Hall County has proposed a ban on unsupervised dog tethering, a move that is being praised by animal advocates, although some residents at a public hearing Thursday said the complete ban was too extreme.
Commissioners will vote on the ordinance Oct. 25, and if passed, the rule would go into effect Nov. 1. A 180-day grace period has been proposed, and residents would receive warnings rather than citations during that time. The county would also work with community partners to educate people on the issue.
The county’s current ordinance allows people to tether their dogs, as long as the dog still has access to food, water and shelter, and the tether cannot become tangled.
Jennifer Summers of Braselton is co-founder of Off the Chain, a group that helps build fences for dogs that are being tethered. While the organization works in Hall, Barrow and Jackson counties, she said the need is greatest in Hall, where she has seen the most tethered pets.
Summers said tethering can be unsafe for both animals and people — tethered animals are more likely to be aggressive, she said.
“We’ve seen dogs with embedded collars, psychological issues, severe neglect cases, females impregnated while on chains, and even dogs die on chains,” Summers said.
Tethered dogs also negatively affect property values, Summers said.
“No one wants to live near a tethered dog,” she said. “No one wants to hear a dog bark excessively or become aggressive due to its confinement.”
Summers said some dog owners may say they want their dog outside to protect the home, but spending time with the dog is what makes the pet more protective.
“A dog learns to be protective by spending a lot of time with its family,” she said.
Summers also suggested a 90-day, rather than 180-day, grace period.
Kristine Steakley of Flowery Branch said she is not entirely opposed to a ban on tethering, but she thinks the current proposed ordinance is too broad. Her dog is sometimes tethered outside briefly for a bathroom break or outside time, but she said the dog is never in danger or neglected.
“When he’s outside, I’m always home and I’m ready to let him in as soon as he’s ready,” she said.
Steakley said a time limit on tethering, rather than a complete ban, might better suit the needs of pet owners.
Gregory White of Gainesville also thought the complete ban was too far-reaching. He said his dog enjoys spending short amounts of time on his home’s deck lying in the sun.
“You’re tying us to where we can’t allow her to have the kind of lifestyle that she is already used to. … There’s time that she really enjoys being by herself, being outdoors, being in nature,” White said.
Summers said she hopes animal control officers would use discretion in enforcing the ordinance. The rule should not punish people who are taking good care of their pets, she said.
“There is a very clear difference between a dog on a heavy chain with no grass under his feet, that’s pacing in circles, and a Sheltie who is perfectly well-groomed and cared for,” Summers said. “(Officers) should be able to determine the difference.”
Commissioners will hold another public hearing on Oct. 25 and will vote on the ordinance at that meeting.
Hall County Board of Commissioners
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville