Durham commissioners to weigh tethering ordinance | Durham County | Indy Week
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Durham commissioners to weigh tethering ordinance 

Chain reaction

Click for larger image • Cash, a pit bull chained up for most of his life, watches as volunteers with Durham's Coalition to Unchain Dogs work to install a fence in the backyard of his home. When the Coalition released Cash into his new fenced-in yard, he was the 100th dog set free by the group.

Photo by Derek Anderson

Click for larger image • Cash, a pit bull chained up for most of his life, watches as volunteers with Durham's Coalition to Unchain Dogs work to install a fence in the backyard of his home. When the Coalition released Cash into his new fenced-in yard, he was the 100th dog set free by the group.

Cash and Fat Mamma, Angel and Diesel: They are among the more than 100 dogs who can securely roam in their yards without the jerk of a chain or the burn of a rope.

Durham's Coalition to Unchain Dogs, which helped free them, builds fences around properties, with the homeowners' permission, so the pets don't have to be chained or tied up. The Coalition also is advocating for proposed amendments to the county's tethering ordinance, which the Durham County Commission will discuss later this month. (Download the proposed amendments: DOC, 31 KB.)

If the Commissioners pass the amendments, it would be illegal, except under certain circumstances, to leave an animal tied up outside. The Commission will hold a public hearing about the proposed amendment Aug. 25.

Speak up

The Durham County Commission will hold a public hearing on the tethering ordinance Monday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m., 200 E. Main St. Download the proposed amendments: DOC, 31 KB. Here is the commissioners' contact information:

The Orange County Commission has held several public hearings on its ordinance, but commissioners have yet to vote on it.

Recommended changes to Durham's ordinance include:

  • Defining tethering as "tying or fastening a pet outdoors on a rope, chain or similar restraint." The ordinance would allow a pet to be on an attended leash or restrained inside the house.

  • To appease hunters and farmers, the ordinance would allow dogs to be tethered for no more than a week if the animals are actively herding livestock, engaged in hunting and sporting events, or undergoing field, water, obedience or law enforcement training and veterinary treatment. Dogs could also be tethered at campgrounds where it is required.

  • Animals less than 20 pounds would be required to have no less than 100 square feet of unobstructed area per animal; 200 square feet per animal for those more than 20 pounds.

The ordinance would become effective 15 months after adoption and would include a year-long public outreach and education program, followed by a three-month grace period during which animal control officers would issue only warnings.

Amanda Arrington, a member of the Durham County Animal Control Advisory Board and the Coalition, said she anticipates significant opposition to the ordinance from several groups, including people who support dog fighting or dog breeding. "It's about property to them," Arrington said.

Dog-fighting is illegal in North Carolina; possessing dogs for fighting or watching a dog fight is punishable by up to 10 months in jail.

Some amendment opponents have dubious reputations. For example, Sandra Coy is chairwoman of Responsible Animal Owners for the Eastern States, and has ties to North Carolina through fellow board member and dog breeder Andrea Press of Wilmington, an amendment opponent. (See "Couple banished from LaRue County on animal cruelty charges," The News-Enterprise; and "County toughens leash law for dogs," Pit Bull Community.)

Coy was charged in Kentucky with 12 counts of animal cruelty and reached a plea agreement with prosecutors earlier this year. She surrendered dozens of dogs, including 37 pit bulls.

In Orange County, Alane Koki, who had applied to be on the county's tethering committee, resigned last year after the Indy uncovered her ties to pit bull breeding and dog fighting. (See "Member of Orange County's chained-dog study panel has ties to dog-fighting.")

Opponents of anti-tethering laws contend that it is humane to properly tether dogs, that anti-cruelty laws already cover any inhumane tethering, and that enforcing it could be expensive.

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association has determined chained dogs tend to be more aggressive, and under the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits chaining as the primary means of confinement because of the stress on the dog. About 100 state and local jurisdictions ban or restrict dog chaining.

Orange County Commissioners took up the issue last year and have held several public hearings on it. The ordinance remains in limbo, although the commission could take it up again later this fall. In an e-mail, Commissioner Barry Jacobs wrote that before a vote, the commissioners would need time during a work session, without public comment, to "express our own concerns and interests and to ask staff questions."

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