01/19/2011 09:02 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New Law Will Jail Owners For Tying Up Dog For Too Long

CITY HALL -- Dog owners could be sent to jail for chaining their pets outdoors for too long under legislation passed by the City Council Tuesday.

Under the new law, dog owners will be barred from tying their pets up for more than three hours during any 12-hour stretch.

Owners of animals that are injured while tied up would first receive a $250 fine or a written warning if dogs are unharmed. If owners violate the law again within a year, they will be slapped with fines of up to $500 or hauled off to jail for up to three months.

"Tethering an animal for an extended period of time is cruel and unusual," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement. "This bill will not only prevent this type of unnecessary cruelty, but also increase public safety for pedestrians throughout the City."

The new law also bans owners from tethering dogs without food, shelter and water for more than 15 minutes and bars owners from using choke or pinch collars while their dogs are tied up.

For many local dog owners it's about time.

"A dog is a companion," said Chris Card, 48, who lives on the Upper East Side with her boxer Diana, 4. "I can never imagine anyone treating a dog like that."

She said that when she lived in California, she called authorities to report a puppy that had been tied to a tree on a three-foot leash for days.

"It should be common sense, but I would do it [report someone] in a heartbeat," she said.

But other dog owners had reservations.

"It's a little over the top," Lauren Spears, 27, said of the law as she dropped off her 7-month old puppy, Teddy, at doggy day care. "l don't think many New Yorkers are going to be turning in their neighbors."

Upper East Sider Joel Brownstein, 68, agreed that dogs shouldn't be tied up, but said he thinks the City Council has bigger issues to worry about.

"I think it's a stupid rule," he said, while taking his dog Bogart, a basset-beagle mix, for his morning walk. "There's better time and money spent on taking care of human beings. We need to take care of people in this city."

At a hearing of the Council's Health Committee last month, Deputy Health Commissioner Daniel Kass said while the agency supported the intent of the law, it had serious questions about enforcement, including having to stake out a property for 12 hours or more to catch violators in action.

In addition to Health Department employees, veterinarians and agents from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have been charged with enforcing the law.
Queens City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., who sponsored the legislation, said his goal was to stop abuse before it became more serious.

"Chaining a dog and leaving it for hours is fair neither to the dog nor the people who must walk past it," he said in a statement. "This type of abuse can turn the nicest pet into an attack dog. With this legislation, we want to send a strong message that this is no way to care for an animal."

The law passed 41 to 1 at Tuesday afternoon's scheduled Council meeting.

The Council also passed a second bill that will increase the dog license fee to $34 for dogs older than four months that have not been spayed or neutered.

The current fee is $8.50 for fixed dogs and $11.50 for unspayed or unneutered dogs, according to the Health Department's website.

"This bill is a win-win. It gives New Yorkers a financial incentive to do the right thing. And, it will raise funds to reduce the number of unwanted animals in our city," Upper East Side Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement.