State considers waiver of chaining rules for sled dogs | New

According to current regulations, the chains attached to sled dogs must allow the animals to move along the lead for a distance of at least 10 meters and a width of at least 2 meters. A draft amendment, currently being prepared by the Department for Rural Affairs, would allow waivers for sled dog owners, allowing them to keep their animals on shorter chains.

However, animal rights activists say it would be detrimental to dog welfare. Sled dog breeders are also divided on the need to introduce a derogation from the current regulations.

Pille Tees, from the Estonian Animal Welfare Association, said allowing sled dogs to be kept on the end of a two-metre chain would be a step backwards and did not consider the good – to be animals.

Tees said the Department of Rural Affairs was also taking expert advice on the matter. “On September 1, 2021, an expert from the (Estonian) University of Life Sciences gave his opinion and found it logical to go towards the end of permanent chaining. Chaining could be used as a kind temporary option, such as controlling the dog for a few hours for whatever reason.”

According to Margus Haraku, executive committee member of the Estonian Kennel Union (EKL) Nordic Sled Dog Trials Association, the petition “Aitab!” (Help!), which demanded several amendments to the Animal Welfare Act, prompted the Ministry of Rural Affairs to consider introducing a derogation a few years ago.

A sled dog. The photo is illustrative Source: Mariin Kaljula

“The local sled dog breeding community immediately realized that if amendments such as those in the petition were to be implemented in bylaws and laws, then our operations could effectively be shut down overnight. In fact, for two years prior to this, there was talk of a total ban.”

Harak said there are many situations where animals need to be tied up and cannot be allowed to roam freely in a pen. However, the rule amendment refers to keeping sled dogs on short chains, with only hourly waivers.

However, not all sled dog breeders are convinced of the need to set up derogations.

Jarmo Nikolai, board member of the Estonian Association of Siberian Husky Breeders, believes exemptions for sled dogs are unnecessary and that even an outright ban on chaining would not end breeding sled dogs.

“There’s certainly no need for a waiver to keep sled dogs permanently on a chain,” Nikolai said. “The two-meter chain is widely used in Scandinavia and North America for historical reasons, but they’re also moving more and more towards kennels. If you’re already using dogs to make money, you should also be able to build enclosures (for them). I certainly don’t agree that sled dog breeding will end because of the shackling ban,” Nikolai said.

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Bette C. Alvarado