Members of the public and Humane Society staff weighed in on a proposed tethering ordinance at this week’s Delaware City Council meeting with heartfelt, graphic descriptions of abuse.
City Attorney Darren Shulman said he “wanted to get the ball rolling” on a potential tethering law for the city.
Vicki Deisner, Midwest legislative director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, commended council for considering the legislation “to address the cruel tethering of dogs.” She said there should be a trial period to implement the legislation and that first offenses be given a warning.
Deisner said many studies have determined that tethering a dog for much of its life is not only inhumane, but also poses a threat to the public.
“Laws that prohibit tethering or chaining have been shown to reduce dog attacks, dog biting, and cruelty complaints,” Deisner said. Tethering can lead to “aggressive behavior” from dogs who became “irrationally protective” of their space and “stir crazy,” she said.
Corey Roscoe, Ohio State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, said she supports the city crafting the legislation in terms of what constitutes shelter for the animal.
“Chained dogs often contribute to nuisance complaints — the barking dog in the yard,” Roscoe said. “This type of restrictive ordinance is not meant to punish your neighborhood, it’s just to raise the humane standards for everyone living in that neighborhood and create a safer community.”
Jana Cassidy of the Humane Society of Delaware County said current laws stop short of preventing physical and mental suffering for “unwanted and forgotten” dogs.
Shulman said councilman Chris Jones proposed the ordinance after hearing from some of his constituents. The city already has a “neglect of companion animal” section in its codified ordinances, but Shulman said the revised language would provide additional protection to dogs.
“We specifically mention tethering, which was not in the original ordinance,” Shulman said. “We also talked about the tethering should have sufficient length to provide freedom of movement and preventing choking. Finally, we increased the penalties for repeat offenders.”
The proposed legislation does not have a penalty based on the length of time tethered, because Shulman said that would be impossible to enforce. The proposal does not address the length of the tether that could be used based on dog size or penalties based on not heeding weather advisories.
“I think the ordinance as written is enforceable and makes sense, but I do have concerns trying to enforce hours,” said Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski.
Dustin Nanna, a Libertarian Party candidate running for City Council, said he supports the legislation as written, but would oppose a time limit or setting a specified time not to tether.
At its Aug. 28 meeting, council was informed that 21 states have tethering laws. In addition, Cincinnati and Cleveland have implemented new tethering legislation in recent years, and Columbus is considering it.
Councilman Kent Shafer said the intent of Delaware’s legislation “is to change behavior, not to give a ticket.”
No action was taken on the proposal. Shulman said he will rewrite the legislation and a public hearing will take place in October.