Tethering of Dogs - Break the Chain . . .
Animal Services Ordinance Tightened:
The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners adopted revisions to the Pinellas County Animal Services ordinance. Four changes were adopted: (1) limit tethering of dogs, (2) change the definition of a dangerous animal, (3) reduce the holding time for impounded animals and (4) require a written statement about an incident involving a dangerous animal be submitted within 30 days.
The new tethering provision is intended to prevent dogs being left alone and tied in a yard for long periods of time. Tethering of puppies or dogs that are sick or injured is prohibited. Tying a dog to a stationery object, such as a tree or fence, is prohibited unless it is for a reasonable time, such as while the owner completes a temporary task. However, the dog must have access to water, adequate shelter and dry ground. The ordinance will be enforced primarily with warnings. However, pending investigation, citations and fines of up to $500 could be levied against owners who violate the ordinance.
The ordinance has been tightened to allow an animal to be defined as dangerous after one incident of violent attack (changed from two attacks) on another domestic animal deemed particularly egregious and unprovoked, resulting in the severe injury or death of the attacked animal. Also, the revised ordinance requires that a written statement be submitted to Animal Services within 30 days after an incident to speed up investigations. Previously, there was no time limit.
The holding times for stray animals turned in to Animal Services before being screened for adoption have been reduced to seven days for animals with identification, and to four days for animals without identification. The purpose is to quickly reunite lost animals with their owners or find new owners for unclaimed animals. The stress level and risk of disease increases with each day that an animal spends at a shelter.
(Pinellas County Code, Chapter 14, Article II, Animal Services,
Sections 14-26, 14-31, 14-48 and 14-64)
- What changes have been made to the Pinellas County Animal Services ordinance?
In order to promote animal welfare and public safety, four changes have been adopted:
(1) limit tethering of dogs, (2) change the definition of a dangerous animal, (3) reduce the holding time for impounded animals and (4) require a written statement about an incident involving a dangerous animal be submitted within 30 days.
- What is the new tethering provision?
The goal is to prevent dogs being left alone and tied in a yard for long periods of time. The new Section 14-31, Unlawful Restraint of Dogs, prohibits tethering of puppies or dogs that are sick or injured. Tying a dog to a stationery object, such as a tree or fence, is prohibited unless it is for a reasonable time, such as while the owner completes a temporary task. However, the dog must have access to water, adequate shelter and dry ground.
- Why not ban all tethering of unattended dogs as the city of Seminole did?
It may be necessary for an owner to tie up a dog temporarily, such as while unloading groceries from the car. The goal is not to punish a person acting in a responsible manner, but to stop an inhumane dog owner whose pet is spending its life tied up in a backyard.
- How will the new tethering restrictions be enforced?
The focus will be on education and warnings instead of issuing citations. However, pending investigation, citations and fines of up to $500 could be levied against dog owners. Although phrases such as “reasonable period” of time and “complete a temporary task” may appear subjective, the wording will allow enforcement officers to build cases that address those incidents of most concern to the citizens of Pinellas County.
- Will enforcement officers patrol neighborhoods looking for dogs that are tied up?
Animal Services staff will primarily respond to complaints from the public and will partner with other humane organizations to enforce the new code changes.
- What is the change in definition for a “dangerous animal”?
Previously, an animal that severely injured or killed another animal was allowed two animal attacks before being defined as dangerous. The proposed revision of Section 14-26 reduces that to one incident for particularly egregious attacks. The ordinance will not change the provision that an animal that aggressively bites or attacks a person one time may be considered dangerous.
- What does it mean if my animal is classified as a “dangerous animal”?
Animal Services officers will investigate any incidents involving an animal that might be dangerous. After due process, if a finding of dangerous is upheld, the animal will be euthanized.
- Why is the “dangerous animal” definition being changed?
People whose animals have been attacked or killed by another animal have requested that the ordinance be made stricter in order to prevent another attack.
- What is the change for animal holding times?
The revision of Sec. 14-48(b) reduces holding times for impounded animals turned in to Animal Services from 10 days to seven days for animals with identification and from five days to four days for animals without identification.
- What happens after the holding time expires? Is the animal euthanized?
If an owner does not reclaim their pet before the time expires, the animal will be moved to the adoption area if it is healthy and has good temperament. The animal will stay in the adoption area until it is adopted or sent to another shelter. The animal will not be euthanized unless it is determined to be unadoptable due to behavioral or medical issues. Most responsible owners reclaim lost pets within the first few days of impoundment.
- If an impounded animal has some form of identification, is the owner informed?
Yes. Animal Services staff makes every effort to reunite pets with their owners. Incoming
animals are checked for collar tag information and scanned for a microchip implant. Staff uses
this ID information to send a letter or make a phone call to let the owner know that their pet has been found.
- Why change the holding times?
The reduction in hold time is partly a cost-savings measure, but it is primarily intended to keep animals healthy. Every day spent at a shelter increases an animal’s stress level and the possibility of contracting a disease. The goal is to return lost animals to their owners and to ensure that unclaimed animals are adopted by new owners as quickly as possible.
- What is the new 30-day time period for a dangerous animal statement?
Previously, Animal Services code enforcement officers investigated dangerous animal incidents, but there was no specific time table. The revision to Section 14-64 requires that a written statement be submitted to Animal Services within 30 days after an incident. The statement would include photos, medical records, witness reports, etc. The purpose is to speed up the investigation process for dangerous animals and resolve incidents more quickly.
- What should I do if I see my neighbor tying up his dog all day?
Call Animal Services at (727) 582-2600 to request a consultation.
- What should I do if I lose my pet?
Call the Animal Services Lost or Found Pets Hotline at (727) 582-2604, or visit the shelter at 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo, to see if your pet is there. If your pet has not been turned in to Animal Services, visit the CARES (County Animal Rescue & Entry System) website at www.pcsoweb.com/cares to post your lost pet’s description and photo.
- How can I protect my pet?
The best way to protect your animal is by implanting a microchip identification device which is available for $15 at Animal Services. Also, pets should always wear a collar with a county license attached. If a license tag is misplaced, Animal Services will provide a replacement tag for a nominal fee.
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