food, and water. Violation of this section constitutes a misdemeanor.
West’s Ann. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 122335:
Infraction or misdemeanor
Animal control may issue a warning to a person who violates this chapter, requiring the owner to correct the violation, in lieu of an infraction or misdemeanor, unless the violation endangers the health or safety of the animal, or the animal has been wounded as a result of the activity.
West's Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 597:
|Connecticut||C.G.S.A. §§ 22-350a|
No person shall tether a dog to a stationary object or to a mobile device, including, but not limited to, a trolley or pulley by means of:
Also prohibits tethering dog outdoors to a stationery object or to a mobile device (i.e., trolley or pulley) when a weather advisory or warning is issued by authorities, or when outdoor conditions (extreme heat, cold, wind, rain, snow or hail) pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of particular dog unless tethering is for a duration of not longer than fifteen minutes.
Fine of no more than $100 for 1st offense
$100-250 for 2nd offense
$250-500 for any subsequent offenses
|Delaware||16 Del.C. § 3044F|
If dog houses with tethers are used as primary enclosures for dogs kept outdoors, the tethers shall be attached so that the dog cannot become entangled with other objects or come into physical contact with other dogs in the housing facility, and so the dog can roam to the full range of the tether.
The tether shall be of a type commonly used for the size dog involved, made of material not normally susceptible to being severed by the dog through chewing or otherwise, and shall be attached to the dog by means of a well-fitted collar that will not cause trauma or injury to the dog.
The tether shall be a minimum of 10 feet in length and allow the dog convenient access to the dog house and to food and water containers.
|D.C.||DC Code § 22.1001|
"Cruelly chains" means attaching an animal to a stationary object or a pulley by means of a chain, rope, tether, leash, cable, or similar restraint under circumstances that may endanger its health, safety, or well-being.
Cruelly chains includes a tether that:
Imprisonment up to 180 days and/or fine up to $250
|Hawaii||HRS § 711-1109||A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals in the second degree if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly tethers, fastens, ties, or restrains a dog to a doghouse, tree, fence, or any other stationary object by means of a choke collar, pinch collar, or prong collar.|
Cruelty to animals in the second degree is a misdemeanor, except where the offense involves ten or more pet animals in any one instance which is a class C felony.
|Illinois||510 ILCS 70/3|| |
70/3 (b) To lawfully tether a dog outdoors, an owner must ensure that the dog:
(1) does not suffer from a condition that is known, by that person, to be exacerbated by tethering;
(2) is tethered in a manner that will prevent it from becoming entangled with other tethered dogs;
(3) is not tethered with a lead that (i) exceeds one-eighth of the dog's body weight or (ii) is a tow chain or a log chain;
(4) is tethered with a lead that measures, when rounded to the nearest whole foot, at least 10 feet in length;
(5) is tethered with a properly fitting harness or collar other than the lead or a pinch, prong, or choke-type collar; and
(6) is not tethered in a manner that will allow it to reach within the property of another person, a public walkway, or a road.
|(e) A person convicted of violating subsection (b) of this Section is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.|
"Neglect" means restraining an animal for more than a brief period in a manner that endangers the animal's life or health by the use of a rope, chain, or tether that:
|Under 35-46-3-7, neglect of a vertebrate animal is a Class A misdemeanor (the offense is a Level 6 felony if the person has a prior unrelated conviction under this chapter).|
It shall be unlawful to tie, tether, or restrain any animal in a manner that is inhumane, cruel, or detrimental to its welfare.
It is prohibited to tie or tether a dog or cat in a manner that exposes the dog or cat to extreme weather conditions in the following designated emergency areas:
(1) A designated emergency area during a flood or hurricane in which a disaster or emergency, as defined in R.S. 29:723, is declared by executive order or proclamation of the governor.
(2) A designated emergency area during a flood or hurricane in which a local disaster or emergency, as defined in R.S. 29:723, is declared by a local political subdivision of the state.
Violation results in fine up to $300
A local governing authority may establish a fine not to exceed $75 which may be imposed on anyone who violates the provisions of this Section.
7 M. R. S. A. § 3972 ("Unlawful use of animals"):
Unlawful to tie, tether or restrain any animal in a manner that is inhumane or detrimental to its welfare.
