On Monday, May 16th, the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia, sent out a press release regarding a new ordinance which takes effect on June 1st regarding dog tethers, specifically how long tethers must be and how often they can be used.
As their press release states:
This ordinance, city code section 15-2-1, states that dog owners may not tether an unattended dog for more than one hour continuously or for four hours cumulatively within a 24-hour period. The tether must be at least three times the length of the dog, as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail. The tether should not be too heavy and not exceed 10% of the dog’s body weight and only one dog should be attached to a single tether.
The only dogs that should be tethered are those six months of age or older and if female, a dog that is sterilized or not is estrus.
Some alternatives to tethering a dog are to bring your dog indoors or to install yard fencing, a dog run, or electronic fencing.
This ordinance will be monitored and enforced by the Harrisonburg Police Department’s (HPD) Animal Care and Control Unit.
Now, at first glance, you might think that this new ordinance is great. After all, I’m sure many of us have a furry friend and would like to think that all dogs in the city are treated well.
However, as the ordinance states, this law gives the Harrisonburg Police Department additional authority of enforcement. Think about it. Would you want police officers or your neighbors constantly monitoring your property to see if you are following this law? Furthermore, do we really want our tax dollars and our police time going toward this effort? Wouldn’t the community be better served if the police spent their efforts catching criminals who pose a danger to society as opposed to measuring the length and weight of tethers and using stopwatches to determine how long a dog has been tethered?
As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, government exists to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, since the time of the birth of our nation, this basic lesson of civics has been forgotten as both elected and unelected officials continue to expand the power of the government at all levels. I assume that the Virginia General Assembly grants localities to create such ordinances, but that doesn’t mean that city and county governments ought to interfere in every private matter. With these thoughts in mind, could someone please explain how a person who chooses to use a dog tether in the city of Harrisonburg affects the life, liberty, and/or pursuit of happiness of either the dog owner or his neighbor. And, if it does not, how is this matter any business of the Harrisonburg City Council?
Reading this new ordinance, I was reminded of a quote from the film Jurassic Park. I assume city council was “…so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” After all, if we really cared about the wellbeing of dogs within the city, wouldn’t it also be a good idea to mandate what brand of tethers they can use. While we are at it, why doesn’t the government decide what kind of food dog owners should provide? Where does the limit of their power end?
Every year local, state, and federal government power grows with new laws and regulations, often for well-intentioned, but misguided reasons. Although this local tether ordinance might sound good at first glance, ultimately these kinds of decisions are best left with private individuals and not simply surrendered to the whims of five elected officials. The government doesn’t always know what is best for our pets, for our children, for ourselves, for our property, or for our society; thus the best course of action is to keep the government as small and as limited as possible.