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New Law on Restraining Dogs

Have you ever walked down a street and seen a dog tied up in front of a store or restaurant? The dog might be barking or just waiting patiently, but it likely would rather be with its owner or someplace other than tethered to a bike rack, lamp post, or parking meter. The state legislature has just adopted a bill the addresses and regulates the tethering of dogs, SSB 5356.

What will this new legislation do? A lot! The legislation prohibits or regulates nine situations involving a dog that has been “tethered” (i.e., restrained by tying or securing the animal to an object or structure). A dog may only be tethered outside for a period of time “that is not reckless” and which meets the following requirements:

  • The dog may not be tethered in a manner that results or could reasonably result in it becoming frequently entangled on the restraint or other object;
  • If multiple dogs are tethered, each must have a separate tether and each may not be secured to the same fixed point;
  • The dog must be able to sit, lie down, stand comfortably and have a range of movement without the restraint becoming taut;
  • The dog may not be tethered if it is ill, suffering from a debilitating disease, injured, in distress, in the advanced stages of pregnancy, or under six months of age;
  • The dog must have access to clean water and “necessary shelter” that is safe and protective and constructed so that the dog cannot knock the water or the shelter over. A “necessary shelter” is a structure sufficient to protect the dog from wind, rain, snow, heat, or sun that has bedding to permit the dog to remain dry and reasonably clean and be able to maintain normal body temperature.
  • The dog cannot be tethered in a manner that leaves the dog in unsafe or unsanitary conditions or that forces the dog to stand, sit, or lie down in its own excrement or urine;
  • The dog may not be tethered by means of a choke, pinch, slips, halter, or prong-type collar or harness other than with a properly fitted buckle-type collar or harness that provides  enough room between the collar or harness and the dog’s throat to allow normal breathing and swallowing;
  • The weight of the tether may not unreasonably inhibit the free movement of the dog within the area allowed by the length of the tether; and
  • The dog may not be tethered in a manner that causes the dog injury or pain.

The legislation has some exceptions as well.  The first four requirements set out above do not apply in the following circumstances:

  • The dog is receiving medical treatment from a licensed veterinarian or is being groomed;
  • The dog is participating in an exhibition, show, contest or other event in which skill, breeding or stamina is being judged or examined;
  • The dog is being kept in a camping or recreation area;
  • The dog is being cared for temporarily after being picked up as a stray or as part of a rescue operation;
  • The dog is being transported in a motor vehicle or is being temporarily restrained after being unloaded from a vehicle;
  • The dog is being trained by a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency or military or national guard unit; or
  • The dog is in the physical presence of the person who owns, keeps, or controls the dog.

The penalties for a violation are: for a first offense, in lieu of an infraction, a correction warning requiring correction within seven days, unless the incident posed an imminent risk to the health or safety of the dog or the dog was injured as result of the offense. The second offense is a class 2 infraction ($125 penalty) and the third or subsequent offense is a class 1 infraction ($250 penalty).

The new tethering law goes into effect July 23, 2017.

The tethering of cats and goldfish is not covered by the legislation.

Questions? Comments?

If you have questions about this new law or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772. If you have comments about this blog post or other topics you would like us to write about, please email me at

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Paul Sullivan

About Paul Sullivan

Paul worked with many local governments and authored numerous MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations in his many years at MRSC. He is now retired.