Group proposes dog tether ban

Jul. 31, 2013 @ 12:06 PM

Guilford County could join communities across the country banning unattended dog tethering if a special committee has its way.
The Animal Welfare Committee that has been working on the issue since 2010 has written a proposed tethering ban that the Board of Commissioners could see in the next couple of months. The code is aimed at reducing the number of dog attacks and the number of roving animals that go to the county animal shelter.
“These could be terrible problems for the county if we do not do something,” said committee member Frankie Heath, a 30-year dog rescue veteran who operates People & Paws 4 Hope. “We should be on the side of safety for people.”
The proposed ban would affect pet owners in Greensboro, the unincorporated areas and small towns surrounding High Point, but not High Point residents. Each municipality would have to approve a code change. If passed, the new code would take effect over a nearly two-year period during which violators would get warnings. Eventually, animal cruelty penalties would apply and owners could lose their animals.
The group approved a ban nearly a year ago and has since been working on a draft code proposal with the help of County Attorney Mark Payne.
Those opposed to tethering say it is unsafe for the animals because they can get tangled up in their restraints. Also, some owners leave their animals with no food or water. Tethered dogs are more likely to run away if they get loose.
Tethering can make dogs more aggressive, according to the Humane Society. Last year, there were 38 fatal dog attacks in the United States. Half of the victims were children. North Carolina and California tied for first place with four deaths each from dog attacks, according to DogsBite.org.
“If a tethered dog is approached by a person or another dog, it will attack to protect its territory,” Heath said.
More than 100 communities in more than 30 states have passed laws regulating tethering. Officials in the town of Davidson banned unattended tethering last year. Durham has a total ban.
The code would allow farmers to tether dogs while at work and handlers to restrain dogs during shows. Campers could also tether dogs.  In all cases, owners must be within visual range of their pets.
Heath said she expected a serious debate because some owners don’t want to be told how to treat their animals.
“If we can get people to have compassion for animals, we’ll see a change in how they treat each other,”  she said.
The committee also prepared a compromise three-hour tethering limit.  Orange County has a three-hour limit. A total  ban is easier to enforce, Heath said.
“If the discussion goes to an up or down vote, there could be a compromise,” said County Attorney Mark Payne.
“This should not be political,” said Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Linda Shaw, who also has chaired the county’s animal welfare committee for some time. “This is about safety.”

Tethering
Codes:  High Point allows unattended dog tethering. There are no state laws regulating pet tethering.

Results: In Scotland County where there has been a  one-hour maximum tethering code for dogs since 2006, the number of dogs at large has dropped by as much as 70 percent and dog bites have dropped slightly, according to  a report from Unchain Your Dog.