7 M. R. S. A. § 4015 ("Proper shelter, protection from the weather and humanely clean conditions"):
When tethering is the primary means of confinement for a dog, the standards for shelter and tethering are as follows:
The chain or tether must be attached to both the dog and the anchor using swivels or similar devices that prevent the chain or tether from becoming entangled or twisted. The chain or tether must be attached to a well-fitted collar or harness on the dog. For dogs other than dogs kept as sled dogs or dogs used in competition, the chain or tether must be at least 5 times the length of the dog measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail. For dogs kept as sled dogs or dogs used in competition, the chain or tether must be:
(1) At least 2.5 times the length of the dog measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail if the anchor is stationary; or
(2) At least 1.5 times the length of the dog measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail if the anchor is a pivot point allowing a 360° area of movement.
[Note: identical provision in 17 M. R. S. A. § 1037 (Animal Welfare for shelters, kennels, breeders, etc.)]
7 M. R. S. A. § 3972:
Any person who makes unlawful use of animals contrary to this section commits a civil violation for which a forfeiture not to exceed $100 may be adjudged.
7 M. R. S. A. § 4015:
Under § 4016, a person who violates this chapter commits a civil violation.
|Maryland||MD Code, Criminal Law,§ 10-623|
A person may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the movement of the dog;
Or one that uses a collar that:
|Misdemeanor subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both|
|Massachusetts||M.G.L.A. 140 § 174E|
General tethering guidelines:
No person owning or keeping a dog shall chain or tether a dog for longer than 5 hours in a 24-hour period and outside from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., unless the tethering is for not more than 15 minutes and the dog is not left unattended by the owner, guardian or keeper.
A tethering employed shall not allow the dog to leave the owner's, guardian's or keeper's property.
The tether shall be designed for dogs and no logging chains or other lines or devices not designed for tethering dogs shall be used.
No chain or tether shall weigh more than ⅛ of the dog's body weight.
No dog under the age of 6 months shall be tethered outside for any length of time.
A trolley system or a tether attached to a pulley in a cable run, if the following conditions are met:
(i) only 1 dog shall be tethered to each cable run;
(ii) the tether shall be attached to a properly fitting collar or harness worn by the dog, with enough room between the collar and the dog's throat through which 2 adult fingers may fit; provided, however, that a choke collar and a pinch collar shall not be used to tether a dog to a cable run;
(iii) there shall be a swivel on at least 1 end of the tether to minimize tangling of the tether;
(iv) the tether and cable run must each be at least 10 feet in length. The cable must be mounted at least 4 feet but not more than 7 feet above ground level; and
(v) the length of the tether from the cable run to the dog's collar or harness shall allow continuous access to clean water and appropriate shelter at all times as described in subsection (c); provided, however, that a trolley system or tether shall be of appropriate configuration to confine the dog to the owner's, guardian's or keeper's property, to prevent the trolley system or tether from extending over an object to an edge that could result in injury to or strangulation of the dog and to prevent the trolley system or tether from becoming tangled with other object or animals.
A person shall not leave a dog outside when a weather advisory, warning or watch is issued by a local, state or federal authority or when outside environmental conditions including, but not limited to, extreme heat, cold, wind, rain, snow or hail pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the dog based on the dog's breed, age or physical condition, unless the tethering is for not more than 15 minutes.
No person owning or keeping a dog shall subject the dog to cruel conditions or inhumane chaining or the tethering at any time. For the purposes of this subsection, “cruel conditions and inhumane chaining or tethering” shall include, but not be limited to, the following conditions:
(1) filthy and dirty confinement conditions including, but not limited to, exposure to excessive animal waste, garbage, dirty water, noxious odors, dangerous objects that could injure or kill a dog upon contact or other circumstances that could cause harm to a dog's physical or emotional health;
(2) taunting, prodding, hitting, harassing, threatening or otherwise harming a tethered or confined dog; and
(3) subjecting a dog to dangerous conditions, including attacks by other animals.
First offense, issued a written warning or punished by a fine of not more than $50
Second offense, punished by a fine of not more than $200
Third or subsequent offense, punished by a fine of not more than $500, and be subject to impoundment of the dog in a local shelter at the owner's, keeper’s or guardian's expense pending compliance with this section, or loss of ownership of the dog.
|Michigan||M.C.L. § 750.50|
An owner, possessor, or person having custody shall not tether a dog unless the tether is at least 3 times the length of the dog and is attached to a harness or nonchoke collar designed for tethering.
