UPDATE | "Breaking the chain": Aiken dog activists use unique approach to rally support for statewide tethering laws

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Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018
(News 12 NBC 26 News At 11)

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Local animal activists brought a wagon full of chains to the South Carolina capitol hoping to gain support for a statewide tethering law.

Dog tethering has been a hot topic even before News 12 NBC 26 reported on a story about a puppy found dead and freezing outside in Aiken last month. Animal activists traveled to Columbia Wednesday morning to talk to state lawmakers about putting tougher laws in place.

This statewide tethering law could add tougher punishments for negligent dog owners when it comes to keeping their animals in bad conditions. But those activists went the extra mile to show what some dogs have had to live with for years to get their message across.

Link after link, chain after chain. But they weren't used for towing cars or trailers; they were dog tethers and collars until volunteers with Aiken's "Saving the Chain Dogs" volunteer organization stepped in.

They took those chains, wagon and all, to Columbia Wednesday morning and Representative Vincent Sheheen to talk about a statewide tethering law.

"These representatives and councilmen, when they're driving around, hey don't see this," says Robin Mitchell, the founder of Saving the Chain Dogs. "So until you walk up and see how big these chains are, how tight these collars are and what these 40-pound dogs are dragging around that is twice their weight, you don't get it until you see it."

There's no law in place now, but a passage of Senate Bill 841 would implement a statewide ordinance that would require any dog left outside unsupervised for more than one hour to have water, food and at least 100 feet to freely move around.

"The statewide [ordinance] is, of course, going to try to do no tethering at some point," Mitchell says. "But right now, the tether laws are about the same as what we have here in Aiken County."

While there are several similarities between the local law and statewide proposal, there are still some differences between the two though. The state ordinance does not include restrictions during severe weather or an hour limit for how long a dog can be tethered, which is 13 hours in Aiken County.

Chrissy Bowers, a volunteer with the organization who traveled to Columbia with Mitchell, says the laws in place can only do so much if they aren't enforced by local law enforcement and judges.

"We're getting these anti-tethering laws, they have to be enforced," Bowers says. "If they're not enforced, we are nowhere."

But these activists say these first steps can go a long way to saving more furry friends.

"That's the only way things are going to get done is people get our here and voice for these animals because we are their voices," says Angela Widener, another volunteer with the group. "And if we don't get out here and push it, it's not going to happen. They're going to keep dying."

Another part included in the proposal is that the tether cannot weigh more than one-eighth of the dog's body and cannot be too short to restrict movement. Senate Bill 841 has passed in the state Senate, but has still yet to go before the state House.

Monday, Jan. 15, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O'clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) – It's an issue that's never been regulated by state law -- dog tethering. But a new South Carolina law is hoping to crack down on cruelty to your four-legged friends.

"It is not an object to just be disregarded and put out in the yard and to heck with it...that's no longer something society ought to stand for anymore," CEO of SPCA Albrecht Center, Barbara Nelson said.

An action never regulated by South Carolina law before.
"This is a step forward; it’s something in need."

A step forward to restrict what she and lawmakers call -- cruel tethering.

"A dog should never be on a tether 24-hours a day."

Well, Senate bill 841 is hoping to address that by placing strict restrictions on pet owners who leave their dogs tied up outside for long periods of time.

"There is a significant percentage of people that really just have a dog as an object and who don't necessarily pay attention to its best interest and its welfare," she said.

With this new law, suddenly the length and the weight of the tether matter. In fact, it could mean the difference between getting a misdemeanor or not.

The restrictions she says are common sense. A tether can't weigh more than one-eighth of the dog's body, can't be so short that it restricts a dog from moving around a one hundred square foot radius or prevents it from accessing food and water and it can't utilize a choke or prong collar.

"People have to be aware and not afraid to report things that they see are cruel," Nelson said.

That cruelty could mean jail time and hundreds of thousands in fines for those found guilty.

One thing the law doesn't address, what to do in extreme weather and how tethering effects a dog's mental health. But Nelson says long-term tethering is a big reason why many dogs become aggressive.

Before this law, there was no way to enforce something like this because tethering has never been regulated state-wide. If put into effect it gives law enforcement the power to do something about it, before the dog gets injured or dies.


South Carolina (proposed senate bill 841)

  • Tether cannot weigh more than one eighth of the dog’s body.

  • Cannot be so short that it restricts a dog from moving around a one-hundred square foot radius or prevents it from accessing food and water.

  • Cannot utilize a choke or prong collar.

Cruelty to animals in Georgia: 

  • Is a misdemeanor.  

  • You could face up to five years in prison, and thousands in fines. 

  • If you're convicted again, it's called misdemeanors of a "high and aggravated nature"...which means even more prison time and fines. 

On Your Side | Animal cruelty laws in Georgia and South Carolina