Guidelines for the tethering of animals


Ratification Date: 15 Feb 2008

Position statement

  1. Tethering is a temporary method of restraint and is not suitable for long-term confinement.
  2. Tethering of animals requires a high standard of animal husbandry and exceptional care, including regular and frequent inspections. Animals should be appropriately trained to tether.
  3. Animals should never be tethered where their welfare may be compromised.


Tethering is defined as the securing of an animal to an anchor point, in order to confine the animal to a desired area. It is used to prevent an animal (eg dog) straying in the owner’s absence, or to allow an animal (eg sheep or goat) to graze unfenced pasture. Tethering should not be confused with short-term tying up or with hobbling.

Tethering of animals exposes them to increased risk of stress, injury or death. In particular, tethered animals may be:

  • unable to access food and water
  • unable to obtain shelter from climatic extremes
  • unable to obtain sufficient exercise
  • unable to evade attack from other animals and predators
  • isolated from their companions
  • exposed to environmental hazards, such as road traffic
  • injured by the tether itself - for example, where there is no swivel in the chain.

For these reasons, other confinement methods appropriate for the species should be sought.

Some species and individuals may not be suitable for tethering. Animals should never be tethered in conditions where they are vulnerable to extreme weather.


These guidelines have been developed to assist people to tether animals correctly when circumstances make it a necessary method of confining and protecting animals. They specify the requirements for tethering dogs, sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys and horses.

Site selection

A suitable tethering site should:

  • be reasonably flat (steep sites are unsuitable)
  • have an area of shade provided in hot weather and, if no natural protection is available, some form of shelter in windy or wet weather and
  • be clear of obstructions that may cause the tether to become entangled or cause injury to the animal; an animal can be choked when the tether becomes entangled, or hung when the animal jumps over a fence or other obstacles.

A suitable tethering site should not:

  • be rocky
  • be prone to flooding
  • be waterlogged or
  • cross a footpath or be close to any road; the proximity of people or vehicles should not cause animals to take fright.
Type of tether

There are two basic types of tether:

  • fixed tether — the anchor point is fixed.
  • running tether — the anchor point can move freely along a wire.

For both types of tether, an appropriate collar or harness should be fitted to the animal. The collar or harness should be fitted with a swivel to which the tether is attached. The other end of the tether should be firmly attached via a swivel as follows:

For a fixed tether, to an appropriate anchor point, such as a steel spike or stake driven to ground level, which allows 360 degrees of movement at ground level. The anchor point must allow the animal to cover the area without tangling. An additional swivel halfway along the length of the tether may help to keep it tangle free; and

For a running tether, to a strong wire, which should be firmly secured at either end to trees, fences or posts. The wire must have stops at either end to ensure that the running tether cannot become entangled or injure the animal.

Suitably secure material should be used for the tether.


All animals must be closely monitored when left alone on the tether for the first time. Some animals may adapt quickly and others may require a period of training. Training requires a gradual increase in the amount of time that the animal is left alone on the tether.

Frequency of inspection

Tethered animals require greater supervision and owner vigilance. They should be inspected at least twice during daylight hours in each 24-hour period. This should be increased to three times, or preferably more, in extreme weather.

Collars and harnesses should be regularly inspected to ensure that they are properly fitted — they must never interfere with or constrict throat passages. They should be well maintained and regularly checked to ensure they are not causing injury or discomfort. Collars and harnesses should be removed if wounds are apparent.

Tethers, wires and anchor points should be inspected regularly for signs of wear.

Food and water

All animals must receive sufficient food, containing adequate nutrients to meet their requirements for good health and vitality. Tethered grazing animals should receive supplementary feeding where pasture is not adequate.

Sufficient clean, potable fresh water to meet the animal’s physiological needs must be available at all times — for example, in troughs or heavy containers that are firmly fixed on the perimeter of the tether.

Specific requirements

  • The site must provide a minimum tether radius of 3 metres, allowing 6 metres of run.
  • Dogs less than 4 months old should not be tethered.
  • Bitches in season must not be tethered where entire males may have access.
  • Bitches about to give birth must not be tethered.
  • Tethered dogs must have ready access to a kennel, shed or other protection from the elements and for sleeping. The kennel should be of an appropriate size for the particular animal and must not cause a threat of entanglement.
  • As a guide, dogs should be let off tethers for at least 2 hours per day.
  • Dogs must not be tethered adjacent to a fence in a manner that places them in danger of death by hanging if they attempt to traverse the fence.
Sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys and horses
  • The site must permit a minimum tether radius of at least 6 metres for sheep, goats, cattle and donkeys, and 9 metres for horses.
  • The site should be well grassed and provide adequate grazing at all times, especially if grass is to be the sole source of food. Periodic inspection of the site should be made to ensure feed availability and suitability of the site. It should be free from poisonous plants, shrubs and trees.
  • Horses or donkeys should be allowed regular exercise off the tether.
  • Mares in season must not be tethered near stallions.
  • Mares about to foal or with a foal must not be tethered.
  • Stallions must not be tethered near any other horses.

The temperament and exercise needs of cattle, goats, sheep, horses and donkeys are such that immature animals should not be tethered. Young animals need more exercise than a tether would permit and they are likely to resist the tether and sustain injuries.


These guidelines are drawn from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries Code of Practice for the Tethering of Animals. The AVA seeks to adopt existing codes where appropriate.

Date of ratification by AVA Board: 15 February 2008.