Proposed ordinance to expand local animal cruelty laws could be tough to enforce

All About Animals

POSTED: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 7:46pm

A proposed law would force some local dog owners to change the way they care for their pets.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will debate an ordinance Wednesday that would prohibit tethering a dog for more than an hour.

"No dog should live its life on a chain, permanently," said Hilton Cole, Director of Animal Control for East Baton Rouge Parish. "That's not what they're all about."

Cole said the proposal is meant to allow people to leave their dog on a tether while they run a quick errand. But some people keep dogs chained and restrained for their entire lives.

"It would be, essentially, cruel," Cole stated. "Dogs are companion animals; they do not need to be on chains, they need to be with human beings, in the house, or even in a pen, or a run or something. But certainly not a chain 24/7."

Aside from emotional trauma, there is also physical danger when a dog is left chained, especially with summer heat on its way.

"You do have chains where the collars cut into their neck," Cole mentioned. "You have chains that are totally, inordinate, size-wise and weight-wise and thickness-wise to the size of the dog. Yes there can be physical damage; they can get strangled. We have seen that. They do hang themselves. They can't get to water, they can't get to shelter in the summertime."

Cole added that the ordinance could also help cut down on other types on crimes.

"We see numerous dogs chained in back yards and in front yards. Sometimes drug dealers use them to completely surround their house," he stated.

"Then you have to remember that also dogfighters keep their dogs on chains. Most pit bulls, their dogfighters keep on chains for their whole lives."

But the ordinance could be difficult to enforce. It would require an animal control officer to sit and watch the dog non-stop to prove it was tethered for an hour, which is expensive. Cole also expects a flood of complaints as soon as the law takes effect; possibly too many for it to handle without changing the procedure for submitting information.

"We are a small organization and there's a lot of animal activists in our parish," he noted.

Cole said he likely would not jail first-time offenders; instead he would issue them a warning and follow up later. He would rather the owner change his/her lifestyle and unhook the dog than go to jail.

"The ultimate goal would be to prevent the chaining or tethering of a dog permanently, throughout its whole life as a primary means of restraint."

Another reason why the ordinance might not pass is that most of the problems associated with tethering are currently covered by cruelty laws.

Cole said stopping animal cruelty is a priority for his office, so it already looks into lots of tethering cases.

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