Unsupervised dog tethering will soon be illegal in Hall County, after commissioners unanimously passed the new rule on Thursday and a large crowd filled the meeting room in support of the ban.
The ordinance will go into effect Nov. 1. Mike Ledford, the county’s animal services director, said that during a 180-day grace period, residents will receive warnings rather than citations and the county will work with community partners to educate about the regulation.
Jennifer Summers of Braselton spoke in support of the tethering ban Thursday. She is a co-founder of Off the Chain, a Northeast Georgia nonprofit that advocates against tethering and builds fences for pet owners so their dogs have more space to roam.
Off the Chain will work on outreach to educate the public about low-cost fencing, crate training and other practices that can help pet owners adapt to the new ordinance, Summers said.
She said she knows that some may view the ban as too extreme, but she hopes animal control officers will use discretion in enforcing the rule.
“What we are not trying to do is punish responsible dog owners,” Summers said. “To the individual who wants their dog to sunbathe on the patio, I am certain no complaints will be filed. … It is intended to save the life of the dog next door that is completely helpless.”
Alice Black of Flowery Branch, a volunteer for Off the Chain, said she has seen how dogs react when taken off their tethers, and she hopes the ordinance will send the message that tethering is not OK.
“The demeanor change is amazing,” Black said. “(Dogs) know they’re on a chain. … This ordinance could be the domino in a series of dominoes that helps us help a lot of dogs in Hall County.”
Commissioners asked the crowd to identify whether they supported the ban by standing. A solid majority of people in the room said they supported the ban on unsupervised tethering.
A few people in the room did stand up to signify that they were in opposition to the rule, with one person choosing to address commissioners Thursday.
Gregory White of Gainesville said he adopted a dog who was accustomed to spending time in a backyard, pacing along the fence line of his enclosure. But White said he noticed his dog was more relaxed on a leash, so he decided to tether the dog to his deck and noticed a difference in his behavior.
White said the tethering ban will still not ensure that people properly love and care for their dogs.
“You will just change the form of confinement and not the love for the animal,” he said. “I believe that everyone here has good intentions. They see a problem that there is only one solution for, and that is changing the hearts and minds of the dog owner.”
The ordinance prohibits tethering unless someone is staying with the dog for supervision. The rule is the result of a months-long study by the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia and the Hall County Animal Shelter, which included focus groups, a survey and a study of other municipalities’ policies.
Commissioners also addressed animal advocates’ concerns about the Hall County Animal Shelter Thursday evening.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture visited the Hall County Animal Shelter on Barber Road in Gainesville on Oct. 22 following a complaint about a litter of eight puppies at the shelter.
According to the report from the agriculture department, one of the eight puppies died after the intake process at the shelter, and another was euthanized after being diagnosed with coccidia and not responding to treatments. One puppy was adopted out, and the remaining five were sent to rescues.
During the intake process, the puppies had incorrectly been identified as being four to six weeks old, when they were actually more than eight weeks old, a mistake attributed to a staff member who has been consulted, according to the report.
The complaint also claimed that the dogs were covered in fleas, a problem that Ledford, who manages the shelter, said is addressed when dogs enter the shelter, according to the report. The agriculture department inspector said he did not observe fleas at the shelter.
The inspector said he noticed that animals could access food and water in their cages, and while the shelter has seen some positive cases of parvo, those have been properly reported.