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Tethering Changes in Chatham County

At the January 21, 2014 Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting a revision of the county’s Animal Control Ordinance was approved in a 4-1 vote. For the most part there were no major changes. The majority of the discussion was around a proposal to include limitations to tethering dogs. There were two options placed before the Commissioners. In Option 1, dogs could be tethered no more than 10 hours at a time, and then required to be given a two hour break off the tether. Option 2, allowed dogs to be tethered with no time limits, but included more detailed specifications around acceptable tethering methods.

Before the vote I was one of several members of the public who addressed the Board of Commissioners. Printed below is some of what I had to say, from the perspective of a dog behaviorist.

Most tethered dogs live a harsh and lonely existence. People typically don’t understand how dogs operate, both mentally and socially. Most people do many things wrong from the moment they get a puppy. Dog psychology and child psychology have a lot in common. Both need to be nurtured and given direction. Both are social beings and will not thrive in isolation. The average tethered dog is getting none of these needs met. If you want to create a mentally unstable dog, chain it out and make it spend most of every day alone.

If a dog is tied and is not getting at least an hour a day to run and play, going places for socialization with other dogs and people, receiving basic training and manners work, then you will find the results are usually the same. By the time these dogs are a year old they are frustrated and under-socialized. Try to take the dog away from where it lives, or introduce a new person the dog has never met, and a very fearful dog will come to light. In dogs, fear may be exhibited by trying to avoid that which it is afraid, or the exact opposite. The dog may become very aggressive toward the object of its fear. Tied dogs will likely be much more territorial of the area they live in.

Statistics show that dog bites in rural areas are four times higher than in more populated places. I think this is due to larger number of under-socialized dogs.

In addition to being under-socialized, chained dogs face additional issues:

-They are extremely vulnerable to attacks by other animals, including humans. Often the chains get caught around nearby bushes or trees and restrict the dog’s movement, sometimes to nothing.

-A person once told me their chained dog was mortally injured when lightning struck the tree the dog was chained to.

-Unless the owner is vigilant, chains break, and collar hardware wares out. Most chained dogs unintentionally get lose from time to time. If the dog is aggressive this is a danger to humans and/or other animals in the area.

During the commissioner’s discussion before the vote, Brian Bock said, “A compromise is necessary.” He continued, “The ordinance revision addresses a lot of the issues and gives tools to the animal control officers that haven’t been there until now. If this (the revised ordinance) doesn’t go far enough and there is data to show that, then I am willing to look at the tethering time limits again.” During the meeting Commissioner Pam Stewart questioned, “What have we (society) become that we have to tell people not to be cruel to their animals?” Commissioner Sally Kost was the only commissioner who did not vote to approve the updated ordinance because she wanted to see a total ban on tethering.

The Board of Commissioners did not consider a 10 hour time limit on tethering because Animal Control currently does not have the staff and resources to enforce it. Judging by the public and Commissioner’s comments, I think there is a good chance that we will see the subject of anti-tethering revisited in the future.

Some of the Animal Control Ordinance’s newly added tethering specifications are:

-Tethers must have swivels on both ends.

-Tethers must be a minimum of 15 feet in length.

-The weight of the tether should not exceed 10% of the dog’s body weight.

-Dogs must be at least 4 months old to be tethered.

If you are getting a dog or puppy and plan to chain or pen it for the majority of the time, then do the dog a favor. Give that animal the opportunity to live with someone else, where it will be fully included as a participating family member. Stop and ask yourself, “Would I want to be my dog?”

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