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Hillsborough panel looks at a ban on tethered dogs

TAMPA — Tethering or chaining a dog for a long period could become illegal in Hillsborough County if animal activists get their way.

Proponents say they want an ordinance similar to one in Seminole, which allows a dog to be tethered only if 10 conditions are met, including constant supervision, a tether at least five times the body length and access to water.

Dan Hester, who helped create the Seminole ordinance when he was on the Seminole City Council, said tethering a dog for a long time is cruel. The dogs don't get to socialize, and they become aggressive, he said.

On the other side are people who also say they love dogs and advocate responsible pet ownership. A law that prohibits unsupervised tethering would unfairly target rural pet owners, said Judy Seltrecht, secretary of the Hillsborough County Florida Dog Fanciers.

"A hunting dog is meant to be working outside," she said. "They're not a lap dog that goes and sits on the sofa."

A committee will hear public input at a meeting tonight at County Center.

Hillsborough County Animal Services director Bill Armstrong said he personally doesn't tether his dog, Flash, but he understands that people have dogs for different reasons.

He's waiting to weigh in on the issue until the Animal Advisory Committee has a proposal. Then he'll analyze whether it's enforceable, he said.

"Whether or not there's an anti-tethering law, we're going to respond to any citizen that sees a dog suffering," he said.

Anti-tethering laws have been popping up across the state, and the issue has been gaining steam nationally for several years. A group called the Coalition to Unchain Dogs has grown to eight chapters, and they even pay for fences for people who can't afford them.

Coalition director Amanda Arrington said tethered dogs can be an attractive nuisance. A child may see a chained dog and walk up to it, thinking it's friendly, only to be attacked.

Hester points to studies that say that tethered animals are more likely to attack because they haven't been socialized. Also, when a dog becomes afraid and resorts to its fight-or-flight instinct, a tether removes the option to flee.

"So it will fight," he said.

Seltrecht disagrees. She said a tethered dog isn't necessarily an unsocialized dog. She points to Iditarod dogs and says responsible owners will spend time with their dogs, whether kept tethered outside or not.

Times staff writer John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Hillsborough panel looks at a ban on tethered dogs 10/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010 10:55pm]
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