New Fairfax Virginia city ordinance puts the bite on dog tethering
-Enforceable limits can produce up to $250 in fines
By Gregg MacDonald Staff Writer
City of Fairfax officials have put some teeth into a new ordinance regarding dog tethering that narrowly defines how and when city dogs may be tethered, and expands enforcement and penalties.
On Dec. 15, City of Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne signed City of Fairfax Ordinance No. 21014-32, which states that all dogs age 4 months and older that reside within city limits may be tethered for no more than “one cumulative hour in any one day” between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily.
Fairfax City Code defines tethering as “tying, fastening, chaining, restraining ... a companion animal to any fixed or stationery object, device or structure, or to any other object designed to confine and limit the movement of the companion animal.”
The new ordinance also outlines that tethering of a dog — for any amount of time — is not permitted during the overnight hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Dogs who are sick or injured, or younger than 4 months old, also may not be tethered at any time; and no dogs may be tethered for any amount of time if the ambient temperature in the “tethering area” drops below 32 degrees or rises past 90 degrees.
“This is effective immediately,” Silverthorne said following the signing. “This begins today.”
The ordinance was passed by the City Council by a vote of 5-1, with only council member Nancy F. Loftus voting against it.
“This is a catalyst piece of legislation,” said Councilman David. L. Meyer at the signing. “We hope to influence other municipalities to enact their own similar ordinances.”
Penalties for dog owners and/or dog caregivers are $50 for the first violation, and up to $250 for subsequent violations. Previously, the city’s laws mirrored Virginia State Code, which provides only broad definitions pertaining to the issue. Other Northern Virginia cities such as Arlington and Alexandria also have implemented policies that go above and beyond state law definitions.
“We modeled our ordinance after the Arlington ordinance.” Silverthorne said. “We wanted this to be enforceable, but also reasonable. If someone wants to tie up their dog outside for an hour while they wash their car or something like that, it’s fine. We just don’t want to see dogs tied up outside excessively. With the limited one-hour timeline, we can enforce this ordinance and still be realistic and reasonable about it.”
According to the USDA Animal Welfare Act, “Continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is considered inhumane.”
A National Institutes of Health study titled “Which Dogs Bite? A Case Study of Risk Factors,” also has shown that dog bites cause an estimated 585,000 injuries resulting in the need for medical attention yearly, and children are the most frequent victims. According to the study, dogs chained in a yard accounted for “a substantial portion of serious and fatal bites.”
In her book “Fatal Dog Attacks: the Stories behind the Statistics,” veterinary technician and author Karen Delise concurs: “Chaining a dog is arguably the single most dangerous condition in which to maintain a dog. Statistically, chained dogs are more dangerous than free-running packs of dogs.”
City of Fairfax Police Chief Col. Carl Pardiny knows all about dogs and their treatment. He was the city’s first K-9 officer from 1996 to 2001. He says that with approximately 3,000 dog owners in the 6.3-square-mile Fairfax City limits, this ordinance was needed.
“We are going to focus on educating the public about it for now,” he said. “But it’s good to know it is something we can enforce if and when we need to.”
New Fairfax City ordinance puts the bite on dog tethering -- FairfaxTimes.com