Published: May 31, 2008 09:02 AM
Modified: May 31, 2008 09:05 AM
Breaking the chains
Aside from their children, there are few things people are as passionate about as their pets.That explains the big turnout and impassioned pleas at the last public hearing on a proposed Orange County ordinance that would limit the chaining -- "tethering," in the parlance -- of dogs. One speaker compared the struggle to banish tethering to the struggle to abolish slavery. That may venture a bit farther than most of us would go. But animal neglect is a serious issue, and if there are reasonable measures to help prevent it, it's worth the effort to explore them.Two distinct camps have formed on the issue. The anti-tethering camp, backed up by organizations such as the Humane Society and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, argues that regularly tethering dogs for extended periods can cause them physical and psychological damage and often produces antisocial and aggressive behavior. Many in that camp would like to see an outright ban on the practice.On the other side are hunters and dog breeders who argue that tethering done properly is humane and that the real issue is neglect, not tethering. As one speaker pointed out, an abusive dog owner will damage his or her dog regardless of whether it's kept on a chain, in a pen or in the house. The county has been trying to come up with proposed rules that would protect dogs from harm and protect dog owners from unreasonable restrictions. The result is a proposed ordinance that would limit tethering to three hours in a 24-hour period, require tethers to be at least 10 feet long with a swivel at each end, and mandate minimum pen sizes. An exemption would allow sportsmen to tether dogs for up to seven days at certain sporting events. The measure wouldn't take full effect for 18 months. A public education campaign would last a year, and then officials would issue warnings for six months before full enforcement kicks in. The commissioners will take the matter up again on Tuesday, when members of the public will again be allowed to speak.No matter what the commissioners do, they're going to disappoint somebody, but it's time to settle this issue and move on. It's hard to imagine any compelling new information turning up at this point, and both sides have made their arguments. One anti-tethering group, the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, has actually gone well beyond simply making its case; it raises money and provides volunteer labor to build fences for dog owners who can't afford them. So far their fences have allowed 85 dogs to lose their chains.The county committee that drew up the recommended limits conducted a thorough study. It concluded that prolonged tethering is inhumane and poses significant risks to both dogs and people. Other jurisdictions that have banned or limited tethering have reported reductions in both dog bite injuries and reports of animal cruelty.From here, the proposed restrictions on tetherings look positive and reasonable. The exceptions for sporting events and 18-month lead time should give dog owners adequate opportunity to adapt.
If you have a comment on today's editorial, please contact Dave Hart, associate editor, at 932-8744 or email@example.com.
2008 The Chapel Hill News