The York County Council voted unanimously to limit tethering countywide and put more teeth in its animal rules at its Monday night meeting in York.
The new rules are aimed at preventing dogs from getting loose and becoming a public threat, reducing the number of unwanted pets being killed in the county shelter, and sharpening language to reflect state law, giving animal control officers more enforcement tools.
The council voted 6-0 for the changes. Councilman Bruce Henderson wasn’t present. They’re the first changes the county has made to its animal rules since 2009, when the council put in place new regulations on tethering.
Kristin Blank, a dog trainer in Fort Mill and volunteer at the York County animal shelter, was among three dozen who attended the public hearing Monday before the vote. She urged the council to pass the changes along with several other speakers.
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Blank has seen many “unhappy truckloads of dogs” coming to the shelter and told the council it's “disheartening” knowing that a dog could go home and “be chained up for the rest of its life.”
When the rules take effect next year, female dogs or cats older than 4 months that are kept outside where other animals could reach them will have to be sterilized.
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.
But several opponents of the new tethering rules pointed out what they see as a potential problem.
Paula Goode of York warned the council that most people are going to go out and buy a $17 trolley from a retail store like the one she brought with her.
“It's not going to hold a strong dog or a big dog,” she said, adding that trolleys could actually lead to more dogs getting loose.
“We pick up dogs every day that are on broken chains,” said David Harmon, public works director, after the meeting. Some pet owners may have to find stronger trolleys with stronger hardware, he said.
“It’s going to require some responsibility on their part,” he said.
Councilman Bump Roddey said the rules aren’t going to please everyone, but they’re a good start.
Councilman Curwood Chappell said that he resents “government control over your life and your animals” as much as anyone, but “you have to drive on the right-hand side of the road ... you have to stay sober. We're responsible for our neighbor and our fellow man. Government intrudes sometimes, but you ever thought what it would be without government?” Chappell said.
Councilman Chad Williams said that laws with “complaint-driven” enforcement usually don’t result in responsible people being targeted. He also said he hopes the changes cut down on the number of animals being euthanized in the shelter.
The changes also include more specific definitions for “adequate shelter” and “dangerous animal” to help officers in the field.
Most of the rules will take effect in February, giving municipalities where York County provides animal control services time to adopt them.
The tethering restrictions won’t take effect until July 1, giving time to educate the public through brochures and the county website, Harmon said.
“It is what it is,” said Joseph Neal of York, one of the most vocal opponents of the tethering rules. “Hopefully, we don't have more loose dogs.”