SEMINOLE — This city could become the first in Pinellas to pass rules against tethering dogs.
Violators could be subject to hefty fines and possible criminal charges if they continued to tie up a dog after being warned not to do so. The ordinance is scheduled to come before the City Council for preliminary approval at Tuesday's meeting. Final approval could come later this month.
The proposal is the brainchild of council member Dan Hester, a former board member of the SPCA of Tampa Bay. He was influenced in part after seeing a home just outside the city limits where five dogs are tied to trees 24 hours a day, he said. Hester said he does not know of another Pinellas government that has such a rule.
Hester's idea found instant approval with most council members.
"It's a no-brainer. Let's do it," John Counts said.
Leslie Waters said, "I was horrified this hasn't been done before."
Other council members wondered if the proposal should include other animals, like cats.
"Household cats aren't the problem. Horses aren't the problem. Livestock isn't the problem," said Mark Ely, head of the city's community development department. The vast majority of problems concern dogs, and that's why it's limited to them.
Ely said the ordinance would apply to all canines, regardless of whether they are regarded as pets or working dogs. And, he said, the ordinance is clear and easy for code officers in determining whether there is a violation.
"If I see a dog tethered outside, and there's not a human there, you're in violation," Ely said. "It's that simple."
Council member Patricia Plantamura said she's not so sure the proposal is a good idea.
"I grew up on a farm. I love animals. I see the utilitarian purposes. I see why someone would have a dog outside their house as a security measure on a running line and that kind of stuff," Plantamura said.
Not everyone has a fenced yard, she said, and the ordinance would force people to keep their dogs inside.
"The farm girl in me is really coming out," she said. "I don't mean to be contrary here. But that's going to be part of the way I vote, this minority vote on the council. And please excuse me for that. Your compassion for the protection of animals is laudable. I agree with protecting animals as well, but I see this quite differently."
Anti-tethering ordinances are becoming more common, said Adam Goldfarb, director of the animals-at-risk program with the Humane Society of the United States. Not only are local governments passing them, so are county and state governments, he said. More than a hundred similar ordinances or laws have been adopted in 30 states during the past few years. Other bills are pending elsewhere, he said.
The push for such rules is based on human and humane reasons, Goldfarb said. The human safety factor comes into play because research has found that dogs that are regularly tethered are more likely to bite than those that aren't. And dogs are social, pack animals. Isolation is cruel and unnatural to them, he said.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.