Driving through Hall County and seeing dogs tied up in yards breaks Gainesville resident Harriette Taylor’s heart.
Taylor wants the Hall County Board of Commissioners to pass an ordinance that prohibits pet owners from tethering dogs in their yards.
However, she is meeting resistance from county staff and commissioners who say they have concerns about the added expense to residents and such a law causing more people to abandon their animals.
The city of Gainesville has passed an ordinance prohibiting tethering in yards, and other nearby counties have also passed ordinances outlawing the practice.
One time, Taylor said she drove by a residence on Lakeview Drive where a dog chained to a tree had wrapped its leash around the tree and was standing on its back legs because it couldn’t lower itself on its front legs.
“I said ‘Look what’s happening to your dog,’” she said. “So that, of course, fueled my wanting to get this passed because there are people who just don’t understand.”
Taylor said chaining a dog outside makes it aggressive and it can attack people it comes into contact with, including children. Many dog bite cases in Georgia were from chained dogs, she said.
Gainesville passed its ban in 2007, thanks in part to the efforts of Taylor and Rick Aiken, former executive director for the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.
The ban Taylor wants Hall to pass would likely mirror the city’s law.
It would require dog owners to humanely contain their dogs in a house, fenced area or enclosure the dog can’t escape from. It would bar dogs from being restrained by a rope, chain, cord or another tether unless it is being held by a person able to control the dog.
“When you chain a dog, it becomes neurotic and aggressive because they’re pack animals and they want to be with others,” Taylor said. “Either a human family or an animal family, but you rarely see a dog by itself.”
Taylor met with Commissioner Jeff Stowe in late August and has received emailed responses from other commissioners and Mike Ledford, director of Hall County Animal Services. She started this county campaign in March.
Chairman Richard Mecum said the commission has considered the proposal, and there is some concern about the ordinance working in all areas of the county.
“To me, taking a dog and just chaining it up somewhere, there’s a moral problem with that I have,” Mecum said. “But, I don’t know how I impose that on someone else.”
Ledford said in an email this summer to Stowe that when he talked to residents about a potential law, he received several concerns from them about the economic impact to dog owners.
Dog owners were concerned it would place an additional financial burden to build a fence or provide a dog lot, Ledford said. Some owners also complained their dogs can climb over fences and out of pens.
“Our ordinance as it is, does require that the pet owner contain their animal on their own property with a chain or cable of adequate length and provide adequate food, water and shelter,” Ledford wrote in July.
He also said a no-tethering ban would put a financial strain on the county department due to enforcing this potential new law and would lead to more people surrendering their animals to the shelter, impacting the department’s budget.
Commissioner Craig Lutz emailed Taylor earlier this month expressing concern that such a regulation would apply to rural and agricultural areas of the county. He said he was willing to meet with Taylor before a commission hearing.
According to an October 2007 Times article, the ban had had little negative impact to the city. Aiken is quoted as saying no one really complained about the financial burden of building a fence, but a couple of dog owners refused to change their ways.
Aiken said at the time he had had many sad experiences with tethered dogs, including a girl killed by a chained dog and another dog chained to a porch falling off and hanging itself.
“It’s no way for an animal to live,” Aiken said in the 2007 article.
Taylor drove through part of Commissioner Scott Gibbs’ district, pointing out the dogs chained in the yards. The visual image of a dog tied to a tree and no grass around the tree because the dog has constantly walked in a circle doesn’t say much about our community, she said.
Gibbs didn’t respond to a call for comment.
Taylor said she is forming a committee to work on the issue and plans to request time to speak to the commission.
“Everyone doesn’t have to have a dog ,” she said. “There is no law that says you have to have a dog.”