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Animal welfare groups disappointed after dog tethering bill struck down

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Virginia Senate bill, which would have banned tethering dogs in extreme weather conditions, will not be considered until the next General Assembly session.

On Monday, a house subcommittee deferred Senate Bill 872 to the 2019 session.

Animal Right's Activist Kimberly Hawk, with the HOWS Project, was among several animal welfare groups that attended the House Agriculture Subcommittee meeting on Monday afternoon.

Kimberly Hawk

Proponents of SB 872 were hoping to convince the subcommittee to pass legislation that would have prevented dog owners from tethering their dogs outside when temperatures reached above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 32 degrees.

This past January, several organizations stepped in to deliver adequate shelters when it was discovered that dogs were freezing to death on properties throughout Virginia.

A few weeks ago, Hawk made a documentary at a Virginia property where several hunting dogs were tied up to filthy outdoor shelters. She sent the video to lawmakers hoping to influence their vote.

"They don't live in grass," Hawk said. "They live in mud and dirt, ice and snow."

Despite easy passage in the Senate, State Senator Lionell Spruill (D) Chesapeake, says he's had a hard time defending his bill in the House of Delegates.

Before crossover, Spruill added his own amendments to address concerns when the legislation's companion bill died in an agriculture committee.

Last week, the legislation was further watered down to mainly just restrictions on tethering dogs outside during extreme temperatures. Other restrictions, including overnight tethering and chain guidelines, were eliminated to make the legislation more appalling to some reluctant committee members.

However, some lawmakers including Delegate Robert Orrock (R) Caroline County, voiced concerns that the legislation was overstepping the rights of dog owners or was a masked attempt to end tethering all together.

Several hunting groups felt the legislation was unnecessary since animal welfare laws were already in place.

"Their objective is to ban tethering," Orrock said. "If that's their objective, bring a bill forward and that will be the policy question."

While it's not an outright defeat, animal welfare groups say they'll head back to the drawing board to create legislation that they hope will save lives of innocent animals.

Hawk believes the legislation deserved the chance to be considered by the full House of Delegates.

"This bill passed the Senate floor by a wide margin," Hawk says. "We believe it would have passed on the House floor as well."