Is it legal to tether dogs in York County? Council member, animal advocates disagree

One York County councilman says the 2012 county tethering law does allow dogs to be tethered. Animal advocates disagree.

The Animal Adoption League posted a call to action online asking York County residents to email council representatives.

“Currently, it is illegal to stationary chain dogs in our county (trolley lines, fences, and pens are acceptable restraint measures),” the group posted on Facebook. “However, at the public works meeting on (June 14), (William) “Bump” Roddey requested chaining be reintroduced.”

Roddey, a York County councilman, said there’s a misunderstanding about the ordinance.

He said the ordinance does not prohibit owners from using a tether as a secondary means of restraint if the dog is kept inside a fence, for example.

“We’re in a pickle about the interpretation and the intent about what council put forth,” Roddey said.

Newly proposed changes to the ordinance, recently introduced before the council, change references from “animal” to “dog.” But the proposed language changes brought up the topic of tethering.

York County Council chairperson Michael Johnson said his understanding of the law is that no chaining of animals is allowed.

“I will not support any ordinance that would allow the chaining of animals,” he said in an email. “My understanding is that the current ordinance does not allow this and I would not support any initiative to weaken the existing ordinance.”

York County Humane Society board vice chairperson Karen Brown said she also believes tethering is illegal under the current ordinance.

“The state, all of the counties in South Carolina, are slowly moving toward no tethering,” Brown said. “If we adopted legal chaining, in York County, that would be going backward. Changing invites criminal activities and it invites inhumane treatment of dogs.”

But Roddey said he wouldn’t have voted for the ordinance in 2012 if it intended to ban tethering completely. Roddey said he and council member Britt Blackwell were the only two current members on Council in 2012.

According to a Herald article from 2012 the ordinance states: “Pet owners will no longer be able to use tethering as primary means of restraint. Dogs will have to be kept on a trolley line or inside a secure enclosure: indoors, in a kennel or inside a fence.

“Tethering will still be permitted if the dog is inside a fence, or under the owner’s direct supervision.”

The ordinance, Title V, Chapter 55.19 in the York County Code of Ordinances, says a tether should be used only as a primary means of restraint when a responsible adult is outside with the animal, and the animal is under the owner’s control.

In audio obtained by The Herald from the Oct 15, 2012, council meeting, then-county manager Jim Baker said: “You can use a trolley for a primary, or you can use a fence as your primary. You can use additional methods besides that. So as long as the fence is your primary, and it’s secure enough to contain the animals, you could also tether.”

Council member Allison Love posted Facebook comments about the ban, but now says she has “removed myself from the chatter.”

She said animal control is not proposing any immediate changes to tethering rules.

“I was not on Council in 2012, and I am not in favor of chaining dogs, no matter what they decided in 2012,” Love said.

Roddey said animal restraint is a public safety issue and he supports allowing owners to determine how their dog needs to be restrained.

But Brown said dangerous dogs are already addressed under state law.

South Carolina state law Section 47-3-720 says dangerous animals must be confined in indoors, or in a securely enclosed fence or locked pen. The pen must be marked with signs indicating a dangerous animal.

“That is already handled by state law and by county law,” she said. “Councilman Roddey is saying that owners know better.”

York County Council agreed to send the current ordinance back to the public works committee at its June 14 meeting. Council planned a public hearing on the ordinance June 17, but now plans to reschedule it.

“People’s expectations now are centered on a misreading from start to finish,” Roddey said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do to clean this up.”

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Hannah Smoot reports on money and power for The Herald, covering York, Lancaster and Chester counties. She has been a reporter at The Herald since June 2017. Contact Hannah at 803-329-4068, hgsmoot@heraldonline.com or follow her on Twitter @hgsmoot.