PICKENS COUNTY — It was standing room only in the council chambers at Monday’s Pickens County Council meeting where residents across the Upstate gathered to hear discussions on the consideration of a new tethering ordinance for dogs.
Council members made it clear although no action would be taken on Monday, they were interested in what the public had to say concerning the issue.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the terms “tethering” and “chaining” refer to the practice of fastening a dog to a stationary object and leaving him unattended.
The term “chaining” tends to refer to situations where thick, heavy chains are used. “Tethering” is more often referred to partial restraint on a rope, lighter chain or pulley, which is the more prevalent form of tethering, they said. These terms are not meant to refer to an animal being walked on a leash, or cases of supervised, temporary tethering while an owner is present.
So, why do people tether their dogs? As it turns out, for a variety of reasons.
“Most people who do this are unaware of the harm it can cause to their dogs,” said a HSUS spokesperson. “Social norms of pet-keeping have made tethering unpopular, so it is declining as a practice, but some reasons people do it include the dog is a repeat escapee and the owner has run out of ideas to safely confine the dog. Sometimes this is the reason dogs are kept on heavier chains — they have chewed through or otherwise escaped lighter tethers and the owner is trying to keep them from getting loose.”
The society also states sometimes the owner is trying to protect his dog from something on the other side of their fence (kids, another dog, etc.) by keeping the dog in one area in the yard, that the owner’s fence may be damaged, or the owner doesn’t have a fenced yard at all.
Sometimes the dog’s behavior makes keeping him indoors challenging and the owner doesn’t know how to correct the behavior, they said. Or, a landlord may not allow the pet owner to keep the dog indoors or to install a fence.
It has happened where the pet owner came from a family that always tethered dogs, and they just never realized there were better options, they said.
Regardless of the reasons behind the decision, it’s not one the HSUS supports.
“Dogs are naturally social beings who need interaction with humans and/or other animals. Intensive confinement or long-term restraint can severely damage their physical and psychological well-being,” the spokesperson said. “An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained or intensively confined in any way, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive.”
It is common for continuously tethered dogs to endure physical ailments as a result of being continuously tethered, the society asserts. Their necks can become raw and sore and their collars can painfully grow into their skin.
They are vulnerable to insect bites and parasites and are at high risk of entanglement, strangulation and harassment or attacks by other dogs or people, they said.
“Tethered dogs may also suffer from irregular feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care and extreme temperatures,” they stated. “During snow storms, these dogs often have no access to shelter. During periods of extreme heat, they may not receive adequate water or protection from the sun. Owners who chain their dogs are less likely to clean the area of confinement, causing the dogs to eat and sleep in an area contaminated with urine and feces. What’s more, because their often neurotic behavior makes them difficult to approach, chained dogs are rarely given even minimal affection. Tethered dogs may become ‘part of the scenery’ and can be easily ignored by their owners.”
Still, many at Monday’s meeting insisted that was not the case.
“I have hunting dogs and they absolutely can not be kept inside,” said Carl Massey of Six Mile. “But that doesn’t mean my dogs aren’t well cared for.”
Massey stated he tried keeping his beagles in a “dog run” but they continuously broke free. Chaining, he said, was the only way to keep his dogs safe.
“They’re not just out there on a logging chain or something,” he said. “The chains are hooked up to their houses and I’ve got straw and blankets inside them. There’s always fresh water.
“You know, it makes us sound like we’re abusing them or something but we’re not. My kids play with the dogs and they’re all up to date on their shots and stuff. These are good dogs and I treat them right. I hope they (County Council) take in all sides if they’re going to make some kind of law about this.”
The issue is expected to make an appearence on future meetings’ agendas.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.