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

Our furry companions, dogs, hold a special place in our lives. They offer unconditional love, companionship, and endless entertainment. As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure their well-being and happiness. This includes providing them with proper food, shelter, exercise, and affection.

Unfortunately, a common sight in some Washington communities is dogs chained or tethered outside for extended periods. While some may believe this is a harmless practice, it can have serious consequences for the dog’s physical and mental health. This article will delve into the legalities of chaining dogs outside in Washington State and explore the reasons why it’s not the most suitable housing option for our canine friends.

Washington State Laws on Dog Tethering

In 2017, Washington took a step forward in animal welfare with the signing of a new tethering law (RCW 16.52.350). This law aimed to establish guidelines for humane tethering and prevent the cruel chaining of dogs outside.

The New Tethering Law (RCW 16.52.350)

The law outlines the following:

  • Permitted tethering and its limitations: Tethering is allowed only for a “period of time that is not reckless” and must comply with all the regulations outlined in the law. This means a dog cannot be left tethered outside for extended periods, especially during harsh weather conditions.
  • Requirements for humane tethering:
    • The tether must allow the dog to move freely within the designated area. It should not be too short or heavy, restricting the dog’s ability to stand, sit, lie down comfortably, or turn around freely.
    • The dog must have access to clean, fresh water at all times. The water container should be secured in a way that prevents the dog from tipping it over.
    • The dog must have adequate shelter that provides protection from the elements, including extreme heat, cold, rain, and wind. The shelter should be large enough for the dog to stand, sit, and lie down comfortably.
    • The tether must not be attached in a way that allows the dog to become entangled on the restraint or any other object.
    • Tethering is not allowed for puppies under six months old, sick or injured dogs, pregnant dogs in the later stages of pregnancy, or dogs in distress.

Unpermitted Tethering Scenarios

Here are some situations where tethering a dog outside in Washington State is strictly prohibited:

  • Leaving the dog tethered for an unreasonable amount of time, especially during extreme weather conditions.
  • Using a tether that restricts the dog’s movement or causes discomfort.
  • Not providing the dog with access to clean water and adequate shelter.
  • Tethering a dog who is sick, injured, pregnant, or too young.

Why the Law Matters

Chaining a dog outside for extended periods can have a significant negative impact on their well-being. Here’s a closer look at some of the potential dangers:

  • Physical dangers: Exposure to extreme heat or cold can lead to heatstroke, hypothermia, and other health problems. Dogs left tethered are also more susceptible to injuries from entanglement, fights with other animals, or attacks from predators.
  • Psychological distress: Dogs are social creatures who thrive on companionship and interaction. Being chained outside isolates them, leading to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and frustration. This can manifest in destructive behaviors like excessive barking, chewing, or digging.
  • Limited exercise: Tethering restricts a dog’s ability to move freely and exercise. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining a dog’s physical and mental health.

Benefits of Proper Sheltering and Supervision

Providing your dog with a secure fenced yard or keeping them indoors offers numerous benefits:

Alternatives to Chaining Dogs Outside

While Washington State’s tethering law allows for some responsible tethering practices, it’s always best to prioritize the well-being of your dog. Here are some alternatives to chaining your dog outside:

  • Secure Fences: A fenced-in yard allows your dog to roam freely within a designated area. This provides them with space to exercise, explore, and potty without being restrained. Ensure the fence is high enough to prevent your dog from jumping over and sturdy enough to withstand digging or pushing. Consider the size and breed of your dog when choosing the fence height and material.
  • Tethering Done Responsibly (within the law): If tethering is absolutely necessary for short periods, ensure you strictly follow the guidelines set forth in RCW 16.52.350. This includes using a tether of appropriate length and weight, providing ample fresh water and adequate shelter, and never leaving your dog tethered for extended periods, especially during extreme weather. Remember, tethering should always be a temporary solution, not a long-term housing option.
  • Indoor Dog Runs: For pet owners with limited outdoor space, consider creating an indoor dog run using baby gates or exercise pens. This designated area allows your dog some freedom of movement within the confines of your home. Ensure the space is well-ventilated, clean, and includes comfortable bedding, toys, and water.

What to Do if You See a Dog Chained Inhumanely

If you come across a dog chained outside in a situation that appears to violate the tethering law, here’s what you can do:

  • Document the situation: Take pictures or videos of the dog, noting the time, date, and location.
  • Contact animal control: Report your concerns to your local animal control agency. Provide them with the details of the situation, including the address and any pictures or videos you may have taken.
  • Offer help to the dog owner (optional): If you feel comfortable, you can politely approach the owner and educate them about the tethering law. Offer resources or suggestions for alternative ways to confine their dog.

Remember: It’s always best to approach the situation calmly and respectfully. The goal is to ensure the dog’s welfare, not to start a confrontation.


Responsible pet ownership is about providing our furry companions with a loving and safe environment. In Washington State, chaining a dog outside is no longer a viable option unless done within the strict guidelines set forth by the tethering law. Remember, dogs are social creatures who crave our company and interaction. Let’s prioritize their well-being by providing them with secure, comfortable spaces and the love and attention they deserve.

If you have any questions or concerns about Washington’s tethering law or alternative dog housing solutions, consult your veterinarian or local animal shelter for further guidance.

Additional Resources:

Avatar photo
MBS Staff
Articles: 7042

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *