Maxwell: Emotion runs high on dog tethering

Tue, 02/24/2009 - 4:26pm
By: John Munford

Fayette County animal control officials are researching whether the county should strengthen its ordinances to address dog tethering abuse.

Commissioner Eric Maxwell, who brought the matter up at a recent commission workshop, said he doesn’t envision a ban on dog tethering but instead a beefing up of county ordinances on animal cruelty. Currently the county ordinance definition of animal cruelty is vague, Maxwell said.

No ordinance on the matter is being drafted, but the commission has asked county Animal Control Director Miguel Abi-Hassan to investigate the issue and make a presentation to the commission, Maxwell said.

“That’s the information we’re hoping to receive from Miguel: what’s the scope of the problem and how do you address it?” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said he has received a number of passionate emails from people on both sides of the issue.

“I have received probably as heavy lobbying on both sides of this as any issue that has come in front of me in the last two years,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said he is not “anti-tethering” but he hopes to address animal cruelty more effectively in the county ordinances.

“Some folks want a total ban of it and others want no ordinance at all,” Maxwell said. “My preference is simply to address those abuse cases, that is what I’m interested in.”

One example of such an abuse case would be where a dog is tethered, for example, “for days or weeks on end in the same location, in filthy conditions, in their own feces where they don’t have access to fresh water,” Maxwell said.

“Where they’re not cared for the way most reasonable people would care for a pet,” he added.

Maxwell said he also wants to avoid situations where the collar is cutting into an animal’s neck.

“I am not interested in banning all use of a tether,” Maxwell said, noting that he couldn’t speak for his four fellow commissioners. He did say he didn’t anticipate the board going to either extreme of the issue.

Maxwell’s involvement in the issue began about a year ago when a local resident who happens to be an elected official approached him asking how dog tethering complaints were handled. The official, who Maxwell declined to name, had no specific complaint about a particular incident, Maxwell said.

A look at the county’s ordinances showed that tethering is not specifically addressed and the language regulating animal abuse is not very specific, Maxwell said.

Maxwell noted that tethering is not the only potential type of abuse he is curious about. One letter writer informed him that animal pens if unsanitary or improperly maintained can also be harmful to animals.

When Maxwell formerly served as a city judge for Peachtree City, Maxwell recalled hearing cases about pit bull dogs that were tethered or chained outside constantly. As a judge, his concern was the dogs’ potential of biting other people, Maxwell said.

“My training as a judge is, that’s a sign sometimes of someone protecting the property because they don’t want police or they’re dealing drugs there, and they want it as a sign of power,” Maxwell said. “... There are some people that think chaining a dog to a tree is appropriate and I just simply don’t think that’s the appropriate way to have a pet.”

Meanwhile, Maxwell has been “amazed” at how the tethering issue “has gotten a life of its own.”

Part of that is because interested parties on both sides have “exaggerated” the situation, he said.

“They’re talking about ‘Fayette County’s getting ready to pass this ordinance that bans tethering,’” Maxwell said. “We haven’t even had an ordinance drafted, let alone getting to the point where we will accept something.”

Maxwell said he anticipates the commission hearing a presentation from staff at a workshop Wednesday, March 4 with the commission then deciding whether a new ordinance should be drafted or not.

That workshop meeting is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. Public comment is generally not received at such meetings but instead is reserved for the commission’s regular meetings on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.

The Humane Society of the United States on its website advocates the use of animal restraint to get the animal fresh air “if done for a short period. However, keeping an animal tethered for long periods is never acceptable.”

The use of a “pulley run,” a long line similar to a clothesline that allows the animal to have more freedom, is preferable to a stationary tether, HSUS states.

The American Kennel Club, a national group that regulates the dog show industry, “recognizes that under certain circumstances, responsible tethering is an appropriate method of containing a dog.”

AKC recommends local and state governments enforce animal cruelty statutes instead of drafting new ordinances aimed at tethering.

Under Georgia law, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor for cruelty to animals for “intentionally withholding food and water required by an animal to prevent starvation or dehydration.”

Animal owners must also provide humane care including “adequate heat, ventilation, sanitary shelter and and wholesome and adequate food and water, consistent with the normal requirements and feeding habits of the animal’s size, species and breed.”

Persons may face a felony animal cruelty charge for “maliciously causing death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of the animal’s body useless or by seriously disfiguring an animal,” according to Georgia law.

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ptctaxpayer's picture
Submitted by ptctaxpayer on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 12:13pm.

Tethering Politicians should be legal, though. What with even the Commission, the local cities and our GOP politicians having an insatiable interest in stimulus checks and pork someone needs to restrain them.

Oh, yeah....On the pets---- I agree. Anyone that shows cruelty to animal may not be far away from treating children or fellow human beings that way.

Submitted by mysteryman on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 8:26pm.

Says the sign on my fence with a picture of a 357 on it for those who cant figure it out, no need to worry about a tether at my house, the dog runs free, and what he cant catch, a quick flip of the saftey will. PEACE

Submitted by wheeljc on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 7:15pm.

Given what has recently been learned, might consider starting with the BOE!!

Submitted by TomCat on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 7:23pm.

I'll leave the height choice to those more enlightened ... speaking only of the BOE....

"The Cat is loose...."

DarthDubious's picture
Submitted by DarthDubious on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 12:24pm.

However, the tether is ignored by the people. The Constitution is the cuffs and shackles for the government but, is not enforced, because the people have been blinded by the big government advocates and corporate media all their lives, and don't know any better.

In Liberty,


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