York County animal control officials pushed the County Council to toughen restrictions on tethering dogs Wednesday night.
Their proposal would require dog owners to keep the dog on a trolley system where it could run more freely, or confine them in a secure enclosure when the owner is not present, rather than relying solely on tethering.
That provision would not be popular among dog owners, they acknowledged, but it would give animal control officers another tool to prevent potentially fatal dog attacks.
County veterinarian Sonya McCathey advocated for a law prohibiting pet owners from using tethering as their primary means of restraining an animal when not under their direct supervision.
“Athletic, heavily muscled dogs” who have the “tools” to harm humans become dangerous when they break their chains or restraints, she said. She referred to a Rock Hill boy who was recently hospitalized after having part of his scalp ripped off when a neighbor’s dog broke free and attacked him.
Statistics show that tethered or chained dogs lacking socialization account for many attacks, she said.
Owning that type of dog should have restrictions, just as owning a pool does, she said. Pool owners might not have children themselves, she said, but they must put up fences to help keep kids from drowning.
McCathey’s appeals struck a nerve among opponents of stricter pet regulations, who showed up wearing red and held signs with statements like “How about regulating your hobby?”
Some said they breed and show dogs competitively and they’d be unfairly targeted by tethering restrictions or requirements to sterilize or register their pets – two other proposals the County Council has discussed but that haven’t gained traction.
Following the meeting, Ashley Nicole, a registered veterinary technician, said she lives at the end of a dirt road on five acres of farmland in York County. She keeps several well-cared-for American “pit bull” terriers – some in pens and some tethered – and in 10 years, she said, she hasn’t had one dog escape. Showing dogs is “something positive” she and her family do, she said.
McCathey reassured her that animal control is complaint-driven, and as long as she has control of her animals, she shouldn’t have a problem. But Nicole said she fears people who don’t like her breed will complain no matter what.
McCathey also pointed out that some breeds associated with “pit bulls” would not be outlawed in the proposed changes. The proposal bans fighting dogs, which the state already prohibits, she said.
With wide support from the council, animal control officials also want to incorporate language from existing state laws into the county law so animal control officers have the authority to enforce them. Currently, for some calls, they have to call the sheriff’s office for assistance.
Although council members did not vote on the proposal, they indicated which way they were leaning.
Chairman Britt Blackwell said he supports tighter restrictions, but he’d go along with the council’s majority.
Chad Williams, after learning that a ban on tethering wouldn’t outlaw putting a dog on a trolley where it could run more freely, was warm to the proposal.
Bump Roddey said he’s not sure York County is ready for a tethering restriction that he said would force people to buy fences.
Bruce Henderson expressed worries that the law would unfairly target people who aren’t breaking the law. Curwood Chappell said there wasn’t enough in the law to protect people like his rural neighbors, who have free-roaming dogs to sound the alarm if something’s amiss.
David Bowman and Eric Winstead did not attend.