Meet Shannon, an advocate in Delaware, Ohio who successfully lobbied her city council to change the city’s laws to protect dogs from the worst aspects of tethering. Thanks to her diligent work, the city made it illegal to tether dogs between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM – a change that will go a long way to helping dogs lead happier and safer lives. For All Animals worked with Shannon to pass the new ordinance. After her victory, we spoke with her to get her insights on the process.
Molly – The Inspiration for the Ordinance
Shannon was inspired to change the law after seeing a dog, Molly, in her neighborhood who is tied up 24 hours a day, seven days a week without human contact or exercise. In the past, neighbors had called the local humane society to report neglect after seeing maggots in Molly’s food bowl. Some neighbors also put straw in her doghouse during the winter to help her stay warm.
The path to helping Molly wasn’t easy. First, Shannon tried to resolve the situation by contacting the humane society and animal control herself. When she called, she was told there were no humane agents, and they were searching to fill the positions. She called two months later and was told the same thing again. Frustrated, she spoke with other representatives at the shelter and was finally told there was nothing they could do. Shannon called multiple city animal control officials next. Ultimately, Shannon found out that if Molly had shelter, food, and water, no law was being broken.
Proposing a Tethering Ordinance
Instead of backing down, Shannon started researching state and local laws. She also reached out to her local city representative who offered his support for a tethering ordinance in the city of Delaware. From there, Shannon worked with For All Animals and other groups including the Ohio State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of Delaware County who came to the council meeting to speak in support of the ordinance. But there was still some resistance from legislators. Shannon posted on social media, the website Nextdoor.com (which helps neighbors stay in touch), and worked with For All Animals to create an action alert so Delaware residents could let the council know that they supported humane laws for dogs. Shannon didn’t stop there. She reached out to state Representative John Barnes, Jr. (who sponsored and introduced a tethering bill in the state legislature that ultimately didn’t pass) and a Cleveland legislator for letters of support.
Challenges Along the Way
Shannon notes that the “the main challenge once the process was started was getting the council members to really listen and understand why this was so important and necessary to change. Clear up until the actual vote it was a struggle…it felt no matter what support I got or how many times someone spoke of the neglect and abuse they weren’t on board.” To gain supporters and become an expert on the issue, Shannon has a few tips. She advises other advocates to use available online resources like from The Humane Society of United States and to reach out to as many people as possible by posting on social media and Nextdoor.com and contacting veterinary offices and shelters.
A few months later, the bill became law! It was a true team effort but ultimately the law passed thanks to Shannon’s hard work. Shannon shares that after first speaking with the local shelter and animal control, she was “somewhat defeated.” But then she found For All Animals online. Shannon says, “I thought if I searched more I could find someone to help…that’s when I came across For All Animals. Once I started looking at the website I saw a place that talked about changing the legislature, and at first, I was skeptical that this was something I would be able to do. I emailed For All Animals and got a response from Elizabeth Holtz, her encouragement and support is really what started me on this part of my journey. She made me believe that it was possible and extended her support through the process.”
Final Thoughts from Shannon
Shannon says that she’s “a dog lover and seeing a dog in a neglectful situation was ripping my heart out. When I walked my dog every day, I saw how sad the conditions for another dog were. No animal should live that way! I couldn’t see that every day and not do something. I realize now that I wasn’t meant to just help Molly but all the dogs in these situations in my city. It is my hope that every state will follow suit.”
Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Holtz is For All Animals’ director of legislative affairs. She is an animal rights attorney and lifelong animal advocate. Liz manages For All Animals’ coalition efforts to pass state laws that protect animals—like strengthening anti-cruelty laws—and defeating laws that harm animals—like ag-gag laws. She also oversees For All Animals’ Attorney at Paw program, which provides assistance to advocates interested in passing laws and ordinances that protect animals on a local level.