Breaking the chains

Area animal groups pushing outlawing on tethering

Charles D. PerryAugust 4, 2008 

Several animal rights groups want the York County Council to outlaw chaining dogs.

The organizations say chaining dogs makes them more aggressive and can lead to severe neglect. To highlight the problem, they're pointing to the recent case of a Rock Hill man whose 13 pit bulls were seized by local authorities.

Most of those dogs lacked adequate shelter and were restrained by logging chains, police said. Some of the animals didn't have access to water, and none of the dogs had received rabies shots.

But the dogs' owner has been allowed to get his animals back. Police never charged him with a crime and said he provided the animals some care.

Local animal activists say an anti-chaining law would prevent this situation from happening again.

"People have a tendency to forget about dogs that they tie up because (the animals are) not a part of the family," said Janet Richardson of Richardson Rescue in York. "If you have to chain a dog to a tree, then you shouldn't have one."

Many of the puppies that arrive at Richardson Rescue come from mothers who were chained and not spayed, Richardson said. And tethered dogs often wrap chains around trees, preventing them from reaching their food or water bowls.

The excuses for tethering, she said, aren't acceptable.

"A lot of people will say, 'That's a guard dog,'" Richardson said. "Well, what's it guarding? It can't do anything. It's on a chain."

Opponents of chaining also contend that tethered dogs are more aggressive. And an aggressive dog may become extremely dangerous if the animal escapes, they say.

"How many times do we have to see people attacked?" asked Martha Holcombe of the Animal Adoption League. "(The dogs) don't know any better. These animals are made. And tethering, chaining a dog ... you're asking for an aggressive animal."

A few South Carolina communities have tethering laws. Simpsonville doesn't allow any tethering and Columbia only permits it for only nine hours each day.

York Animal Clinic veterinarian Jaroslaw Zdanowicz said he believes a tethering ordinance would benefit the county's animals.

Dogs, Zdanowcz said, should be able to interact with other animals and people.

"If you chain the dog," he said, "you don't really care for the dog as much."

John Mazur, a veterinarian with the Catawba Animal Clinic, also said he'd support a tethering ordinance, provided that it offers some exceptions, such as outlawing chains but allowing a trolley system, also known as a zip line, in which the animal is tethered to a line along which it can move back and forth,

"It's definitely a hot-button issue," he said. "People associate (tethering) with neglect. ... You put an animal on a tether and you don't have to necessarily watch them. And so some dogs on tethers are left for hours upon hours without any observation."

But, he said, some of his clients have tethered their dogs and don't neglect them. And he's never seen evidence that says tethering dogs makes them dangerous.

"The problem is," he said, "there's no specific proof, there's no empirical evidence, that it does that. It's just kind of common sense and what people feel."

Although local animal activists are using the case of the 13 pit bulls to illustrate their point, they've been discussing a tethering ordinance for about six months, said Alicia Schwartz of Dogs Deserve Better.

The recommendation that they'll present to the County Council Aug. 18 actually allows some tethering, such as a zip line. But chains should be off limits, they say.

"We'd really prefer no trolley line, but we feel like it's a compromise," she said. "It's a step in the right direction."

County Council Chairman Buddy Motz said he welcomes the suggestions of the animal rights' groups.

"Any time that we can get recommendations that would help the quality of life of an animal, whether it's a dog or any other kind, would be something that we'd be receptive to hearing," he said.

But before weighing in on an ordinance, Motz said he'd like to know more about the groups' ideas and get some input from county staff.

Charles D. Perry • 329-4068

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