Helping Outside Dogs In Need Since 2008


Don’t let “Perfect” get in the way of “Better”


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Getting Involved

Wonderful Things YOU Can Do to Improve the Life of an Outside Dog

Let your dog inside!

Dogs are pack animals and greatly desire to be with others.

Unless you are outside with them, they aren’t going to want to stay outside for long.

Play with your dog daily. Exercise is important for all dogs (and is good for you too)! Play fetch, go for a walk! It would mean the world to your dog.

Build a fence or set up a running line. This gives your dog more space to explore. Just ensure that the fence is high enough that your pooch cannot jump over it and harm himself.

Give your dog toys. Dogs love to chew, so give your pup something safe and fun to chew on —Nylabone (Dura Chew), a tennis ball, or knotted towel.

Ensure your dog has plenty of food and water. And provide this daily in clean bowls that won’t tip over.

Replace old collars and chain collars with new nylon ones. You should be able to easily fit two fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar.

Provide adequate shelter. In the summer, dogs need a cool shady place to retreat. In the winter, they need to keep warm and dry. Always bring your dog inside when temperatures hit the extremes.

Visit your vet for regular checkups. Lots of diseases and ailments can be prevented with preventative care.

Spay or neuter your dog.  Not only will this prevent unwanted litters, but it will also calm your dog and prevents some forms of cancer.

Work with your dog to gain mutual trust and respect. There are lots of online training tips that emphasize positive-reinforcing ways to teach your doggie and help the two of you bond.

Contact HOWS Project! We want to be a resource for folks who want to do better for their outside dogs. We can help you help to improve their wellbeing.

AND… If You Encounter Someone Else’s Outside Dog…

Befriend the dog’s person and gently, kindly, non-judgmentally help him/her to do right for that pooch. Don’t be afraid to offer help if need be. Please know that HOWS Project is more than willing to offer advice and/or hands-on assistance if need be. We are here to help!

If you would like to report a possible dog in need, please contact HOWS Project; all reports are investigated and your personal information is kept confidential.

The Bigger Picture:

Educating our Law Makers
Advocating for Improvements
Ensuring Enforcement


HOWS Project believes in the power of educating our lawmakers about the failures of many of our state and local animal codes, which seem regularly to fall short of protecting the animals they were written to safeguard. We advocate for common sense legislation — and the enforcement of such. This is an uphill battle, but one we are committed to pursuing. Improvements to the laws can have a sweeping impact on outside dogs in need.

Locally, we saw this play out in 2018, when the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors asked for HOWS Project’s assistance in drafting a proposal for improvements to their animal codes and penalties. This was a long time coming, as we had been educating them for years about the pitfalls to their codes as they applied to the animals in their county. On October 3rd, 2018, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a substantial revamp to their Chapter 4 Animals and Fowl, truly setting the stage for major improvements to the lives and wellbeing of Albemarle outside animals.


On October 3, 2018, the Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously passed a proposal to revamp County Chapter 4 Animals and Fowl, which will improve the laws that govern how people care for their animals within this county.
County attorneys crafted this piece of legislation in such a way as to expand the details of what constitutes “cruelty to animals; acts that inflict pain, injury, or suffering”, NOW MAKING IT ILLEGAL TO:

  • Tether an Animal for more than 2 hours cumulative in a 24 hour period;
  • Tether an Animal on an uninhabited or abandoned property;
  • Tether an Animal during an excessive heat  warning or heat advisory or during a severe weather warning issued by the national weather service, state, or the county;
  • Provide a shelter for a cat or dog that is without a floor or where the floor is not raised off the ground by at least 2 inches;
  • Provide a shelter for a cat or dog that is infested with mold, insects, or parasites;
  • Provide a shelter for a cat or dog that has vents, cracks, or holes, other than the entrance, that allows rain or other moisture into the shelter.

