Since an ordinance banning dog tethering was passed by the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Oct. 25, county animal control officers have been issuing warnings and referring pet owners to local nonprofits to find alternatives to tethering.
The ban, which prohibits unsupervised tethering of a dog for any amount of time, came with a 180-day grace period so people can adjust to the rule and secure an alternative such as a fence or pen.
Warden Walt Davis, who oversees Hall County Animal Control, said two pet owners have surrendered their dogs after learning about the rule change, saying they could not afford to install a fence. Officers have responded to about 16 to 18 complaints about tethered dogs, he said.
Animal control officers often encounter tethered dogs while responding to neglect calls, Davis said.
Responding to a tethering call in Gainesville on Wednesday, animal control officers found three dogs in the backyard of the home. One was tied to a fence, another to a doghouse, and a third was in a doghouse with the entrance blocked by a crate.
Animal Control Field Supervisor Kevin Buecker said when officers respond to a call, they first try to make contact with the homeowner. If no one is home, they approach the tethered dog and look for other violations, such as a lack of food or water. They leave a note informing the homeowner they stopped by and educating them about the new tethering ban.
Buecker said many tethering complaints officers receive are from neighbors looking to settle a dispute over the dog’s situation.
Hall County Animal Services has been distributing pamphlets referring pet owners with tethered dogs to Off the Chain, a Northeast Georgia nonprofit that builds fences for pet owners and advocates against tethering. The group and its volunteers spoke out in favor of the tethering ban in October.
Jennifer Summers, co-founder of Off the Chain, said the grace period will give families time to help their dogs adjust, and Off the Chain hopes to be a resource as the change takes effect.
“It gives (dog owners) ample time to figure out, do I need to start integrating our dog into the home, which would be the best scenario for us, of course. They could make their dog a part of the family,” Summers said.
Summers moved to Hall from Gwinnett County and was involved in Gwinnett’s adoption of a tethering ban, a change that Summers said went smoothly for the community there. While Gwinnett had a 90-day grace period when its tethering ban was passed, Summers said there seem to be more tethered dogs in Hall than Gwinnett had.
“It’s actually much easier for them to enforce the new ordinance than it was to try to enforce an ordinance that didn’t exist,” she said.
The city of Gainesville also bans dog tethering.
Off the Chain has a Hall County resources page on its website, which refers pet owners to dog training and spay or neuter resources. The group also works with Bama’s Kennels, a company that sells lower-cost enclosures, Summers said.
The tethering ban was the result of a collaboration between Hall County Animal Services and the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. County officials studied other municipalities’ tethering regulations, and the Humane Society sought input through focus groups and an online survey.
“Overwhelmingly, there was the support for putting a tethering law in place,” Davis said.