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Lengthy tying up of any dog breed should be banned


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POSTED: Saturday, February 07, 2009

OWNERS of pit bull terriers are rallying with comfortable confidence against a Hawaii bill that would make ownership of their breed a misdemeanor. The bill has no visible support in the Legislature, and dog lovers would be more constructive in turning their exuberance toward a needed ban on the cruelty of tying up dogs of any breed for long periods.

The proposed pit-bull ban was introduced by Senate President Colleen Hanabusa on behalf of an anonymous constituent; Hanabusa is no proponent of it herself. Rallies in Hilo, Maui, Molokai and planned tomorrow at Magic Island oppose the prohibition, even though legislators are not likely to even hold a hearing on the nameless person’s proposal.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee gave unanimous approval last week to a bill that would outlaw lengthy tethering of man’s best friend, a cruelty that is common in backyards throughout the state. The bill would make it a misdemeanor to tie a dog by chain, rope or other attachment to a doghouse, tree, fence or any other stationery object for more than three hours during a 24-hour period. Use of a running line, pulley or trolley system is among the exceptions.

In 2006, California became the first state to enact such a law, with a three-hour limit, and more than 100 local governments have passed similar legislation in recent years. The legislation has received broad support, and those who testified before the Hawaii committee were unanimous in its favor.

The reasons are clear, as listed in testimony by the Humane Society of the United States:

>> Researchers reported in a 1994 edition of the journal Pediatrics that chained dogs are nearly three times more likely to bite than unchained dogs and more than five times more likely to bite children.

>> The U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded in 1996 that “continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane.”

>> The American Veterinary Medical Association warned several years ago that people should “never tether or chain your dog because this can contribute to aggressive behavior.”

The Hawaiian Humane Society expressed concern that such a three-hour threshold “makes it unenforceable” and recommended that the law specify when during the day a dog must be off-leash or ban chaining of dogs altogether.

However, Ambuja Rosen, an activist in Ashland, Ore., cited evidence that such a three-hour maximum in a 24-hour period is the most enforceable of laws dealing with tethering. The most severe violations — those involving around-the-clock tethering — are the ones most reported, are most inhumane and are easiest to prove.