It may soon be unlawful in Hall County to tether a dog for any amount of time, unless the dog is accompanied by a person — a change that is being welcomed by animal advocates.
The new tethering ordinance is the result of a monthslong review by the Hall County Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. Focus groups and online surveys were used to gather input from residents, and policies of other jurisdictions have been used as a model.
Hearings on tethering ordinance
When: First hearing at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27 and second hearing and vote at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
Chains, cables, ropes, leashes, runners, cords and other tethering devices would be banned.
Two public hearings are set for Sept. 27 and Oct. 25. The Hall County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on the ordinance Oct. 25, and if passed, the rule would go into effect Nov. 1.
Jennifer Summers is one of the co-founders of Off the Chain, a Northeast Georgia group that advocates against tethering and helps build free fences so tethered dogs can have more freedom.
Off the Chain supports the proposed ban on unsupervised tethering, Summers said. She said the group works with pet owners to teach them about the problems associated with tethering, including flight risks and unneutered pets being left unsupervised and increasing pet populations.
“We just educate them on dogs needing companionship, needing fresh food and fresh water,” Summers said.
Summers participated in one of the focus groups used to shape the ordinance. She said the group discussed some of the reasons dogs end up tethered — maybe the family cannot afford a fence, for example — and talked about a possible limit on tethering, such as allowing pets to be tied up during certain times or for a restricted amount of time per day.
Those restrictions, which would have allowed for some unsupervised tethering, were generally not favored by the group, Summers said.
“It’s just incredibly difficult to enforce,” she said. “You can’t have a citizen stand outside someone’s house for an hour, and the flip side of that is, that (dog owner) will say, ‘I just put him outside.’”
Mary Thompson, a South Hall resident who started the Hall County Animal Alliance Facebook group, said tethering can make dogs aggressive and is inhumane treatment of a pet.
“They’re on a short leash and they end up winding themselves around that stationary object, and then they’re stuck there and they can’t get to their food or their water or their shelter,” she said.
Thompson said animal advocates are most concerned about people who keep their dogs tethered constantly, not people who may send their dog outside for the short term.
“The only reason we ever brought this up is because they would see dogs in the yard chained 24/7,” Thompson said. “Most of the time, they had already knocked over their water and their food and a lot of times they wrapped themselves around the pole.”
The city of Gainesville already prohibits unsupervised tethering.
Julie Edwards, executive director of the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, said the Humane Society will support community members as they adjust to the new rule, if it is approved.
County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said fines for violating the ordinance would be determined by the Magistrate Court. The ordinance does not dictate fine amounts.