SEMINOLE — If one resident has her way, a proposed rule that would ban canine tethering would be named "Frankie's Ordinance" in memory of a neighborhood dog that was euthanized this year after nipping its owner.
Gale Taylor told City Council members she had come to their Dec. 8 meeting to let them know dog tethering is a problem. She urged them to pass a proposal that would ban tethering unless someone is outside with the animal.
"This is so close to my heart, if I get emotional, forgive me," Taylor said.
"I want to dedicate this to Frankie, who is no longer with us. For four years, I lived across the street from this dog and its owners. My neighbors and I had to hear the daily, monthly constant whimpering, crying, barking through rain, heat, thunder, lightning and everything. … The people kept it in at night but every day, it was chained on a short chain."
Seminole council members unanimously gave initial approval to the ordinance. Final approval is scheduled at Tuesday's meeting.
The proposal would ban the tethering of canines unless someone is present. Violators could be subject to fines and criminal charges if they continued to tie up a dog after being warned not to do so.
If the council passes the ordinance, it would apparently be the first government in Pinellas to adopt such a rule, but it might not be the last. Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday said they want to study the issue and consider a countywide rule against tethering dogs.
Seminole latched onto the issue at the urging of council member Dan Hester, who said he was moved by the plight of dogs he passed every day on his way to work. These dogs, which live in an unincorporated portion of the county, are tied up every day, he said. At the time, Hester said he did not believe the issue was a problem in the city but wanted to be proactive.
But Taylor, who lives within a couple of blocks of City Hall, said it is a problem. There are two dogs in her neighborhood, she said, that are tied up all day, every day. Then she told council members Frankie's story.
"This dog came to our neighborhood as a small lovely puppy, a large breed, happy, not aggressive," she said.
Taylor said she called the SPCA but was told there was nothing that could be done because the dog had water and partial shelter.
"There was no law on the books that could help me or him. He never got to chase a ball and the only time he got to run was when he pulled out of his collar," Taylor said. "But just a few months ago, it was Frankie's last run."
Taylor said she heard a little girl scream "for no reason" and when she went to find out what was wrong, she saw Frankie had gotten free.
"The dog (came) charging out with a chain that he had pulled apart, (The chain was) as big as my finger, 1 inch in diameter, dangling," she said. "The owner came over, grabbed the dog, pulled back on the torturous chain that he had been living on for four years, and he turned around and he lightly bit her. So she called 911 and had that dog taken away."
Taylor said she talked with Animal Services to explain that Frankie was not aggressive, but abused. That didn't save Frankie.
"Frankie calmly walked to his fate because it was better than living for four years on that chain," she said. "It broke my heart."
Her plea had results. Council member Patricia Plantamura, who had said she planned to vote against the ordinance, said Frankie's story was "really tainting the way I'm going to vote on this. I was going to go a different way."
Plantamura and council member Leslie Waters did question whether the proposal is overly restrictive because it requires someone to be with a dog whenever it is tied up.
Hester said the issue concerns not only humane treatment but safety. Dogs that are tied, he said, become more aggressive. If they are approached, they can't run away, so if they become fearful or upset, they'll bite to defend themselves.
And Mark Ely, head of Seminole's development department, said the requirement of having someone present would prevent a code officer's having to sit outside a house waiting to see if someone had just run inside for a moment or was truly leaving the animal tied outside for long periods.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.