Fort Worth’s dog-chain ban step toward educating owners

The City Council of Fort Worth went one step farther than the Texas state legislature and banned chaining dogs in front and back yards.

Last summer, Texas House Bill 1411 was passed, making it a misdemeanor offense to chain a dog overnight, in extreme weather conditions or for longer than three consecutive hours.

They are serious about it, too. A fine of up to $500 comes with a first-time conviction, and jail time is possible for a second conviction.

In Fort Worth, Animal Care and Control officers intend to work with pet owners to educate them on the new ordinance and plan to suggest to pet owners more humane restraining options before issuing up to a $2,000 fine. The first time I heard of this new ordinance, I was sort of surprised.

Growing up in Fort Worth, I have seen many people tether their dogs out front – and out back, if the dog were the type to get out of the yard. We considered it a sort of low-budget security system. I even tried it once, thinking my Weimaraner Savvy would like sitting out in the yard, watching the world go by. But Savvy was too rambunctious and kept pulling the stake out of the ground and bringing it to me.

When I first heard about this tough new law for dogs, I felt like someone was taking away pet owners’ right to let their dogs have options like hanging out in the yard. I didn’t even consider that some knuckleheads leave their dogs out there for long periods of time, often showing signs of starvation, dehydration or other signs of neglect.

I was unaware of the practice of some drug dealers, for instance, who use the dog out front as an early warning system in order to flush the evidence before the cops make it to the front door.

I was also unaware of the 20-year study on dog bites, with a special focus on fatal bites, conducted by The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which documented that tethering a dog brings out and increases aggressive behavior in animals. Dogs that are chained are almost three times more likely to bite people, according to this study.

I know you’ve heard of tragedies where dogs attack children, killing or maiming them. I can hardly think about the aggressive breeds that tend to attack even when unprovoked.

Fort Worth wants to work with pet owners whose dogs don’t pose immediate threats to people or animals, and there are limited exceptions to the no-chain rule.

And if you had walked past Savvy chained up in my yard, the worst you could have expected was to be licked. A lot.

Victoria Barth is a liberal arts graduate student from Fort Worth.