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With the Halifax County Board of Commissioners approving a dog tethering ban Monday, the health department is putting together informational flyers which will be placed in county water bills to explain the changes.

Health Director Bruce Robistow said this morning, “We will get on the radio to discuss it, we will use media and we’re having a meeting in a couple of weeks to design warning tickets and flyers to leave at homes. We already know where the majority (of tethered dogs) might be. We’re going to give people the opportunity to understand and plan their transition.”

Monday Robistow appeared before commissioners for the second reading of the ordinance, which bans dogs from being tethered outside if the animals are unattended. The board approved the ordinance on a 4-1 vote with Rives Manning voting in the negative.

Robistow said this morning he was pleased the ordinance passed. “The thing that made it work was the ability of board of health and board of county commissioners to agree it was a health issue and to compromise on the standards of the ordinance.”

The ordinance goes into effect January 1, but there will be a six-month warning and education period before fines are assessed.

PETA response

Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a statement, “It is a good day for the dogs.”

Nachminovitch said, “The Halifax County commissioners acted just in time to prevent countless dogs from shivering at the end of a chain this winter, while forced to eat, drink, and relieve themselves all within the same few square feet of frozen ground.”

Nachminovitch said out of sight is often out of mind when it comes to tethered animals. “PETA's fieldworkers routinely find dogs relegated to the outdoors 24/7, isolated and trapped on a chain or in a filthy pen, deprived of opportunities for exercise and companionship and sometimes even of food and water. PETA urges everyone to keep an eye out for animals in need and to report neglect or cruelty to local authorities—or to PETA, whose emergency responders are always available.”

Against and for

Not everyone attending Monday’s meeting was pleased with the proposal.

Angela Bolton, during the public comment portion of the meeting before the issue was addressed, told the board, “Every time I’ve had a yard accident, it’s because of dogs not on a chain. I can’t let dogs live in the house. I don’t think it’s right.”

Willie Lee said, “I’ve had cages. The dogs eat out of the cages. They’re much happier on the chain.”

Jamie Burnette said his dogs were much happier on chains.

Roman Council drove from Raleigh to attend the meeting. “Most dogs like to be outside. As far as a kennel, if they’re a smart dog they will find ways to get out of a cage.”

But Jackie Stanley, who works with Rainbow Rescue, countered 90 percent of dogs on chains lack exercise. She said chained dogs get leg and neck injuries and can’t lift their heads. 

Stanley said dogs who try to get out of their kennels lack proper exercise and stimulation. “Training is what is needed.”

She said chained dogs put people in jeopardy. “A cage helps protect people. A chained dog can’t protect itself against wild animals.”

Ordinance details

Commissioners have been grappling with the issue since last year when PETA offered a two-year grant to defray the cost of hiring an additional animal control officer to enforce the amended ordinance as well as expenses related to that position.

Under the terms of the grant, PETA would have given the county $122,280 over two years. The first installment would have been for $75,610 and then one for $46,670.

A deadlock last December pulled the matter from consideration.

Robistow said last month during the warning and education period access to resources will be given and emphasized no penalties would be assessed.

The ordinance also addresses hunting dogs and states nothing in the chapter "is intended to be in conflict with the general statutes relating, restricting, authorizing or otherwise affecting dogs while used in lawful hunting."

While the ordinance states it "shall be unlawful to tether an unattended dog outdoors, including hunting dogs," the regulations say, "the prohibition when or where dogs may run loose shall not apply to hunting dogs when they are being used for lawful hunting purposes."

The ordinance addresses the manner in which outdoor dogs should be housed — in a penned area enclosed by a fence of height and material sufficient to keep a dog from escaping.

For dogs that weigh less than 30 pounds, the enclosed area "shall have a minimum enclosed space of not less than 6-feet by 6-feet and a height of not less than 5 feet."

For dogs which weigh 30 pounds or more, the enclosed area "shall have a minimum enclosed space of not less than 10-feet by 10-feet and a height of not less than 6 feet."

The penalty for tethering an unattended animal is $150.