Dog-chaining bans gain favor in metro counties
By SANDRA ECKSTEIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitutio n
Published on: 04/15/07
For years, people thought nothing of chaining a dog up in the yard. That's just how people kept their dogs.
But people are starting to realize that relegating a dog to a lonely existence in the yard is cruel to the dog and dangerous to the public, experts say. That's why several counties have passed anti-chaining legislation and others are talking about it.
Gwinnett is the latest county to pass legislation against chaining a dog. The laws, part of a new animal control ordinance passed Jan. 16, ban dogs from ever being chained or tethered.
"It shall be unlawful for the owner or possessor of any animal to restrain or anchor an animal by means of a tether, chain, cable, rope or cord, unless the tether or other restraint is being held by a competent person," the ordinance says. Pets now must be kept in a pen or other building with at least 150 square feet per dog.
Despite that, animal control manager Sammy Jeanes says his department won't be handing out tickets to everyone in the county with a chained-up dog. But it will help them get to some of the worse problems, like pit bull breeders and neglectful owners, he said.
"The chaining law is what all of us really wanted to get to these dogs being chained to trees that never see anyone except to be fed," said Jeanes. "They have zero quality of life. I don't know why anyone would want a dog to just chain it up."
Jeanes said various cities in the county are being urged to pass similar ordinances.
DeKalb County passed its no-chaining ordinance in July 2005. That law prohibits tethering but does allow a dog to be kept for up to 12 hours a day on a trolley or cable line, with certain restrictions.
DeKalb Police Capt. Jerry Horner said critics initially believed the ordinance would lead to a spate of calls and dogs turned in to animal control. But he said call volume has not changed, and the law has helped them do a better job of protecting animals.
"It helps us in all aspects in our job," Horner said. "It often gives us probable cause to investigate cases more thoroughly."
Anti-chaining ordinances are growing around the country. Heidi Pollyea, a local representative of Dogs Deserve Better, a national anti-chaining group, said studies have shown that chained dogs are much more likely to bite or attack. It's also cruel to the dogs, Pollyea said, because dogs are pack animals and the family becomes their pack once they're taken from their litter.
"With such a small area to dwell in, dogs can become overly territorial and aggressive," Pollyea said. "If you were confined to a tiny area your whole life, you'd get depressed and frustrated and angry, too."
A group of animal lovers has been working in Forsyth County to get similar legislation passed there. County attorney Ken Jarrard said it has been discussed at several work sessions and probably will be brought up at a public meeting.
"The board of commissioners is interested in bringing this back and at least putting it up for a public hearing," Jarrard said, estimating it will probably happen within the next few months.
In Hall County the head of the county animal shelter last month asked the Gainesville City Council to ban chaining and plans to make the same proposal to the County Commission soon. "We require a fence around a pool because it's an attractive nuisance to children, but a dog is an attractive nuisance to children, too. Children will walk right up to a dog without thinking," said Rick Aiken, who runs the county shelter for the Humane Society of Hall County. "Chained dogs can become so territorial. It's a big safety issue."
Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler said the idea ignited a lot of pro and con comments. He said the council asked staff to look into the matter.
For more information on chained dogs, go to www.dogsdeservebett
er.com. To read Gwinnett's new animal control ordinance, go to www.co.gwinnett
. ga.us, then click on Animal Shelter under Departments, then Ordinances.
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