Following pro and con comments from 14 residents Wednesday night on a proposed animal ordinance change that addresses tethering of dogs, the Craven County commissioners tabled the matter to a work session and further review.
The board will take the matter up after an Aug. 21 morning meeting, discussing that issue along with a public transportation plan.
Wednesday's meeting drew more than 100 people to a Craven County courtroom.
Tyker Gonzales, the leader of the Cruelty in Craven group, said the organization wanted a stronger ordinance. The group comprised the majority of the audience.
She told the board that her group came to support tethering time limits — two to three hours — and also asked for a separate animal cruelty ordinance.
“The current proposed ordinance by the county will not be sufficient for any purpose, the way it is worded,” she said during her nine minutes of comment time to the board. She said hunting and service dogs should be included in any tethering restrictions.
She said that allowing unbridled tethering would not help solve any major issues such as overpopulation, euthanasia numbers, safety of the tethered dogs, motivation to train fighting dogs or the risk to adults and children of being attacked.
The public comment period brought a balanced point of view for and against tethering.
Susan Lloyd, a veterinarian from Beaufort who works at the Emergency Animal Hospital here, also raises hunting and show dogs. She was one of those who asked that tethering not be banned, speaking as an individual and on behalf of the American Kennel Club. She said that tethering is a necessary part of training, as well as for dogs attending field trials and shows.
“I have dogs that are on 20-foot lines in my yard and they are perfectly happy,” she said, adding that they were vaccinated, fed, watered, walked and loved.
Terry Morris, an owner of hunting dogs in western Craven County, agreed that humane tethering has a purpose. He said it was nearly impossible to keep some breeds, such as hunting dogs and pit bulls, from tearing their way out of any type of pen. That, he said, posed a danger to the dog’s safety, as well as the well-being of nearby residents and children.
He also pointed out that it could take extra county personnel to enforce any tethering laws, potentially costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that should instead be directed toward more need-driven problems such as the homeless and the opiate epidemic.
Perry Morris, of Vanceboro, agreed about enforcement costs, adding that the problem was not tethering, but rather the behavior of certain dog owners. As for the added expense, he said “As a taxpayer, I am not interested in a dog tax to hire a dog team.”
Steven Stelma, a vet at the Animal Care Center in New Bern, said he was not an animal rights activist, but “what we believe in is animal welfare.”
He said dogs are social animals and that tethering was not natural to a happy life for them.
“Living life constantly on a chain has been deemed to be inhumane not only by the American Veterinarian’s Association, but by the USDA,” he said. “Constant chaining brings about aggressive behavior in dogs.”
While he believes that “most hunters treat their dogs well,” he noted that they are not included in the current draft — which also does not have any time limits on tethering “pets.”
It does have provisions for humane tethering, including length and material, as well as definitions for food, water and shelter.
“The proposed ordinance allows an exception for hunting animals, which I think is a mistake,” he said.
Only two commissioners spoke on the issue, including Chairman Tom Marks, who noted that “we have received many emails, calls and letters.”
Before public comment, he asked that everyone remain civil.
Commissioner George Liner of Havelock complimented the speakers afterwards, as well as most of those who sent letters and emails. But, he took strong exception with some of the email and letter writers, which had personal attacks.
“Those emails were not civil. They were rude and downright disgusting,” he said. “But, I don’t believe that we have to tear someone down to get your point across.”
Henri McCleese, a Pamlico County-based lobbyist, represents the N.C. Sporting Dogs Association, and spoke against any tethering restrictions.
“We have lots of laws protecting animals in North Carolina already,” she said. “We oppose this because we already have strong animal cruelty laws.”
Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieHallNBSJ