Monday, December 1, 2008
YORK COUNTY, S.C. -- Since mid-summer, York County has been wrestling with the controversial issue of dog-chaining. Monday night, York County Council members will take their first vote on the issue.
"We hate to see dogs still being left on chains 24-7," said Alicia Schwartz, who's working with many others to stop dog-tethering, which many people consider cruel.
Tethering opponents know they face an uphill battle in York County, which gives it's Animal Control officers little authority.
That could all change soon, though, with a new ordinance that gives Animal Control officers greater power. The ordinance would give Animal Control officers enforcement authority. They would be able to investigate animal cruelty cases, serve warrants, and enter private property.
York County Council chairman Buddy Motz said it would also free up sheriff's deputies who now have to accompany Animal Control on cases.
"They have enough issues with human problems, let alone animal problems," Motz said.
County leaders aren't convinced that tethering a dog is cruel.
After a workshop this fall, county staff members came back with three items for council members to consider: banning tethering of any kind, allowing so-called runs or trolley lines attached to trees or posts, or allowing tethering to continue with some restrictions.
The recommendation council members will vote on is the smallest change -- allowing tethering with restrictions.
Under the proposed law, tethers must be at least 10 feet long, and can't weigh more than 10 percent of what the dog weighs. Motz said the idea is to drive out dog fighters and those who breed for fighting.
"We're going to do away with cruelty to animals as much as possible," he said. "We're going to run dog fighting out of York County. We don't want it. We don't want to see it. We don't want it to be here."
But tethering opponents said continuing to allow the chaining of dogs will not eliminate the problem. Opponents said chained dogs are more aggressive because they're pack animals and don't do well in isolation.
"Sticking them in the very back of your yard and not paying attention to them is cruel," Schwartz said.
Supporters of tethering told Eyewitness News that their dogs are well-cared for. Joseph Neal owns a pack of pit bulls at his home in York County.
"My dogs are socialized every day, fed, petted and cared for," he said.
He said as long as they're cared for, he doesn't see how tethering makes a dog cruel.
"I let my dogs around my children. They're not aggressive," Neal said.
Council members also have concerns about the cost of requiring dog owners to buy kennels, fences or other containment systems.
There will be a public hearing on the issue early next year and a final vote is expected by mid-January.