HOWS Project had submitted most of these proposed changes and petitioned the Albemarle BOS to implement them for the last few years.
Beyond these NEW restrictions, this proposal KEPT legislation passed in Albemarle in 2012 that MADE IT ILLEGAL TO:

  • Tether an Animal where the tether does not terminate at both ends with a swivel;
  • Tether an Animal on a tether shared with other animals;
  • Tether an Animal on a pulley or running line in such a way that restricts movement of the animal that is inappropriate for the animal’s age or size; is not attached to the animal by a collar; is less than15 feet in length; is more than 7 feet above the ground; or is configured to allow the animal to be injured, strangled, or entangled with other animals or objects;
  • Place a female dog in heat or a dog 6 months old or younger on a tether;
  • Transport an Animal in an open bed truck or similar vehicle either when the animal is tethered or is in a carrier that is not secured to the vehicle so that it is an unmovable and allows normal postural movements of the animal;
  • Provide shelter for an Animal composed of metal or plastic barrels, airline crates, or carrying crates. HOWS Project is proud to have played an active role in bringing these 2012 changes about in collaboration with animal advocate, Susan Ackerman.

Beyond all this, at the request of HOWS Project, this board also considered and approved changes to the penalties for those convicted of cruelty — not only to companion animals but also to agricultural animals!

  • In cases where the court determines that a companion animal has been abandoned, cruelly treated, or deprived of adequate care, the court is now required to prohibit the owner from owning or possessing other companion animals. Previously, this decision was left up to the judge.  Thank you Eric Johnson, convicted animal abuser, for inadvertently helping HOWS Project see the problem with allowing judges to potentially ignore this important part of the judicial process.
  • In cases where the court determines that an agricultural animal has been abandoned, cruelly treated, or deprived of adequate care, the court is now required to prohibit the owner from owning or possessing any other agricultural animals if the owner has exhibited a pattern of abandoning or cruelly treating agricultural animals as evidenced by previous convictions violating county code 4–301, 4-303, or 4-304. This is a big win as not only was this decision previously left up to the judge, but also agricultural animals are often left behind when it comes to improved codes to protect them.

And the topping on the cake here — this legislation circumvents ANY concerns with Dillon’s Rule!
Simply an unbelievably well-crafted piece of legislation by the county attorneys involved!!! (…a true win for those who know what a pain in the butt Dillon’s Rule can be for local legislative proposals)

All of this will provide more “teeth” for our law enforcement and judicial system to act to protect animals in Albemarle County and for animal welfare groups to help educate citizens as to what constitutes appropriate care for their animals.  What an amazing show of courage and moral responsibility by our Albemarle County Board of Supervisors!

Special thanks to Melissa Wolf Riley, who spent countless hours of pro bono time with HOWS Project’s Stacey Norris on formulating our HOWS proposal and sharing it with various county officials. It may have taken a few years to “stick”, but patience and perseverance paid off big time!
And kudos to all the wonderful people and organizations who knew the importance of these improvements and rallied in support to show the Albemarle County BOS that they were for sure making the right decision for their county!  Simply an outstanding display of what can happen when we choose empathy over indifference!


HOWS Project advocates for improvements for animals at our state level too. We support the efforts of organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Humane Dominion which are more equipped with resources to spend the time educating our state lawmakers and advocating for state-wide improvements.

We have continued to see forward movement at the state level as organizations and individuals stay steadfast to the idea of being a voice for Virginia animals.


Virginians saw major state-wide victories for animals in 2020:

Senate Bill 272 and House Bill 1552, sponsored by Senator John Bell and Delegate Mark Levine, which brings improvements to the definitions of adequate shelter and adequate space for outside companion animals!



Effective 07/01/2020, Virginians are being held to a higher standard in how they care for their outside dogs! And we are LOVIN’ it! 


Kudos to Senator John Bell (SB 272) and Delegate Mark Levine (HB 1552) for authoring bills in this Virginia legislative session, furthering the tireless work of Lionell Spruill’s 2019 efforts (SB 1025) to provide more protections to outside dogs and other animals living their lives at the ends of the chain. 

