An animal activist is applauding the actions of Craven County Commissioners, who voted to make regulations on tethered or outdoor pets tougher.

“I’m so excited. We did it,” said Tyker Gonzalez, who along with others pushed for more stringent safety measures.

Gonzalez was among those who went before commissioners detailing what she said was mistreatment of animals that were chained or tied up outdoors. She talked of dogs without adequate water and food supplies and dogs with injuries from the chains or rope used to tie them up.

Commissioners voted for new regulations in August but added several last minute amendments that add more detailed requirements for shelter, tethering and the housing of female dogs.

Under the new amendments shelter must be provided with a “sufficient quantity of suitable bedding material” consisting of hay, straw, cedar shaving, or the equivalent during winter.

The amendments also specify that the area within which an animal is tethered shall not be located in areas that would allow an animal to either hang or strangle itself.

Additionally, it will now be unlawful for any person owning or having possession of a female dog to allow the animal to be tethered or at large while it is in heat. During this period, the person having possession of the dog must restrain it in an enclosure to prevent the dog from coming in contact with a male of its own species.

The amendment does not prohibit the intentional breeding of dogs.

District 2 Commissioner Jason Jones also requested several additional amendments that were approved by the board.

Jones made a motion to add language to the ordinance stating that dogs must be provided with shade covering, such as a tarp, in addition to a dog house. Jones also requested that animals be provided with a “continuous” water supply.

The board voted in favor of both motions.

Jones said his amendments were based on comments from Dr. Larry Paul, of the Havelock Animal Hospital, who spoke to commissioners at their Dec. 4 meeting. Paul, who described himself as a vet and hunter, spoke about the impact of inadequate water and shade on the health of dogs. Paul said he personally used a clip to connect his dogs’ water bucket to a fence to provide a constant water supply that couldn’t be tipped over and used a tarp for shade.

Gonzalez said Paul’s comments played a role in the commissioners’ decision.

“He (Paul) said we’ve gotten to a point where we need to put these things in ordinances. If we put these things in ordinances, they will be clear; there will be no questions,” she said.

Under changes to animal ordinance approved by the Board of Commissioners in August, tethering devices must be connected to animals by a buckle type collar or a body harness made of nylon or leather. Choke chains, ropes, and wire are prohibited.

Tethering devices must be at least 10 feet long and contain swivel hardware at each end to prevent tangling. The area where the animal is tethered must be a minimum of 150 square feet, and large enough for the animal to assume “any normal body position including standing, sitting, lying and walking.” The area also must be kept clean so that the animal can walk or lie down without coming into contact with accumulated waste.

“In no event may an animal be tethered for a period of time or under conditions that an animal control officer deems harmful or potentially harmful to the animal,” the ordinance states. It also prohibits the tethering of sick or injured animals as well as animals less than six months old.

Additionally, the ordinance calls for owners to provide adequate food, water, shelter, and medical treatment for their pets.

Animal control officers have a variety of remedies for violations. They can chose to obtain a magistrate's order to take possession of the animal, immediately impound the animal, issue a notice of violation directing the owner to correct the problem within 72 hours, issue a civil penalty for violation, or obtain a criminal summons or warrant.

Due to the amendments approved at Monday’s meeting, the new animal ordinance, which was set to go into effect Jan.1, will now be pushed back to a Feb. 1 start date. The additional amendments added by Jones Monday will go into effect March 1.

Jones said that he was satisfied the board had reached a compromise that would still allow dog owners to tether their pets while providing adequate safety measures for the animals.

“We were able to find a middle ground, I think,” he said. “I made it clear I would not support an ordinance that did away with tethering altogether.”

Jones said he was aware of serious cases of animal neglect in the county, a situation he hoped the new changes to the ordinance would help abate.

“There have certainly been some tragic circumstances; I’m aware of some in my own district,” he said. “Hopefully these amendments will provide more humane conditions for animals for those who chose to tether,” said Jones.