Pinellas County wants to crack down on people who leave unattended dogs tethered outside for too long.
But some pet advocates say the county's proposal is too weak to do much good.
The proposed ordinance would ban unattended tethering of dogs beyond what's necessary to complete a "temporary" task for a "reasonable" period, unless a running line is used.
But dog advocates such as former Seminole City Council member Dan Hester said Thursday that wiggle room makes the proposal weak and unenforceable.
"I think it's very difficult to decide what is no longer necessary to complete a temporary task," said Hester.
With the looser definitions, animal enforcement officers have a more difficult time observing and proving violations, he said.
"There's a big difference between allowing code enforcement people to use common sense versus allowing people to blatantly violate an ordinance because it's so weakly written," Hester said.
When the proposal has a public hearing May 4, Hester would prefer the county pass an ordinance similar to one he successfully spearheaded in Seminole in December. The city became the first government in Pinellas to ban unattended tethering of dogs after seeing too many mistreated, tethered canines.
The push in Pinellas to create countywide minimum standards follows efforts elsewhere. Miami-Dade approved a ban on leaving dogs tied up and alone in 2008, but other Tampa Bay area counties allow tethering.
The Pinellas proposal includes other measures that face little debate. It would make it easier to declare a dog dangerous and lower the minimum days that strays or unlicensed animals have to be impounded before they can be euthanized.
Humane Society leaders and other advocates blame tethering for creating more aggressive dogs, as well as cases of injured canines with neck gashes. The Humane Society in Pinellas opposes tethering unless a person is present, said Abigail Appleton, shelter manager.
Dewayne Taylor, deputy director of Pinellas Animal Services, acknowledged enforcement will be more difficult under the proposal. But he said the county will stress education and warnings instead of issuing citations with fines of $93 to $500.
Some people whose homes lack fences justifiably tether dogs, Taylor said.
"I think many people have been in situations when they need to tether the animal for a short period of time while they're changing the kids' diapers or something like that," Taylor said.
The county also is debating spending cuts in Animal Services and other departments, a factor also on county commissioners' minds. While Commission member John Morroni suggested he could seek to toughen the proposal, Commission members Susan Latvala and Nancy Bostock were uncertain a strict ban on unattended tethering is necessary.
"There's lots of gray area," Commission member Neil Brickfield said. "I want to make sure we get it right."
David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8779.