Hillsborough County citizens come out again to support strict anti-tethering ordinance

During Wednesday's Commission meeting, the board agreed to set a future public hearing to get closer to formally passing an ordinance on the issue.

According to the community members who have steadfastly opposed the document submitted by Animal Services, the most problematic point in it was its time clause. The ordinance currently allows for a dog to be tethered unattended for up to thirty minutes. Several of the individuals who commented on the time allowance said that this makes the implementation of the regulations almost impossible, because whomever sees the tethered dog would have to observe the animal for at least thirty minutes before contacting any officials. Also,this does not take into account the fact the dog might have been tethered several hours already.

During the meeting, animal protection activists, volunteers, and concerned citizens explained to the board the adverse effects of tethering to the animals and the community. They said that animals that are chained are often euthanized because they are often so abused and ill that nothing else can be done for them. Other animals rescued have to be trained for long time periods, often more than a year, before they are able to safely interact with people and other dogs. Advocates for a stronger ordinance said that that tethering has terrible consequences for the animals that are often traumatized both physically and psychologically. Starvation, flies, tics, worms, heat, cold are some of the things a tethered dog is subjected to. Dogs that are tethered often become too aggressive or diseased to be adopted after rescue.

There was a particular debate concerning agricultural areas and tethering. Some argued that in these areas, the owners tether their dogs for their own safety. Roy Davis, a citizen supporting leniency, suggested to the Board that a new anti-tethering ordinance is not necessary since there are other ordinances in place which successfully supervised the owners.

Late in the afternoon, Commissioners discussed the issue. Les Miller said he wouldn't vote for anything that would include tethering. Victor Crist said he saw the board "going around and around," and said if they were going to talk about egregious behavior, they should concentrate on that. "We want to get at abuse," he said.

Commissioner Sandy Murman said she wanted to encourage Animals Service Department to conduct trainings for neighborhood groups. And she didn't want any tethering language in the ordinance.

But Kevin Beckner said that might allow citizens to put their animals in crates if they wanted to keep them outside but not free. He didn't agree on a 30 minute limit. "To say that under no circumstances can you keep your dog outside chained" won't work, he said, and Commission Chair Ken Hagan agreed.

The Commission voted 6-1 to accept a staff report.

For over a year, the Board of County Commissioners has been discussing the implementation of an anti-tethering ordinance in Hillsborough County. Since the issue first surfaced in the summer of 2010, several community members have come forward and criticized the leniency of the proposed ordinance. After numerous and constant community input, which stressed the inadequacies of the proposed ordinance, the board returned to the Animal Services department for a revision of the document.

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