1 animal: 93 days imprisonment and/or $1,000 fine (misdemeanor)
2 or 3 animals or the death of an animal: 1 year/$2,000 fine (misdemeanor)
4-10 animals or at least one previous conviction: 2 years/$2,000 fine (felony)
10 or more animals: 4 years/$5,000 fine (felony)
A person shall not restrain a dog:
Using a tether, chain, tie, trolley or pulley system or other device that:
1. Is less than 12 feet in length;
2. Fails to allow the dog to move at least 12 feet or, if the device is a pulley system, fails to allow the dog to move a total of 12 feet; or
3. Allows the dog to reach a fence or other object that may cause the dog to become injured or die by strangulation after jumping the fence or object or otherwise becoming entangled in the fence or object;
Using a prong, pinch or choke collar or similar restraint; or
For more than 14 hours during a 24-hour period.
For the first offense within the immediately preceding 7 years, is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced to:
(1) Imprisonment in the city or county jail or detention facility for not less than 2 days, but not more than 6 months; and
(2) Perform not less than 48 hours, but not more than 120 hours, of community service.
The person shall be further punished by a fine of not less than $200, but not more than $1,000. A term of imprisonment imposed pursuant to this paragraph may be served intermittently at the discretion of the judge or justice of the peace, except that each period of confinement must be not less than 4 consecutive hours and must occur either at a time when the person is not required to be at the person's place of employment or on a weekend.
For the second offense within the immediately preceding 7 years, is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be sentenced to:
(1) Imprisonment in the city or county jail or detention facility for not less than 10 days, but not more than 6 months; and
(2) Perform not less than 100 hours, but not more than 200 hours, of community service.
The person shall be further punished by a fine of not less than $500, but not more than $1,000.
For the third and any subsequent offense within the immediately preceding 7 years, is guilty of a category C felony.
|North Carolina||N.C.G.S.A.§ 362.3|
A person who maliciously restrains a dog using a chain or wire grossly in excess of the size necessary to restrain the dog safely violates this law.
For purposes of this section, "maliciously" means the person imposed the restraint intentionally and with malice or bad motive.
|Class 1 misdemeanor|
In 2013, the state enacted a new law called "Unlawful Tethering."
A person commits the offense of unlawful tethering if the person tethers a domestic animal in the person's custody or control:
(a) With a tether that is not a reasonable length given the size of the domestic animal and available space and that allows the domestic animal to become entangled in a manner that risks the health or safety of the domestic animal;
(b) With a collar that pinches or chokes the domestic animal when pulled;
(c) For more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period; or
(d) For more than 15 hours in a 24-hour period if the tether is attached to a running line, pulley or trolley system.Note that if the tethering causes physical injury or death, a person can be charged with animal neglect in the first or second degree (see next column).
|Penalty under Unlawful Tethering Law:|
Unlawful tethering is a Class B violation.
Penalty under Animal Neglect in the Second Degree:
Under 167.325, a person commits the crime of animal neglect in the second degree if he or she intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence tethers a domestic animal in the person's custody or control and the tethering results in physical injury to the domestic animal.
Animal neglect in the second degree is a Class B misdemeanor
Animal neglect in the second degree is a Class C felony if:
(a) The person committing the offense has previously been convicted of two or more offenses under this section, ORS 167.330 or the equivalent laws of another jurisdiction;
(b) The offense was part of a criminal episode involving 11 or more animals; or
(c) The person knowingly commits the offense in the immediate presence of a minor child and the person has one or more previous convictions for an offense involving domestic violence.
Penalty under Animal Neglect in the First Degree:
Under 167.330, a person commits the crime of animal neglect in the first degree if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence tethers a domestic animal in the person's custody or control and the tethering results in serious physical injury or death to the domestic animal.
Animal neglect in the first degree is a Class A misdemeanor.
Animal neglect in the first degree is a Class C felony if:
(a) The person committing the offense has previously been convicted of one or more offenses under this section, ORS 167.325 or the equivalent laws of another jurisdiction;
(b) The offense was part of a criminal episode involving 10 or more animals; or
(c) The person knowingly commits the offense in the immediate presence of a minor child.
|Pennsylvania||18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5536|
There is a rebuttable presumption that the tethering is or is not neglect based on circumstances.
If the dog has been tethered less than 9 hours within a 24-hour period with all of the following conditions, it is a rebuttable presumption that it IS NOT neglect:
(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.
By contrast, there IS a rebuttable presumption of neglect if the following conditions exist:
(i) Excessive waste or excrement in the area where the dog is tethered.
The state provides punishment for neglect in 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5532.
Violation is a summary offense.
However, if the violation causes bodily injury to the animal or places the animal at imminent risk of serious bodily injury, a violation of this section is a misdemeanor of the third degree.
|Rhode Island||Gen. Laws, 1956, § 4-13-42|
It is a violation for an owner or keeper to:
(1) Keep any dog on a permanent tether that restricts movement of the tethered dog to an area less than one hundred thirteen square feet (113 sq. ft.), or less than a six foot (6′) radius at ground level.
