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Tails wagging over city’s ban on dog chains

Gainesville’s pet owners adapt to tethering rule

POSTED: October 18, 2007 5:06 a.m.

Local officials say Gainesville’s ban on chaining dogs has, for the most part, worked well.

The ban went into effect one month ago after a 90-day grace period, intended to give dog owners time to comply, ended.

Since the City Council adopted the ban June 5, other communities’ leaders have called Rick Aiken, director at the Humane Society, to see how the ban is working and how the Humane Society got the ban passed in Gainesville.

"I very quickly tell them it’s because we have a tremendous City Council that believes in certain things, and they were very, very supportive of what we proposed to them," Aiken said.

The Gainesville City Council voted 4-1 to ban tethering dogs in the city. Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras was the only dissenter.

Aiken said he respected Figueras’ opinion that the ban would create unintended consequences, such as forcing people to get rid of their dogs for lack of ability to afford a fence.

"That’s what she was elected for, to vote what she feels," Aiken said.

Yet, Aiken says that cost is a part of the responsibility of having a pet.

"My argument there: If Rick Aiken is driving down the road with no taillights and I’m pulled over and the officer tells me I’ve got to get them fixed and I tell him ‘well, I can’t afford it’ he’s going to tell me I’ve got to park my car," Aiken said.

"I don’t like comparing animals and machinery, but you know, it’s a responsibility, not a right, to own a pet," Aiken said. "You have to provide certain things, and if you can’t provide those things, then you shouldn’t get one."

Aiken said the Humane Society has received several calls about violations to the ordinance in the past month. He said no one has really complained about the financial burden of building a fence, but a couple of dog owners refused to change their ways.

Rick Phillips, chief of Gainesville-Hall Animal Control, said two citations had been issued since the ban went into effect, along with about 12 warnings.

He said Animal Control officers who respond to complaints try to educate the dog owner. Most people officers have talked to have been gracious in complying with the ordinance.

On a second complaint, Phillips said, owners are given 10 days to comply. If owners still refuse, officers issue a citation for them to appear in municipal court.

Phillips said he always tries to work with people with financial difficulties, but he had been pleasantly surprised with how residents have complied with the month-old ban.

The two citations were issued to people who refused to make an effort and follow the ordinance. Aiken said that the Humane Society started pushing for the ordinance after people called to complain about tethered dogs.

"We felt like the time was right to do something," Aiken said.

He said he has had many sad experiences with tethered dogs.

Some neglected and chained animals have come into the Humane Society with collars grown into their necks. He heard about one girl killed by a chained dog, and another Gainesville dog chained to a porch fell off and hung itself.

"It’s no way for an animal to live," Aiken said.

"They’re companion animals, they’re social," he added. "You put them on a chain and just walk out and throw food and water down, that’s existing. That’s not living."

Chained dogs are more likely to bite humans, Aiken said. To see another animal run by and not be able to chase it teases the dog, and it can become frustrated. A frustrated dog becomes much more aggressive than a dog that can run, Aiken said.

Also, having a chained dog creates an aesthetic problem for the city. Dogs confined to one spot tend to destroy the grass, creating a bald spot in the yard.

"It’s not a very pretty sight," Aiken said.

Aiken encourages people to report offenders to Animal Control, because pets are living creatures that need looking out for.

"I can’t imagine living like that," Aiken said. "There may be quantity of life in some of these, but there’s no quality of life."



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