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UT:SL County Considering 10 Hour Tethering Ordinance
Dog owners, beware: Free up your pooches or face fine
Government » S.L. County poised to unleash ordinance against chaining animal for more than 10 hours.
By Rosemary Winters
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:01/02/2010 07:04:10 PM MST
Like many dog owners, Cara Lingstuyl considers her pooches, Copper and Tori, members of her family, her "first kids" before her son was born 16 months ago.
She won't leave them outside for longer than 30 minutes during the winter cold or summer heat. She never leaves them tethered in the backyard of her Millcreek home.
So she's glad Salt Lake County is poised to demand that all dogs be treated more humanely. This week, the County Council is expected to give a final -- and unanimous -- vote in favor of a new ordinance that would forbid owners from keeping a dog chained up outdoors for more than 10 hours at a time.
"I'm thrilled to hear that the county is making some movement toward limiting dogs being tethered up outside," says Lingstuyl, a stay-at-home mom. "I don't believe in tethering a dog outside at all."
The 10-hour rule -- which will apply to residents of townships and other unincorporated areas in Salt Lake County (totaling about 170,000 people) -- was a compromise, explains County Council Chairman Joe Hatch.
Some advocates wanted a much shorter period of time, while others recognized that workers often need to be away from home for 10 hours a day.
The pending change, pushed by the Humane Society of Utah, is seen as a tool to stop the worst offenders -- people who keep their dogs chained up around the clock.
"If somebody needs to have their dog tethered for 24 hours at a time," Hatch says, "those probably are people who shouldn't be dog owners."
Violators of the ordinance could be charged with a cl*** B misdemeanor -- and up to a $1,000 fine. But Hatch hopes that asking first-time offenders to change their behavior will be enough.
"I think once it's pointed out that this behavior is no longer lawful, [that] it's viewed by society as an inhumane treatment of dogs," he says, "they'll alter their behavior accordingly."
In 2008, the Humane Society investigated 38 complaints from residents who said that neighboring dogs were left tied up for far too long. That poses a number of problems for the animals, says Carl Arky, Humane Society spokesman. Dogs can be left without access to food or water and can become tangled up and even injure themselves. They also miss out on important socialization. Routinely tethered dogs are more likely to bite, bark or exhibit other aggressive behaviors.
"A dog is a pack animal. It's part of a family," Arky says. "Frankly, we don't see why somebody would want to have a dog and then put it in the backyard 24 hours a day."
Salt Lake County will not be increasing its animal-services staff to enforce the planned ordinance. Officers will rely on complaints from neighbors and others and respond to the most serious ones first, says Shawni Larrabee, director of county animal services.
"At the end of the day, we'd really like to see animals, particularly dogs, be good, healthy members of the community," she says. "That's tough to do if they live their entire lives on a chain."
Alternatives for people who leave their dogs alone for extended periods, Larrabee says, could include leaving pets in a backyard kennel or attached to a running, pulley line. House-broken dogs could be left inside the home. Pets also could be farmed out to someone else's care.
Larrabee's department also will consider extensions of the 10-hour limit on a case-by-case basis, particularly for pet owners who may have lost their homes and are living in an apartment, for a temporary period, where their dogs must be chained outside.
Salt Lake City resident Nicole Beer, who wrote to the County Council this month to encourage the change, knows her long-haired Chihuahua, Mojito, sometimes is left alone for 10 hours at a time when she goes to work at Hewlett-Packard. But he's not tethered. He stays inside with access to a doggy door and a fenced-in yard. Plus, every other day Mojito goes to doggy day care, where he can run around with other pups.
"They're like people," says Beer, a No More Homeless Pets volunteer. "They get cabin fever if they're left alone too long."
Beer would like to see Salt Lake City and other Utah communities adopt similar bans against extended tethering.
"It could definitely benefit ... Salt Lake as a whole or Utah as a whole."
Proposed anti-tethering ordinance would:
» Make it a cl*** B misdemeanor -- with up to a $1,000 fine -- to leave a dog tied up longer than 10 hours in a 24-hour period.
» Exempt dogs that are attached to a running line or pulley system.
» Exempt owners who have been mandated by animal services to keep their dogs properly restrained at all times.
» Exempt owners who are actively engaged in hunting or in herding livestock.
» Exempt dogs that are in parks, camping or recreation areas where they are required to be tethered.
» Allow case-by-case exemptions for owners who apply with animal services and p*** an inspection.
Source: Salt Lake County
» The Salt Lake County plans to take its final vote on the proposed dog-tethering ordinance at its Tuesday meeting, 4 p.m., County Government Center, 2001 S. State St.
Dog owners, beware: Free up your pooches or face fine - Salt Lake Tribune
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