Orange County Commissioners raised more questions about the implementation of a proposed ban on dog tethering Monday night, at a work session in which they examined the plan for the first time since delaying a vote in June.
Commissioner Mike Nelson, the board's liaison to the committee tasked with researching the issue, said that while the tethering committee initially favored an outright ban, it compromised due to pushback, mostly from hunters and other rural residents, some of whom were in attendance Monday night.
"The real issue here is not tethering, it's more about the type of dog involved in these cruelty complaints," says Philip Pennell. "Hunting dogs aren't aggressive like that."
Pennell sat in the gallery with other members of the Eno River Coon Hunters Club as commissioners pressed Bob Marotto, Orange County animal services director, for data on the number of instances where tethering resulted in the department filing an animal cruelty or neglect citation.
"I hear what the professionals are saying, but I would like to see what they're seeing," said board Chairman Barry Jacobs. "I want it substantiated."
Proponents of the law, however, say it will not only protect dogs, but people as well—especially children.
"Tethering doesn't protect dogs, hunting dogs or otherwise, from people or animals that mean them harm," says Amanda Arrington, head of the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, which has lobbied for the change in both Durham and Orange counties, as well as donated fences and construction labor to local families who want to move their dogs off chains. "Neither does it protect people from what might be an aggressive dog."
Commissioners decided to forgo hearing public comment, having heard hours of testimony at two previous meetings.
If passed, the ordinance would allow dogs to be tethered for no longer than three hours in a 24-hour period, except for during agricultural or sporting events. The ban would also prohibit certain restraint devices such as choke chains.
Similar to Durham's recently approved tethering ban, Orange County's plan includes a six-month grace period during which citations issued by animal control would result in a warning instead of the $200 fine.
Animal Services staff were asked to come back to the board with hard numbers on the number and type of cruelty complaints filed. The board did not set a date for a vote.