(2) Tether a dog with a choke-type collar, head collar, or prong-type collar. The weight of any chain or tether shall not exceed one-eighth ( ⅛ ) of the dog's total body weight.
(3) Keep any dog tethered for more than ten (10) hours during a twenty-four-hour (24) period or keep any dog confined in an area or primary enclosure for more than fourteen (14) hours during any twenty-four-hour (24) period, and more than ten (10) hours during a twenty-four-hour (24) period, if the area is not greater than that which is required under the most recently adopted version of the department of environmental management's rules and regulations governing animal care facilities.
(4) Tether a dog anytime from the hours of ten o'clock p.m. (10:00 p.m.) to six o'clock a.m. (6:00 a.m.), except for a maximum of fifteen (15) minutes.
(5) Keep any dog outside, either tethered or otherwise confined, when the ambient temperature is beyond the industry standard for the weather safety scale as set forth in the most recent adopted version of the Tufts Animal Care and Condition Weather Safety Scale (TACC).
Any person in violation of this section shall be imprisoned not exceeding 11 months, or fined not less than $50.00 nor exceeding $500, or both. Each day of violation shall constitute a separate offense.
|Tennessee||T. C. A. § 39-14-202||Offense to knowingly tie, tether, or restrain a dog in a manner that results in the dog suffering bodily injury.|
1st offense: Class A misdemeanor
2nd or subsequent conviction: Class E felony
|Texas||TX HEALTH & S § 821.076 - 081|
An owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog's movement:
1. between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.;
2. within 500 feet of the premises of a school; or
3. in the case of extreme weather conditions, including conditions in which:
a. the actual or effective outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit;
b. a heat advisory has been issued by a local or state authority or jurisdiction; or
c. a hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning has been issued for the jurisdiction by the National Weather Service.
In this section, a restraint unreasonably limits a dog's movement if the restraint:
1. uses a collar that is pinch-type, prong-type, or choke-type or that is not properly fitted to the dog;
2. is a length shorter than the greater of:
a. five times the length of the dog, as measured from the tip of the dog's nose to the base of the dog's tail; or
b. 10 feet;
3. is in an unsafe condition; or
4. causes injury to the dog.
Class C misdemeanor
Class B misdemeanor if previously convicted
|Vermont||13 V.S.A. § 352||A person commits the crime of cruelty to animals if he or she ties, tethers, or restrains an animal, either a pet or livestock, in a manner that is inhumane or is detrimental to its welfare|
Under 13 V.S.A. § 353, cruelty to animals under section 352 of this title is punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of not more than one year or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.
Second and subsequent convictions are punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of not more than two years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.
Each owner shall provide for each of his companion animals:
Adequate space in the primary enclosure for the particular type of animal depending upon its age, size, species, and weight.
Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6503
When an animal is tethered, “adequate space” means a tether that permits the above actions and is appropriate to the age and size of the animal; is attached to the animal by a properly applied collar, halter, or harness configured so as to protect the animal from injury and prevent the animal or tether from becoming entangled with other objects or animals, or from extending over an object or edge that could result in the strangulation or injury of the animal; and is at least three times the length of the animal, as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, except when the animal is being walked on a leash or is attached by a tether to a lead line. When freedom of movement would endanger the animal, temporarily and appropriately restricting movement of the animal according to professionally accepted standards for the species is considered provision of adequate space.
“Primary enclosure” means any structure used to immediately restrict an animal or animals to a limited amount of space, such as a room, pen, cage, compartment, or hutch. For tethered animals, the term includes the shelter and the area within reach of the tether.
Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6500
Class 4 misdemeanor
A second or subsequent violation is a Class 3 misdemeanor.
|Washington||West's RCWA 16.52.350|
Any dog that is restrained outside by a tether must only be restrained for a period of time that is not reckless and in compliance with this section.
The dog must not be tethered in the following ways:
First offense shall result in a correction warning being issued requiring the offense to be corrected by the person who owns, keeps, or controls the dog within 7 days after the date of the warning being issued in lieu of an infraction
A second offense is a class 2 civil infraction
A third or subsequent offense is a class 1 civil infraction
|West Virginia||W. Va. Code, § 61-18-19||It is unlawful for any person to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cruelly chain or tether an animal||Misdemeanor: fine of $300 to $2,000 or jail up to six months|