TAVARES — It has been a little more than a year since Lake County Commissioners adopted an ordinance that prohibits the tethering of dogs while unattended. Since the ordinance went into effect, county officials continue to help educate pet owners about the dangers of tethering, and the results that could happen if owners choose to not follow the law.
The ordinance, which went into effect on April 10, 2012, placed greater restrictions for animal tethering in Lake County, including prohibiting the tethering of animals that are not within visual range of the pet owner, as well as tethering of pets under circumstances that the health, safety or well-being of the animal is in jeopardy.
“Nationwide each year, a number of tethered dogs die as a result of hanging themselves, or can get injured by getting entangled or overheated. Many pet owners also might not know that leaving animals tethered outside can cause them to be unfriendly and unsafe around humans,” said Cyndi Nason, manager of the Lake County Animal Services Division. “Tethering often leads to more aggressive dogs that tend to bite or lead to dogs becoming nuisance barkers because they are lonely and frustrated. By talking to pet owners, and reminding them of the ordinance, we hope to prevent not only injuries to animals, but possible injuries to humans.”
Nason said that tethers are okay to use for short periods of time if a pet owner can supervise the animal. Alternatives to tethering include:
• Fencing, at a height that a dog cannot jump over.
• “Invisible” fencing, which is radio-collar-controlled.
• A runner line on a pulley that moves along with the dog so it can get exercise back and forth, rather than in a circle. Dogs should not be left unattended with this device either.
On Nov. 1, 2012, Animal Control Officers began issuing warnings and citations for those found to be violating the ordinance. The first complaint received results in the pet owner being issued a written warning, or Notice of Code. If the owner is found to not come into compliance after the written warning is issued, or if the owner receives a second complaint at a later date, the owner may receive citation, or Notice of Hearing.
Penalties for violating the ordinance may include fines of $150 for the first written warning, and $500 for any repeat violations within a five-year period. If an animal is injured because of tethering, and veterinary care is required, the recommended penalty is $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for any repeat violations within a five-year period. If severe injury or death of the animal results, the penalty is $1,000 for the first offense and $5,000 for any repeat violations within five years of the previous offense.
For more information about the ordinance, or to learn more about alternatives to tethering an animal, contact the Lake County Animal Services Division at 352-343-9688.