Is Permanently Chaining Cats to Posts Animal Cruelty?

In the state of Virginia and in the county of Rockingham chaining up a cat permanently outside is not a crime. Therefore, in does not fall under one of the headings of animal cruelty under the laws of either Rockingham County or the state of Virginia.

Chained up cats
Chained up cats
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Do you think that this is correct? I don’t think it’s correct because I think permanently chaining up a cat (tethering a cat) is a form of animal cruelty because it doesn’t matter what animal you chain up, be it a monkey or a dog, if you do it permanently you are being cruel to that animal because it restricts in a very severe manner the natural behaviour of the animal. This is very likely to result in mental health issues. Surely this is common sense. To believe otherwise is backward thinking.

Despite the fact that many animal advocates and users of Facebook agree with me, the sheriff of Rockingham County disagrees that it is cruel. He says that he has received many complaints about the chained up cats on the property of a woman, Shirley Smallwood (living near Elkton), but when he goes to investigate with the SPCA they find that the cats are healthy, well fed and up-to-date on their vaccinations. Accordingly, the sheriff states that Shirley Smallwood is not being cruel to her cats because there is no specific Virginia law regarding tethered cats.

I’m sure that there is no specific Virginia law regarding tethered cats because there will be no specific law regarding tethered cats anywhere in the USA. This is because no one does it except for Smallwood. However, there will be general animal welfare laws regarding cruelty to animals and tethering cats permanently is in my opinion a form of cruelty to animals. I wonder why the sheriff did not consider placing the behaviour of Shirley Smallwood under the general animal welfare laws of his state?

The Smallwood family have seven cats. At one time there were 27. Smallwood says that she has tried to take the cats inside but they refused to cooperate and therefore they remain outside and in order to keep them safe she chained them up. Smallwood says that she’s been threatened on Facebook and that people are being nasty to her. She wants to stop people being nasty to her and to stop picking on her. The is an easy answer to that: treat your cats is a less cruel manner.

She said that she feeds them properly and they all have names et cetera. In other words, she treats them properly except for one critical factor: she restricts in the most heavy-handed way their natural movements and behaviour. In the UK there is a law, the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which states that a cat owners should ensure that their cat is allowed to behave naturally and express natural desires and instincts. Tethering animals permanently would be in breach of that act in my opinion. Therefore, in the UK, Smallwood would be prosecuted.

I do not think that the sheriff (Bryan Hutcheson) is being broadminded enough. I don’t think that he is being sensible enough I don’t think he is interpreting the law widely enough or properly. I believe that we simply have to apply some common sense in this instance. And, in my opinion, common sense dictates that this is a form of animal cruelty. The problem is that although these cats are fed and vaccinated et cetera, nobody is looking into the mental health of the cats. Nobody is asking how the cats might feel when heavily restricted in their movements. People need to be enlightened enough to get into the heads of cats or indeed any animal who is tethered like this and ask whether they believe the cat is going to develop emotional problems under these extreme circumstances. The answer is likely to be yes.

Perhaps the problem is that the law is behind modern knowledge about cats. We know that cats have emotions and feelings. Tethering cats permanently ignores this aspect of cat anatomy and so apparently does the animal welfare law of Virginia.

What do you think?

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Source: and Elisa Black-Taylor on

8 thoughts on “Is Permanently Chaining Cats to Posts Animal Cruelty?”

  1. Kit mentioned what I was going to say, that more consideration (country-wide) has been given to dogs lately, regarding being chained, than in this case. While it’s been common practice to chain dogs, and they are generally forgiving (because most people will at some point give them some freedom), even they go nuts. It’s been one of the “excuses” of pit bull attacks. So if there’s much compassion for an arguably dangerous animal to not suffer the restriction of chains, it’s incomprehensible that the free-roaming cat be forced to endure it… however forgiving they might be. Cats hide their suffering too. We can’t judge a cat the same as any other animal as to how they feel, unless we know cats, and even then we can be wrong. This is wrong by any stretch of the imagination. They are also completely vulnerable… even if they had a tree to climb, they might accidentally hang themselves. I have never heard of chaining a house cat… and I’m 61 years old.

  2. The are definite dog chain/tether laws in the USA. Most only allow “reasonable” time there’d. Some say only during the time which a task needs to be completed. In Texas only 3 hours within a 24 hour period is allowed. Most are written within the anti-cruelty section of the statutes. Unowned/outside cats are referred to as stray or free roaming(that says something right there!) Intentional harm done to them is against the law in Texas.

    • Thanks Kit. Dogs are protected from being chained but it seems cats aren’t. Is that the situation? These cats are owned so they should be protected against being chained as are dogs.

  3. No matter how cruel them people are to cats, they will always have a way of justifing their actions and’s very sad and cruel to chain a cat up like that..cats have feelings and a heart beat too…

  4. I don’t believe in chaining up dogs or cats. It’s cruel. Smallwood didn’t try hard enough to acclimate her cats to the indoors. It can be done but it takes time and commitment, and she sounds like she has neither. She’s taking the easy way out by chaining those poor cats outside.

    I’m not sure if there are coyotes in her neck of the woods. If there are those chained up cats are an open invitation to dinner. The same goes for stray dogs who love to use cats as chew toys. If that happens we’ll have to listen to her whine about that. The cats will pay the price for human stupidity.

      • Definitely lazy, wrong, stupid and uncaring. All that chain does is limit those cats’ mobility. They can’t get away. Those chains are absolutely no protection against a human up to no good. If a coyote decides the dinner bell is rung, all he or she has to do is gnaw the neck off after they kill the cat and take the body. Or feed on it, take the meat back to the den and regurgitate it for the pups. A stray dog with murder on his or her mind has a chew toy on a chain. The end result is the same: a dead cat, then Smallwood can whine and moan on Facebook about how unfair life is.


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