Dawson County commissioners have been asked to consider an ordinance that would make it illegal to restrain a dog for longer than three hours.
Carolyn Bowen, president of Dawson County Humane Society, said the need for an anti-tethering law can help address what she described as severe animal abuse cases.
"By establishing a local ordinance against tethering that is rational, enforceable and similar to other Georgia counties where it is working effectively, we can end cruelty at the end of the chain, while respecting the rights of citizens that are responsible pet owners," she said.
According to Bowen, the local animal shelter frequently fields calls from residents reporting animal cruelty because of tethering.
The intent of the proposed ordinance, she said, is to keep dog owners from restraining animals for long periods of time.
According to the proposed ordinance, "Basic survival needs should be provided while tethered including food, water and shelter. Leaving a dog unattended and tethered for any period of time exceeding three hours in a day constitutes neglect."
The commission, which did not indicate if it would pursue the proposal, will revisit the matter during its Sept. 13 work session.
At that time, Planning Director David McKee plans to discuss the county's current animal control ordinance, which he said addresses cruelty issues.
However, Bowen cautioned the animal control ordinance may not be enough. She recalled receiving numerous calls from neighbors about one case involving a large dog on a short tether with a small house.
"There have been animal control visits to spots such as that, but because the animal has basic needs - what we have now in the ordinance, which is food, water and some type of shelter - there's nothing that can be done," she said. "Comments from the neighbors is it's not a happy situation for the animal."
Commissioner Jimmy Hamby said he was concerned about how such a law would affect residents who tether their dogs but treat them well.
"If they can't afford to build a fence to put it in, where would it put them? There's people out there that probably have their dog tied up that would abide by the law," Hamby said. "I'm wondering what would happen to their dog.
"If you pass a tethering ordinance and they've got their dog tethered and they want to abide by the law, they got to get rid of that dog or untether it."
Commissioner Gary Pichon said he would like to see examples of successful enforcement from counties that have an anti-tethering ordinance.
"If we pass a tethering law, couldn't the cruelty just be moved behind a fence ... into the barn?" he asked. "The other question would be are there cruelty laws already on the books that fit this particular issue? And do we enforce those now. I would like to see the enforcement data."