Is It Illegal to Leave Your Dog Chained Outside in Maryland? Here’s What the Law Says

Our furry companions bring immense joy and loyalty into our lives. As pet owners, we have a fundamental responsibility to ensure their well-being. This includes providing them with a safe and comfortable environment, proper nutrition, and opportunities for exercise and socialization. Chaining or tethering dogs for extended periods raises significant animal welfare concerns.

This article explores the legality of chaining dogs outside in Maryland and the regulations in place to protect animal welfare. We will delve into the specific restrictions outlined in Maryland law, explore alternatives to tethering, and provide resources for reporting suspected animal neglect.

The Dangers of Chaining and Tethering

Tethering a dog for extended periods can lead to a multitude of physical and psychological problems. Dogs are social creatures who crave interaction and stimulation. Confined spaces limit their ability to exercise, explore their surroundings, and engage in natural behaviors.

Chaining can also lead to:

  • Physical injuries: Dogs on chains can become entangled, leading to strangulation, choking, or injuries.
  • Psychological distress: Chained dogs often experience anxiety, frustration, and loneliness due to isolation and lack of stimulation.
  • Exposure to the elements: Dogs tethered outdoors are exposed to extreme weather conditions, including harsh sun, rain, wind, and freezing temperatures.
  • Aggression: Frustration and a sense of vulnerability can lead to aggressive behavior towards humans or other animals.

Maryland’s Focus on Animal Protection

Maryland has a strong track record of advocating for animal welfare. In 2019, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law a bill prohibiting the declawing of cats and restricting the chaining and tethering of dogs left unattended outside. This legislation reflects Maryland’s commitment to protecting animals and ensuring their humane treatment.

Maryland’s Laws on Chaining and Tethering Dogs

Maryland’s Code of Maryland Regulations, Criminal Law Section 10-623, outlines the specific regulations concerning chaining and tethering dogs left unattended outside. Let’s break down the key points:

Unattended Tethering Restrictions

  • Tether Length: The tether or chain used must be at least five times the length of the dog’s body measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail. This allows for some freedom of movement.
  • Access to Food, Water, and Shelter: Dogs left tethered outside must have continuous access to clean, fresh water and appropriate shelter.
    • Shelter Definition: The shelter must be properly ventilated, have a solid floor to keep the dog dry, have a weatherproof roof, and be large enough for the dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Unacceptable Conditions: The tethering situation cannot be unsafe or unsanitary. The dog cannot be left in conditions that could cause injury or illness.

Temperature Limitations

Maryland’s law recognizes the dangers of extreme temperatures for tethered dogs. Specific restrictions are in place:

  • Extreme Weather Conditions: When temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or during winter weather advisories, it is illegal to leave a dog tethered outside unattended for longer than 30 minutes. The dog must have access to suitable shelter during these times.
  • High Temperatures: On days exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a tethered dog left unattended cannot be outside for more than 30 minutes without access to suitable shade.

Exemptions for Working Dogs

The law exempts certain working dogs from these restrictions, such as those actively engaged in:

  • Hunting
  • Livestock herding or guarding
  • Sledding
  • Sporting events
  • Training exercises

It’s important to note that these exemptions only apply when the dogs are actively working.

Alternatives to Tethering

Chaining and tethering dogs for extended periods is not only against the law in Maryland but also detrimental to their well-being. Fortunately, there are several humane alternatives that provide dogs with the security and freedom they need:

  • Fenced-in Yards: A fenced-in yard allows your dog to safely explore, exercise, and play without the risk of escaping or becoming entangled. Consider the size and breed of your dog when designing a secure fence.
  • Tethering with Supervision: While unattended tethering is prohibited, briefly tethering your dog under direct supervision can be a viable option in certain situations. This could be useful for short periods while working in the yard or socializing with guests outdoors. Ensure the tether meets the legal length requirement and provides enough space for movement.
  • Indoor/Outdoor Dog Runs: Building a secure, covered outdoor run attached to your house allows your dog access to fresh air and exercise while remaining safe and contained. The run should provide ample space, shade, shelter, and easy access to the house.

Reporting Animal Neglect in Maryland

If you suspect a dog is being chained or tethered in violation of Maryland’s laws, or if the animal appears neglected or abused, it’s crucial to report it to the appropriate authorities. Here’s a breakdown of resources by city:

Animal Control Agencies by City:

Maryland SPCA:

The Maryland SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is a statewide organization dedicated to animal welfare. They can be reached by phone at (410) 266-2273 or online at The MD SPCA investigates animal cruelty complaints and advocates for animal protection legislation.


Responsible pet ownership means providing your dog with a safe, comfortable, and stimulating environment. Chaining or tethering them for extended periods not only violates Maryland law but goes against the basic principles of animal welfare. Explore the alternatives mentioned above to ensure your furry friend can enjoy the freedom and companionship they deserve.

If you witness a situation where a dog appears neglected or tethered in violation of the law, don’t hesitate to report it to the appropriate authorities. By working together, we can create a safer and more humane environment for all animals in Maryland.

Additional Resources

This article provides a comprehensive overview of Maryland’s laws on chaining and tethering dogs left unattended outside. Remember, responsible pet ownership is a continuous commitment. By following the law and prioritizing your dog’s well-being, you can ensure a happy and healthy life for your furry companion.

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MBS Staff
Articles: 7042

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