These COMMON SENSE IMPROVEMENTS to VA’s 3.2-6500 Codes place further emphasis on protections from predators and the elements, as well as more space for the animal in which to live:

“Adequate shelter” means provision of and access to shelter that is suitable for the species, age, condition, size, and type of each animal; provides adequate space for each animal; is safe and protects each animal from injury, rain, sleet, snow, hail, direct sunlight, the adverse effects of heat or cold, physical suffering, and impairment of health; is properly lighted; is properly cleaned; enables each animal to be clean and dry, except when detrimental to the species; during hot weather, is properly shaded and does not readily conduct heat; during cold weather, has a windbreak at its entrance and provides a quantity of bedding material consisting of hay, cedar shavings, or the equivalent that is sufficient to protect the animal from cold and promote the retention of body heat; and, for dogs and cats, provides a solid surface, resting platform, pad, floormat, or similar device that is large enough for the animal to lie on in a normal manner and can be maintained in a sanitary manner. Under this chapter, shelters whose wire, grid, or slat floors (i) permit the animals’ feet to pass through the openings, (ii) sag under the animals’ weight, or (iii) otherwise do not protect the animals’ feet or toes from injury are not adequate shelter.  >>>> (ADDED AS OF 07/01/2020) The outdoor tethering of an animal shall not constitute the provision of adequate shelter (a) unless the animal is safe from predators and well suited and well equipped to tolerate its environment; (b) during the effective period for a hurricane warning or tropical storm warning issued for the area by the National Weather Service; or (c)(1) during a heat advisory issued by a local or state authority, (2) when the actual or effective outdoor temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher or 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, or (3) during the effective period for a severe weather warning issued for the area by the National Weather Service, including a winter storm, tornado, or severe thunderstorm warning, unless an animal control officer, having inspected an animal’s individual circumstances in clause (c)(1), (2), or (3), has determined the animal to be safe from predators and well suited and well equipped to tolerate its environment.<<<< 


“Adequate space” means sufficient space to allow each animal to (i) easily stand, sit, lie, turn about, and make all other normal body movements in a comfortable, normal position for the animal and (ii) interact safely with other animals in the enclosure. When an animal is tethered, “adequate space” means that the tether to which the animal is attached permits the above actions and is appropriate to the age and size of the animal; is attached to the animal by a properly applied collar, halter, or harness that is configured so as to protect the animal from injury and prevent the animal or tether from becoming entangled with other objects or animals, or from extending over an object or edge that could result in the strangulation or injury of the animal; is at least 15 feet in length or  >>>> (NEW AS OF 07/01/2020, REVISED FROM 3 TIMES THE LENGTH OF THE ANIMAL) four times the length of the animal, as measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, whichever is greater, except when the animal is being walked on a leash or is attached by a tether to a lead line or when an animal control officer, having inspected an animal’s individual circumstances, has determined that in such an individual case, a tether of at least 10 feet or three times the length of the animal, but shorter than 15 feet or four times the length of the animal, makes the animal more safe, more suited, and better equipped to tolerate its environment than a longer tether;<<<< does not, by its material, size, or weight or any other characteristic, cause injury or pain to the animal; does not weigh more than one-tenth of the animal’s body weight; and does not have weights or other heavy objects attached to it. The walking of an animal on a leash by its owner shall not constitute the tethering of the animal for the purpose of this definition. When freedom of movement would endanger the animal, temporarily and appropriately restricting movement of the animal according to professionally accepted standards for the species is considered provision of adequate space. The provisions of this definition that relate to tethering shall not apply to agricultural animals.


So get the word out! Virginia is growing less and less tolerant of chained animals.


… And a major state-wide victory for animals in 2019:

Senate Bill 1604, sponsored by Senator Bill DeSteph, which brings harsher penalties to those convicted of animal cruelty!

WOW!!!! SB1604 passed UNANIMOUSLY through the VA State Senate as well as the VA State House!

No more pussyfooting around with animal abusers! This is simply awesome news for Virginia cats and dogs!

“Cruelty to animals; aggravated cruelty; penalty. Increases from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony the penalty for cruelly or unnecessarily beating, maiming, mutilating, or killing a dog or cat. Current law requires that the dog or cat die as a direct result of torture, or inhumane injury or pain, before the violation is a Class 6 felony.”

This is very serious stuff!!!! Truly raising the bar of accountability!!!! A step in the right direction for justice!!!!

Of course, HOWS hopes in the future that amendments can be made to include ALL VA animals under this protection. But as with any animal law… baby steps, persistence, and perseverance…

For now — we take the win, which was several years in the making! Bless everyone who participated in the efforts to make this a reality!!!

Be a voice of those who cannot speak for themselves!  Advocate!