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Covington resident disagrees with tethering ordinance

Newton County Animal Control’s senior administrative specialist Freddie Ellis sees a lot of animals come and go through the shelter’s front door. This chihuahua mix is one of many other dogs that are left as strays. Ellis said usually when an animal is brought in, it is held for three working days. It is scanned to see if there is a microchip to contact the owner. Depending on the situation, Ellis said injured animals are treated although there is no veterinarian on staff. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)

Newton County Animal Control’s senior administrative specialist Freddie Ellis sees a lot of animals come and go through the shelter’s front door. This chihuahua mix is one of many other dogs that are left as strays. Ellis said usually when an animal is brought in, it is held for three working days. It is scanned to see if there is a microchip to contact the owner. Depending on the situation, Ellis said injured animals are treated although there is no veterinarian on staff. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)

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Newton County Animal Control responds to various calls everyday. Jay Larrabee called the shelter after he found a severely injured German Shepherd on his property during Saturday’s rainy weather. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)

COVINGTON — One resident disagrees with a Newton County ordinance that allows pet owners to tether their dogs.

During Saturday’s severe rainy weather, Jay Larrabee of Covington noticed a gravely injured German shepherd in his front yard.

Larrabee said the wounds and injuries on the dog’s back legs appeared to be from rope tethering.

“We called Newton County Animal Control and the officer I talked to said it’s not rare to find dogs with tethering injuries,” Larrabee said. “My position is that it should not be permitted.”

Newton County Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hooson said the county permits tethering dogs with ropes and/or chains, but there are a few specifics to the law.

“The dog can be chained out at anytime, but must be provided with a shelter and water at all times. The chain or rope has to be three times the length of the dog from nose to tail,” Key-Hooson said. “Also the chain can’t be a burden to the dog, such as a logging chain. The tethering must be properly fastened to the dog by a collar.”

Key-Hooson said it’s not a normal occurrence to have a dog brought to the animal shelter with injuries from tethering, but occasionally it happens.

“There are some people that are lax when it comes to tethering. And depending on the collar, we have seen injuries to dogs’ necks,” she said.

The injured German shepherd Larrabee found was wearing a collar with its owner’s contact information, but Larrabee decided to call animal control to handle the situation.

Key-Hooson said the dog was picked up from the shelter on Saturday and was taken to a veterinarian.

“Apparently the dog was missing for three weeks. The owners came by and took it directly to the vet,” Key-Hooson said.

The tethering ordinance was last updated by the Newton County Board of Commissioners in 2010. It defines conditions under which a dog may be tethered, including the requirement that the tethering area must be clear of debris or obstacles so that the tether does not become entangled; the tethering area must allow for exercise and freedom of movement; and the area must be maintained in a sanitary condition and provide access to dry ground.

In addition, the ordinance defines an acceptable tether as one that requires that only one dog be attached to a single tether, and prohibits the tethering of sick or injured dogs and dogs under 6 months of age unless the dog weighs more than 20 pounds.

But Larrabee said he wants to see action to prevent tethering altogether.

“If a citizen wants to own a dog, they must take full responsibility for it, not tether it,” Larrabee said. “Where we live, I have 10 acres and it seems to be an area where people drop off their unwanted pets. The dog we’ve had for 15 years came on the property so we decided to rescue and adopt it.”