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Pet-tethering debate draws large crowd in Durham

Durham County commissioners heard Monday night from a full house during a public hearing at which most, but not all, speakers backed a proposal to outlaw pet-tethering.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham County is the latest North Carolina government to consider outlawing pet-tethering. Commissioners heard from residents Monday evening on the proposed law.

"It's really cruel to chain up dogs in the backyard and just leave. They're living creatures that need food and companionship just as much as we do,” Elizabeth Dixon, with the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, said.

Nearly 150 filled the seats and lined the walls at the public hearing, the majority appearing to favor outlawing pet-tethering.

"We Durham residents have placed our trust in you. Please don't let us down,” one person told the commissioners.

If the law passes, chaining up a dog outside would be considered animal abuse, in most cases.

Some exceptions to the proposed law include veterinarians who are treating an animal, and those training hunting dogs and police K-9s.

Violators who leave dogs unattended could face fines and could lose their animals if they can't find another way to keep them contained.

"Tethering is one way of confining an animal, and when done properly and humanely it has some benefits to it,” Andrea Press, director of Responsible Dog Owners of Eastern States' North Carolina, said.

Press represents a group that opposes Durham County's proposal. She said chaining and tethering dogs are often done by people who can't afford fencing.

"Fencing is just not always the best option for everybody,” she added.

The effort to change the law is the result of a two-year study that found a majority of animal cruelty complaints were related to improper tethering.

Durham commissioners are expected to make a final decision before October.

Clayton recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the practice of tethering animals. It takes effect in early October.

“The person must have the animal in a cage or kennel that allows the animal to get up, move and maintain some level of comfort,” Capt. Wayne Bridges, with the Clayton Police Department, said.

While Clayton was the first city in Johnston County to ban tethering, anti-tethering ordinances are part of a growing tend. Animal rights advocates are pushing for a similar law in Orange County.

In Clayton, Bridges said, the city will work to educate pet owners before enforcing the new law.

“We want to be sure to have the opportunity to let residents become familiar with the ordinance and give them time to comply,” he added.

Penalties for violating the rules in Clayton were still being decided. Anyone caught tethering a dog will receive at least a fine.