The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night passed a tethering ordinance designed to give animal control greater ability to deal with dogs that sometimes spend their entire lives at the end of a chain.
The ordinance was not exactly what Jamie Bennett asked for, but the animal control director accepted the compromise with the hope that it will help animals that are sometimes left unattended and without food or water for days.
The final version reads that a dog may not be placed on a movable tether for more than 14 hours in any one day, or more than eight consecutive hours without being off tether for at least one hour.
It also addresses hot and cold temperatures, and states that the chain may not be heavier than 10 percent of the dog’s weight.
While these conditions were acceptable to most of the supervisors, it was time that was the sticking point with the original version of the ordinance. It stated that dogs would not be allowed to be tethered for than four hours in any one 24-hour period.
Supervisor Steve Walker said he thought the county should adopt an ordinance similar to one in Staunton that prohibits dogs from being tethered between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. It was pointed out, however, that some people work the night shift, which makes it impossible to comply with that those time constraints.
Supervisor Bradley Rosenberger was concerned about how the law would apply to hunting dogs and those that are trained to work sheep and cattle.
“Hunting and working dogs are not bred to be house dogs,” he said.
More than a dozen people spoke at a public hearing and all but two were in favor of the original ordinance. Several showed photographs of dogs on chains that were would so tight the animals could barely move.
Others told of dogs chained in wooded areas on abandoned property with no food, water or shelter. One man said that he found dogs whose water bowl had been frozen for days and that the animals had to lick the ice.
Francis Updike, however, called the proposed ordinance “overkill” and said there were already enough laws on the books to deal with the issue.
Supervisor Jack Frazier said he refused to vote for the ordinance because it did not go far enough in eliminating the cruelty problem. Bennett replied that her department was constrained by the state’s animal cruelty law, which was hard to prove in court.
“This ordinance would help me address the problem in court,” she said, adding that enforcement would be complaint driven.
She added that her department would use common sense when it came to applying the ordinance to hunting and working dogs that are otherwise well cared for.
And she said that pens and dog runs were fine, as long as proper shelter and adequate care was provided.
“We just want to be able to go after the dramatic problems,” she said.
Several supervisors wanted to table the issue, but Supervisor Sue Hansohn all but demanded that the issue be resolved before the meeting ended. After conferring with Bennett, the compromise was finally reached.
Frazier and Chairman Bill Chase voted against the ordinance.