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The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) created the Tethering Committee upon the request of the Animal Services Advisory Board (ASAB), which had been approached by local citizens concerned about the welfare of tethered dogs. Their efforts mirrored initiatives elsewhere in North Carolina and other states to limit, restrict or outlaw tethering. The Tethering Committee was appointed by the BOCC to address tethering in Orange County and to work with the ASAB to recommend what, if any, changes should be made to the existing animal ordinance regarding tethering.
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Tethering refers to the keeping of dogs on chains, ropes or other such tie-outs versus within a fenced structure. It is often defined in reference to a stationary object (for example, a dog chained to a stake near a dog house), but also includes overhead trolley systems. Tethering does not refer to walking a dog on a leash.
Tethering restrictions include:
Tethering in excess of the 3-hour maximum is allowed:
The amendment was adopted on November 19, 2008 and includes a year-long period of extensive public outreach and education before becoming effective in November of 2009. Moreover, only warnings will be issued for the first six months of effectiveness (from November of 2009 to May of 2010). Only after the combined 18-month period, will any ordinance amendment be fully enforced. This is intended to give citizens ample time to become informed and make changes to comply with the new law.
Citizens who live inside the town limits of Chapel Hill, Carrboro or Mebane will not be affected by the County’s ordinance or any changes made to the County’s ordinance. The County’s animal ordinance (and any changes made to it) only applies to the unincorporated areas of the County, as well as Hillsborough, which adopts the County’s ordinance.
There are several other means of confinement available to those wanting to switch from tethering. Citizens may switch to a pen/kennel enclosure; construct a fence; or choose to house their dog(s) indoors. Supplies for outdoor enclosures can be purchased at most hardware stores and many indoor confinement methods can be obtained at pet stores.The Coalition to Unchain Dogs offers a program to assist with fence building. Details can be found on Unchain Your Dog or by contacting 919-308-3660 or emailing Coalition to Unchain Dogs. Information about local dog training opportunities can be found by consulting with a veterinarian, checking yellow page listings, or conducting an online search.
The Tethering Committee recommended these changes to the BOCC because of its concern with both public safety and animal welfare, after conducting a significant amount of research. Long-term tethering can contribute to neglect and the current ordinance in Orange County does not address the length of time a dog can be tethered. The ASAB also felt that tethering restrictions would make better use of Animal Services resources and help address other related concerns, such as unwanted breeding and dog bites.
While it is true that dogs can be neglected in any situation, tethering raises additional community concerns. The lack of a barrier between the dog and outside world raises the risk of dogs bites, makes some dogs vulnerable to unwanted breeding (contributing to pet overpopulation) and attack by roaming dogs or other animals.
Other jurisdictions have shown that, in the long term, tethering restrictions make for better use of County resources. Jurisdictions which have recently restricted or eliminated tethering have reported a decrease in the number of reported dog bites, reduced unwanted litters of puppies, and reduced cruelty cases related to improper tethering. All of these changes improve public safety and save the county tax dollars. More information on other jurisdictions with restricted tethering ordinances can be found at Helping Animals.
The ordinance amendment itself and the report of the Tethering Committee are available from the Animal Services Department. Also available are minutes from BOCC and Tethering Committee meetings, abstracts from BOCC meetings where tethering was discussed, and other supporting documents. Questions can be directed to Animal Control at 919-245-2075.