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BOC considers anti-tethering ordinance

MANSFIELD -- County commissioners are considering an amendment to the animal control ordinance to address tethering of animals.

The issue was discussed at a retreat held at Burge Plantation over the weekend.

Commissioners Tim Fleming and Nancy Schulz said they have both received complaints from constituents regarding the tethering of animals and requests that the county look into regulating that practice.

"There's far too many people that leave their dog chained up all day. I think it's cruel to the animal. It's a public safety concern," Fleming said.

According to Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hooson, dogs that are tethered are more prone to bite.

"Any dog that is tethered 24/7 is a problem. One of the big things for the county is that they can be a bite hazard. Those animals are usually very ill, mean and aggressive because they don't want to be where they are. We have issues with bite cases. It's not right to keep an animal like that," Key-Hooson said in an interview Tuesday.

"The other consideration is backyard breeders who chain large numbers of dogs outside. This would give the county more power to go in and say you can't do that," she said.

Another problem that results from tethering is noise from dogs who bark incessantly out of displeasure over being confined, said Key-Hooson.

She noted that there are people who keep their animals tethered but provide access to food, water and shelter and take them out for exercise and play.

"I'm not out to look at those types of people, but we do want to limit the suffering of animals," she said.

Presently, tethering is allowed so long as the animal has access to shelter and water. Commissioners had varying opinions on whether tethering should be allowed at all.

Commissioner Mort Ewing said he knows many residents, particularly in rural areas, who tether dogs at or near the front door as a security measure and, as long as the animal has access to the essentials, he believes they should be allowed to do that.

Schulz said she would have no problem with allowing tethering with a running cable or trolley that would allow the animal to get exercise and have access to food and water, while still providing security for homeowners.

Chairman Kathy Morgan said she would like a clause that would allow tethering under some circumstances, taking into account, for example, when property owners are tearing down or repairing a fence that would otherwise confine an animal.

"I think we need to consider an anti-tethering ordinance, but we need to consider all the ramifications of that. We need to make sure we're not requiring good people to break the law in the normal course of life," she said.

Jenny Carter with the County Attorney's Office said there are a variety of ways the board can approach the issue. In Athens-Clarke and Gwinnett counties, for example, tethering is not allowed at all unless the animal is attended by the owner. In DeKalb County, tethering is limited to certain hours and running cables are allowed.

"Whenever you regulate people's pets, you get a lot of emotion and there's usually strong feelings both ways on this," Carter noted.

Commissioners asked Carter to work up a "common sense approach" to the issue for future discussion.