Too-long Tethering of Pets in Salt Lake County Could Spur Charges

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Too-long Tethering of Pets in Salt Lake County Could Spur Charges

By Arthur Raymond on DeseretNews.com
December 2009

The new rules will give authorities a basis for action, he said.

Leaving the family pet tied up outside for excessive time periods or in severe weather could result in criminal charges under a new ordinance the Salt Lake County Council approved Tuesday.

The statute allows for a warning on a first incident but could result in a citation and fine on a subsequent offense.

Gene Baerschmidt, director of the Humane Society of Utah, said there is no question that long-term tethering is cruel to animals.

"We think it is absolutely inhumane to tether dogs for 24 hours nonstop," he said.

But, "most Utahns take very good care of their pets and treat them like members of their family," he said.

Baerschmidt added that while cruelty does occur, most people are good pet owners. While the nine-member council unanimously passed the new tethering ordinance, changes of county statute require two successful votes. The final vote will take place in January.

Council Chairman Joe Hatch sponsored the proposal that was crafted by the Humane Society of Utah and Salt Lake County Animal Services. Under the rule, anyone who leaves a pet tethered for more than 10 hours in a single stretch or in severe weather conditions could be issued a citation. It also includes language that requires a tied-up pet to have adequate food and water.

Hatch said he'd like to see the changes function first as a deterrent, then as a punishment, if necessary.

"My hope is that by highlighting this issue, people will start rethinking their behavior and recognizing they can't just tether a pet for 24/7," Hatch said. "If this is what you are doing, you need to stop. If you don't, you could be charged with a crime."

Humane Society of Utah spokesman Carl Arky said tethered pets generate frequent calls to his group.

"Last week I was contacted by someone who said he'd been watching a dog who's tied up regularly for 24 hours a day," Arky said. "Currently, an animal control or law enforcement officer can't do much about it."

The new rules will give authorities a basis for action, he said.

Arky said the expectation is that a first infraction would draw a warning and a subsequent incident could result in a citation and fine of up to $250. A third offense would be a class C misdemeanor, which carries a $750 fine and 90 days in jail, while a fourth offense would bump to a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Arky said the real strength of the new statute could be raising awareness levels.

"We want a new law that has some teeth in it," he said. "But what we're really trying to do is raise the quality of interaction between human beings and dogs."

Arky said the new statute was crafted after existing laws in 100 cities in 30 states.