Laws in Chatham County restrict how dogs can be tethered or chained


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Our first question is from Chatham resident Karen Etling, who asks: Is there a group working towards a dog tethering ordinance in Chatham County?

She’s concerned that the current laws aren’t doing enough to protect animals, and asked us to look into the current statues. Here is what we found.

What are the laws now?

To start, we looked up some of the laws and ordinances already in place.

Statewide, it is a misdemeanor to restrain dogs in “a maliciously cruel manner.” The only clarification the law provides is “the person imposed the restraint intentionally and with malice or bad motive.” This leaves local governments to fill in what they would consider maliciously cruel.

On Sept. 18, 2017, the Chatham County Board Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a new Animal Services Ordinance after extensive input from animal rights groups that we’ll detail a little further down.

The sweeping ordinance defines adequate food, shelter, treatment and tethering as well as providing guidance to pet owners when taking care of Fido. While nearby counties like Alamance and Guilford have outlawed tethering except in certain circumstances, Chatham still allows residents to tether their dogs, but under strict regulations.

Here are the highlights as they pertain to proper tethering in the county:

  • Animal Abuse and Neglect is defined as, “Keeping any animal under conditions which cause or could cause physical pain, suffering, disability or death to the animal or which increases the probability of the transmission of disease”
  • A tether is defined as, “ A rope, metal chain, coated cable, or other similar and effective humane device, with which an animal is secured to in order to restrict its movement”
  • Tethers must be at least 15 feet in length and have a swivel at each end to allow a reasonable and unobstructed range of motion.
  • All animals on a tether must wear an approved tethering collar, which is “a collar or harness constructed of nylon, leather, or similar material specifically designed to be used for a dog, cat or pot-bellied pig.”
  • Animals younger than four-months-old cannot be tethered
  • And, of course, any tether cannot prevent access to adequate food, water or shelter

As for groups in Chatham County working towards more humane animal laws, Chatham County Lost, Found and Adoptable Pets and Chatham Animal Rescue and Education provide great resources for pet owners and advocate for the county’s four-legged friends. The North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare also keeps a database of all animal ordinances in the state.

Nationally, PETA maintains a list of tethering/chaining laws throughout the country, and highlights Chatham’s ordinances.

Any plans to change?

Even with the recent changes in the law, some residents still want more restrictions on tethering. When we reached out to Karen Etling about her tethering curiosity, she said chaining a dog up for extended periods of time should be outright outlawed. “Dogs are companion animals, not livestock,” she said, “I’d rather see a dog humanely euthanized than live their life on a chain. It’s NO life for a dog.”

Concerned residents can reach out to any of the groups mentioned above, or reach out to the county Board of Commissioners directly here.

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