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Year Round Canine Tether Law OK’d

Palm Beach Post

WEST PALM BEACH, August 20, 2003 -- With the hope of keeping tethered dogs safe during all of Palm Beach County’s seasons, county commissioners voted 6-1 Tuesday to prevent tying or chaining canines outside from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round.

Commissioner Tony Masilotti suggested applying the ban year-round, rather than the proposed May through October ban, after hearing from residents about the crop threatening freeze last January and the hottest March on record.

Commissioner Mary McCarty brought up the idea last month, after a constituent complained about a dog tied up outside in the July heat McCarty wanted to change the law, which allowed tethering dogs as long as they have adequate food, water and shelter and at least six feet of rope or chain.

“The mother and the kids were inside the house,” McCarty said. “They had no problem with this dog dying outside. We were not able to do anything.”

The new law, which takes effect Sept. 1, will be driven by complaints. After a written warning for the first misstep, violators face a $91 fine, then a $166 fine, and a $500 fine and court appearance for the fourth offense, at which point a judge may decide to dole out a harsher punishment.

The law could become even more strict six months from now, when the county’s Animal Care and Control Advisory Board’s overhaul of animal care laws comes before the commission. The panel recommended a ban on all tethering, Animal Care and Control Director Dianne Sauve said. Commissioner Warren Newell asked her to provide updates four times a year about how many warnings and fines have been issued.

County Commissioner Burt Aaronson voted against the measure on behalf of responsible pet owners whose dogs may be tied up to keep them from running away but are provided with plenty of food, water and shelter. Not tying up a dog is no guarantee they are well cared for, he said.

“The dog can be outside and yet not be tethered,” Aaronson said. “You have no idea whether the animal is in a protected environment.”

But several residents cheered after commissioners approved the law.

“These dogs are living horrible lives,” West Palm Beach resident Terry Knight said. “We’re not talking about the people who go out in the back yard and they’re with their dogs. We’re talking about rope burns and chain burns and sometimes embedded in their necks.”