Is tethering of farm animals acceptable?

Tethering is where an animal is fastened by a chain to a central anchor point, causing it to be confined to a specific area. Tethering is sometimes used as a method of confining grazing farm animals (such as horses, donkeys, sheep, goats or cattle) under conditions which may otherwise cause them injury, endanger them in some way or permit them to stray. Tethering is often used on an individual basis to allow a grazing animal to access pasture/feed in unfenced areas

Farm animals should only be tethered when there is no alternative means of confinement.

It should only be carried out on a temporary basis and only for short periods of time. Tethered animals may become distressed if isolated from conspecifics for long periods. More humane methods of confining an animal to a specific area such as a secure yard or fenced paddock should be considered before tethering.

All tethered animals must be provided with food, water, shelter and regular, daily exercise off the tether in a safe environment.

Animals should be trained to be tethered before being left alone on a tether. Chain tethers should be used as they provide greater security; rope and other tethers may fray, break and tangle. Animals such as horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, cattle and farm dogs should never be tethered in conditions where they are vulnerable to extreme heat, severe cold, driving rain or predators.

Things to consider when tethering a farm animal

  • Tethered animals must be inspected at least twice in each 24 hours to ensure that food and water are available, they haven’t become entangled and the tether is still fitted properly at the head or neck. This should be increased to three times in very hot weather.
  • Clean, fresh, potable water should be available at all times in troughs or heavy containers which are firmly fixed on the perimeter of the tether.
  • Tethered grazing animals should receive supplementary feeding where grazing is not adequate.
  • Animals must be protected from climatic extremes and predators.

A suitable tethering site should

  • Be reasonably flat, dry underfoot and should not cross a footpath or be close to any roadway where there is fast-moving traffic. The proximity of people or vehicles should not be such that animals will take fright.
  • Have an area of shade in hot weather. If no natural protection is available, some form of shelter should be provided in windy or wet weather.
  • 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 be hung when the animal jumps over or off obstacles.
  • For horses, donkeys, cattle, goats and sheep: the site should provide adequate grazing at all times especially if grass is to be the sole source of food. It should be free from poisonous plants, shrubs and trees and the tether anchoring point should be changed at least every 24 hours. Horses, donkeys, and cattle are fastidious feeders and goats may require two or more changes per day.

Type of tether

  • A strong, durable neck band or head collar should be fitted with a swivel and attached to  chain tether; the tether in turn should be firmly attached to an appropriate anchorage with a 360 degree swivel fitted at ground level, allowing the animal to cover the complete circle without tangling.
  • The metal chain tether should be of an appropriate weight and strength for the animal to be tethered, i.e. chains for goats would obviously be lighter than those used for cattle. The chain should not be so heavy as to make it difficult for an animal to move.

The following farm animals must not be tethered:

  • Pigs
  • Horses or donkeys less than two years old
  • Mares in season should not be tethered near stallions
  • Mares about to foal
  • Cattle, goats or sheep under six months of age

In certain states/territories it is illegal to tether certain types of animals and it is also illegal to tether under certain conditions. Please see the article below titled “What is the Australian legislation governing animal welfare?” for more information.

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Updated on May 1, 2019
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