It is disheartening to see a dog chained or tethered outside. Fortunately, since the enactment of several anti-tethering ordinances in the Triangle, citizens can contact animal control when they see a dog illegally chained or tethered.
In 2006, Amanda Arrington founded the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, a Durham-based volunteer organization that has built free fences for more than 650 dogs in North Carolina.
Because of the coalition's efforts, local governments have passed anti-tethering ordinances that restrict chaining in the City of Raleigh, Durham County, Orange County and the Town of Chapel Hill.
Last July, the City of Raleigh implemented its anti-tethering ordinance, which allows tethering for no more than three hours per day. Violating the ordinance is a misdemeanor, and dog owners are subject to a civil penalty of $100 per day. Raleigh Police Department Animal Control Unit Supervisor Tracey Alford says his officers have issued 50 citations in the past 12 months.
"Personally, I think this is going well," said Alford. "It helps to have restrictions that dog owners must comply with."
Dog owners living in the City of Raleigh must have a city license, current rabies vaccine and appropriate shelter for their animals.
Alford says Raleigh's animal control officers have seen fewer animal cruelty cases since the ordinance went into effect and have picked up fewer dogs that have broken their tethers.
"We were consistently getting calls to go pick up a dog that was running down the road dragging a chain," Alford says.
Orange County began implementing its tethering ordinance 18 months ago; after a six-month grace period during which officers issued only warnings, the county's ordinance went into effect May 18.
Orange County Animal Services Director Bob Marotto says the county has focused on educating the public instead of surprising people with an abrupt regulatory process.
"There's a challenge that comes from the fact that tying dogs is a custom, and people have done that for generations," he said. "This is a change in the custom of animal husbandry.
"We have tried to be transparent with people so that there were no surprises," Marotto adds. "We could tell people, 'Your dog is tethered, and there has been a change in the ordinance, and these are the new rules.'"
While Orange County has not yet compiled citation data, Orange County Animal Services reports that from Nov. 19, 2009 to May 19, 2010, the unit issued 51 written warnings.
Chapel Hill allows only attended tethering, meaning someone must be within sight of, and outside with the dog while it is chained or tied up.
"This area is a combination of rural and urban, and that can be challenging, but overall I am pleased with how things are going," Marotto says.
In Durham County, which allows attended tethering, it has been more difficult to enforce the ordinance. Since it went into effect July 1, county animal control officers have issued 48 tethering violations.
Animal Control Director Cindy Bailey says the biggest challenge is keeping up with the workload created by the "significant number of dogs chained in Durham." There are 10 animal control officers to cover the county.
Durham County animal control officers issue violators a 30-day warning, and if owners continue to chain their dog, they receive a $50 fine. The fines can increase to $150, and owners who don't comply with the ordinance after the initial penalty can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Durham had an 18-month "education" period when only warnings were issued, but Bailey says "people for the most part have not taken advantage of it." Officers report that most dog owners know about the new ordinance. Their response has been varied. "There have been approximately four dogs surrendered because the owner did not feel they could put up a fence," Bailey says. "And many dog owners are waiting for the Coalition to Unchain Dogs to build their fence, and some owners just told the officer to get off of their property."
Arrington hopes that other counties will pass similar ordinances. Chatham County doesn't have one, but the coalition has opened a Chatham chapter that is building fences for tethered dogs in Siler City and Pittsboro.