Activists urge tethering ban but commissioners hold off on vote

This broken chain and collar was around Peter’s neck when the severely emaciated dog was found. 

Activists urge tethering ban but commissioners hold off on vote
October 13
06:45 2016



The Forsyth Animal Coalition made an extensive case for a ban on unsupervised tethering last week, but will have to wait a bit longer for county commissioners to act on it.

Forsyth Animal Coalition held a press conference last week at Reynolda Manor Library presenting the case against owners tethering dogs in their yards. Leila Warren opened by citing the American Veterinary Medical Association, which advises against tethering because it makes dogs territorial and aggressive, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which found it to be inhumane because it restricts the dog’s movement and often leads to injury or strangulation of the dog. The Centers for Disease Control found that chained dogs are three times more likely to bite. The chances increase to five times more likely if the victim is a child.

The Forsyth County Veterinary Medical Association, which is made up of 75 local veterinarians, sent a letter to county commissioners in support of the ban because tethering can lead to neglect and aggressive behavior.

“It is never the owner’s intention to abuse or neglect the pet, but without the dog’s ability to demand attention to have its needs met, it invariably heads in that direction,” said Veterinarian Dr. Molly Douglass as she read the letter.

Jerry Canady, described the tethered dogs he saw during his time as Forsyth Animal Control director as being aggressive and having very little socialization with people. He described a dog he saw that had worn a choke chain for so long his skin had grown over it. Tethered dogs were often un-adoptable, he said, and had to be euthanized.

“The chaining of dogs, tethering of dogs to short leashes and so forth, is the Number One  problem and has been for as long as I remember,”  said Canady, who is also a Rural Hall town councilman.

To show that the problem persists, Mary Madison Lovette talked about a dog she called Peter, who she’d found just days earlier after he’d broken his chain. He still had his collar around his neck when she found him scavenging for food. She said the dog looked like a “walking skeleton.” He weighed about 30 pounds, and was flea ridden and infested with parasites.

Lovette is currently helping Peter recover from the ordeal. Fur-Ever Friends is offering a $1,000 reward for information on who was responsible.

“My heart breaks because, despite his unfair treatment, I believe he will make a phenomenal pet for someone,” she said.

Warren said that all this makes a case for “a clean, concise, chaining ordinance that can be enforced.” Currently the county has a tethering ordinance that deals with some of the ill effects of tether-ing, but does not ban the practice itself, and is widely considered unenforceable. Activists want a ban on unsupervised tethering similar to what Guilford County has.

The next day, at the county commissioners briefing, not all the commissioners were sold on the ban.

“I do see there’s some common sense that if you have a dog that’s chained, it does get angry after a long period of time and if you go up to it, it might bite you,” said Commissioner Don Martin. “But I can tell you, if you come to my house, my dog will bite you … if he doesn’t know who’s coming in, I hate to say it, but he’s done it.”

Martin said that he believed studies were inconclusive on if tethering was bad and that dogs can be tethered humanely. He said other cities and counties have dealt with it in varied ways determined by community norms and not “small, emotional advocacy groups.”

Commissioner Richard Linville was unsure how he’d vote, but Gloria Whisenhunt opposed the ban.

“This  ordinance that you all want to pass, it virtually says if you cannot afford a fence, if you can not afford a doghouse, then you shouldn’t have a dog,” she said.

Commissioners Dave Plyler, Walter Marshall, Everette Witherspoon and Ted Kaplan voiced support for the ban.

“We need it badly, because it is cruel,” said Marshall.

Marshall also said that he believed that groups that build fences for those who can’t afford them,  like Unchain Forsyth and Unchain Winston, will help low income households prepare for the ban.

The measure was very close to getting a vote this week, but Marshall said he would like to look it over before voting on it. Normally an item to be voted on is part of the agenda during Thursday briefings, letting commissioners see it in writing and hear an overview of it from staff, which Kaplan said would’ve happened if he hadn’t been absent from the previous week’s briefing. In a previous briefing, Kaplan had presented a final version of the ordinance, modeled after the one in Guilford County, with a one year education period before the ban begins.

The item is planned to be included in the agenda for the Oct. 24 meeting and will be discussed in today’s commissioner briefing.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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