dog

The meanest dog I’ve ever met lived at the end of a 15-foot chain all of his life. Anyone entering his domain, other than the owner, risked being bitten.

As a young boy the dog terrified me, but I also felt great pity for the animal.

I cannot remember the owner ever taking the dog off of the tether. Frequently, the dog knocked over its water and food trays with the chain connecting him to a dog house.

I don’t think the dog was abused by its owner, but it had to be a miserable existence for one of God’s creatures.

Recalling this dog’s plight makes me pleased to learn that Horry County Council has begun the process of addressing the tethering of dogs. I predict this could turn into one of the most controversial issues council will consider in the months ahead.

Many people tether their dogs and most people using this method of controlling their animals do so in a responsible manner.

However, many animals suffer needlessly at the end of a chain or rope.

County staff has drafted changes to the county’s animal welfare ordinance that provide many positive changes.

For example, a tethered animal must be at least 6-months old. The tether must be at least 8-feet long with a swivel-type termination at both ends.

Animals cannot be kept outdoors on a tether for more than 15 minutes during extreme weather conditions

The weight of the tether cannot exceed 10 percent of the animal’s weight.

The tethered animal must have access to water, food and shelter.

There are several other good, common sense changes designed to protect tethered animals from harm.

Only a few South Carolina communities have tethering laws. Simpsonville has outlawed tethers altogether. Columbia allows pet owner to keep animals on a tether for nine hours a day.

Fairfax, Va., is considering limiting tethering to only 60 minutes per day.

This seems a bit extreme.

Animal rights groups say tethering can make dogs more aggressive and prone to attacking other animals or approaching children.

“It boils down, in lay terms, to a fight-or-flee instinct that dogs have,” said Cory Smith, director of pet protection and policy for the Humane Society of the United States. “If they believe they can’t flee, they will fight. A lot of these ordinances are part of a holistic look into how we strengthen our community when it comes to animal welfare and public safety.”

As the debate over tethering begins, I hope pet owners and county officials can arrive at a policy fair to those who love their dogs and to the animals who must live at the end of a chain.

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Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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