By Delegate Robert Bloxom


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Things are moving quickly in Richmond with some legislation requiring more of my attention than others. One bill which has gathered much attention is HB 646 dealing with tethering animals; adequate shelter and space. I voted in opposition to this bill and wanted to provide my reasoning and some background in this week’s legislative update.

The Agriculture, Subcommittee #1 voted to Pass by Indefinitely HB 646, a motion that I supported.  The reason for that action was the true effect of the bill, not its reported purpose.  In spite of what has been said about what this bill would achieve, the facts of the bill and the existing laws are:

  1. Under existing law any dog left outside in any weather without adequate shelter, access to clean food and water or protection from the weather is already illegal and is animal cruelty.
  2. This bill would have only applied to dogs on a tether and would have reduced the current protections for dogs kept in lots.
  3. The bill would also have banned any dog from ever being tethered, at any time, year round, unless someone was home.
  4. By putting temperature and weather conditions in the Code, it would have required Animal Control officers to have to verify these standards in order to seek a prosecution, rather than the current standard of the dog’s well-being.

Finally, in a letter from the Virginia Attorney General’s office sent to Animal Control officer the first week of January, of this year, it reads, “Depriving an animal of necessary shelter…that is cruelty.  Any dog should be seized under those conditions.”

Despite the well-meaning intention, its true effect would have

  1. banned tethering unless someone was home
  2. made the cruelty standards more difficult to enforce
  3. weakened protections for all dogs kept in lots by setting a double standard.

I did support and vote in favor of HB889, which authorizes the governing body of any locality to adopt an ordinance restricting the tethering of a dog outdoors. With this legislation each locality may adopt an ordinance to  limit the maximum number of hours during which the dog may remain tethered but shall not completely prohibit tethering that provides the dog “adequate space” as that phrase is defined in the Code of Virginia.

I remain committed to protecting animals from cruelty and supporting laws that can enhance enforcement.  As I have stated ever since I began service, I look forward to working with advocates to enhance our animal cruelty laws and to make them more enforceable.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me again should you have any other bills of interest to you.  I can be reached in Richmond at 804-698-1000. You may follow all legislation by visiting