Animal control issues have been around San Angelo for years and every so often something will hit the local news and a new batch of ordinances will come before council, most of them ill considered. Unintended consequences usually pop up and make the ordinances look stupid, and enforcement costs (real enforcement costs) are not considered. This link shows most of the coverage we've done here at ConchoInfo.
In 2009 a series of ordinances and amendments were passed. Among them were changes that changed how a dog can be housed, and virtually eliminated the ability to tether or chain a dog out. This issue came up again and was discussed at the last council meeting. There are factual errors that need to be cleared up.
First off, it was stated that state statute HS 821.076 thru .078 doesn't allow for tethering of a dog for longer than 3 hours. It's easy to get that impression from the slides presented at council because the the definitions and exceptions were on different slides. HS 821.077 states in part “(a) An owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog's movement” and then goes and defines unreasonably limiting a dogs movement as
“(b) In this section, a restraint unreasonably limits a dog's movement if the restraint:
(1) uses a collar that is pinch-type, prong-type, or choke-type or that is not properly fitted to the dog;(2) is a length shorter than the greater of:(A) five times the length of the dog, as measured from the tip of the dog's nose to the base of the dog's tail; or(B) 10 feet;(3) is in an unsafe condition; or
(4) causes injury to the dog.”
Chains and tethering are legal under state law, they just have to not unreasonably restrain the dog. The part that everyone focused on was HS 821.078, which the list of exceptions to unreasonable restraint requirements and particularly “(3) a dog restrained for a reasonable period, not to exceed three hours in a 24-hour period, and no longer than is necessary for the owner to complete a temporary task that requires the dog to be restrained;” This gives exceptions such allowing a tether less then 10' long.
This confusion over what state law actually says basically derailed the logic of the discussion that was before the city council. It reduced the debate to “if the state only allows 3 hours, why bother to raise it from 2”, and then it go hung up on how hard it was to make a safe trolley system, etc.. The bad information made a rational, accurate assessment of the situation impossible. In the end, the council did the best they could under the situation.
The last point I want to make is that it is possible to safely tie out a dog. You do need to make sure that he can't get hung up on a fence or wrapped around a pole or tree or lawn furniture. That is probably taken care of by the definitions in (b)(3) “is in an unsafe condition” but we could add clarifying language to our ordinance that says “a restraint that allows a dog to get tangled or wrapped in such a way as to limit restraint length to less then 10 feet shall be unlawful”.
I saw the pictures presented at the council meeting of the case that brought this item to the agenda. It would have been helpful if those pictures and the rest of the information in the presentation had been part of the agenda packet on SlideShare (that's a rant for another day.) The dog was not restrained properly as he could easily get tangled in the fence and could still get over the fence if he had the urge to. It looked to me like was restrained in an unsafe way. There are several ways that he could have been restrained safely but as it stands now that may not be an option.
We euthanize far too many animals in San Angelo as it is. If we get more vigorous on enforcement of unrealistic ordinances such as our tethering ordinance, we won't have more dogs leading better lives, we'll just have more euthanized animals in our landfill. We need to remove our current restrictions on tethering and at most add in the clarification on a safe restraint.