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— A proposed ordinance restricting the restraint of dogs to stationary objects was returned to committee by the city council Monday after a motion to suspend the rules and read by heading only for passage of the ordinance was withdrawn.

At the recommendation of the Property and Code Enforcement Committee, city attorney Jay Williams, after researching similar ordinances of other Arkansas municipalities, brought an ordinance to the council for consideration which would have made it a violation of city law to chain or tether a dog to a fixed object such as a dog house, tree or post for any period of time.

The proposed ordinance would have also required persons owning dogs to keep them within an enclosure of sufficient height, size and strength to keep the animals restrained as well as of sufficient size to allow the animal “reasonable exercise and movement” within the enclosure.

The ordinance would have also required animal owners to postsigns to warn persons of the possible presence of an animal if an electric or underground and invisible type of enclosure or fence is used.

Councilwoman Janice Arnold moved to suspend the rules and read the ordinance by heading only. The motion received a second by councilwoman Janie Parks.

“People don’t want to see any tethered animals,” Parks said, adding that she had received numerous complaints about animals being tied or chained up in yards. Though no specific details of the complaints were given, she did say two or three people have talked to her about it in the past two weeks.

“I think it makes them (dogs) mean,” Arnold said of tying up animals.

“It (keeping a tied dog on a chain or rope) also creates unsightly situations,” Parks said.

“I have a neighbor who takes very good care of his dog,” councilman Michael Crawford said, “but when he puts the dog out to do its business, he puts it on a chain.” Crawford said he didn’t view this as inhumane treatment of the animal but following existing law.

With the suggesting of adding a time limit to the ordinance, Williams said if the ordinance limited the length of time a dog could be tethered to 30 minutes, the animal control officer would have to watch the tethered dog for the full 30 minutes before issuing a citation or the owner could claim the dog had been untethered and retethered during thattime period.

“It’s either do it or don’t,” Williams said, explaining that an ordinance would either have to ban all tethering of dogs to stationary objects or not ban it at all.

“If we mandate no tethering, then people will have to build enclosures,” Mayor Wes Hogue stated. “What sizewould be reasonable?” he asked.

Questions arose as to the size of an enclosure and what is sufficient, with suggestions of a 100 square feet per adult animal because of standard kennels sold in 10-by-10-foot dimensions.

Williams said he could include a minimum size for enclosures, but wanted the council to specify the size. He pointed out that an enclosure area based on animal weight would not work unless enforcement officers carried a scale to weigh animals before issuing citations, otherwise an owner could claim his dog weighed only 49 pound instead of 50 if a larger space was required for dogs 50 pounds and above.

“I don’t think this ordinance is going to accomplish what we want it to accomplish,” said councilman KyleJordan.

Councilman James Furgason said he didn’t favor people keeping their dogs on chains but also said he couldn’t vote for the ordinance as itwas written. “It’s too ambiguous,” he said.

Furgason said he and his wife on occasion tie their dog to a tree while they are working in the yard, but they are always with it and do not leave it tethered and unattended. “We would be breaking the law (under the proposed ordinance),” he said.

Parks said the animal control officer needs to use common sense in determining other violations and it would be no different in determining violations of the proposed ordinance.

Councilman Kevin Johnston suggested the council put off any decision on the ordinance for another month so that it could make a good decision and not a hasty one which needs to be amended.

Arnold and Parks withdrew their motion. The matter will be further discussed by the Property and Code Enforcement Committee at its Dec. 17 meeting - at 5:15 p.m.

A revised ordinance may be brought back at the council’s Jan. 4 meeting.

News, Pages 1 on 12/09/2009

Print Headline: Council restrains action to outlaw tethering of dogs

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