Columbus city council passes new dog tethering ordinance

Local News

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Chain-free dog advocates are celebrating what they call a victory toward their overall goal. Columbus City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday approving several changes to dog tethering guidelines. Christy Noullet believes council made the right decision in passing an ordinance in favor of tightening restrictions on tethering dogs.

Columbus City Council passed a new ordinance tightening restrictions on tethering dogs.
Columbus City Council passed a new ordinance tightening restrictions on tethering dogs.

The ordinance lays out new guidelines when it comes to taking care of canines in Columbus. Noullet says with the new ordinance, people can only leave dogs tethered outside for 12 hours a day. Owners are not allowed to tie up dogs with ropes or homemade chains, and they must have a two-finger length of space between the leash and the dog.

The new rules also clarify proper parameters to house a dog. Noullet says dogs have a tendency to spread disease and bark uncontrollably when tethered and constricted.

“No one wants to live next door to that,” Noullet said. “You’re afraid. You’re afraid of the diseases they can transmit because they’re generally not cleaned up. They’re not vaccinated. Well now, with this ordinance, we’ll be able to make sure that they’re vaccinated, that they’re cleaned up after, that they have the shelter that they’re supposed to be provided, and your children and your neighborhood will be safer.”

Some folks believe raising chain-free dogs could lead to them escaping containment, potentially resulting in more biting incidents or the further spread of disease. However, Noullet says tethered dogs are three times more likely to bite children.

Violations of the new ordinance result in a warning and 30-day time period to comply. Noullet says this ordinance is just the beginning of her advocacy group’s goal to have a chain-free dog community. She wants to see dog owners become more educated and accountable when caring for their dogs. The full ordinance can be read below:

THE COUNCIL OF COLUMBUS, GEORGIA HEREBY ORDAINS:

________________

SECTION 1.

Section 5-5(20) of the Columbus Code is hereby deleted in its entirety and there is substituted a new Section 5-5 (20) to read as follows:

“Sec. 5-5 (20)

Tethering shall mean the act of fastening or restraining a dog outside of the presence of its owner or caregiver by a mechanism appropriate to the circumstances and set forth in this chapter.”

SECTION 2.

Section 5-7.1 of the Columbus Code is hereby amended by striking the current Section 5-7.1 and replacing it with a new section 5-7.1 to read as follows:

“Sec. 5-7.1. – Outdoor facilities.

An owner or caretaker of a dog who allows the dog to spend more than eight hours in a 24-hour period outside must provide the dog an outdoor facility that meets the following specifications: 

(a)Outdoor facilities for dogs shall include one or more shelters that are accessible to each dog and one or more separate outside areas of shade that is large enough to contain all the dogs at one time to protect them from the direct rays of the sun. Outdoor facilities shall be kept neat and free of clutter, including equipment, furniture and stored materials as well as accumulated trash, waste, junk, weeds and other discarded materials.

(b) Outdoor shelters shall comply with the following: 

(1) Include a roof, four sides and a floor; 

(2) Be of sufficient size to allow each dog in the outdoor facility to sit, stand, lie in the fully stretched position, and to turn about freely; 

(3) Provide an environment that will protect from the elements when the ambient temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or below ten degrees Celsius; 

(4) Be constructed of materials that are impervious to moisture and easily cleaned and sanitized; 

(5) Be structurally sound and kept in good repair, with no missing boards, jagged edges or excessive rust; 

(6) Be cleaned weekly on all hard surfaces with which the dogs come into contact;  (7) Be free of accumulated trash, waste, junk, weeds and other discarded materials; and 

(8) Crates or barrels are not acceptable outdoor shelters, and Carports are not acceptable as the sole means of shelter available to the dog.

(c) All outdoor areas to which a dog has access shall be kept clean and free of fecal matter and all other trash and waste.”

SECTION 3

A Chapter 5 of the Code is further amended to add a new Section 5-7.2 to read as follows:

“Sec. 5-7.2 – Restraint

(a) It shall be unlawful for any owner or possessor of any dog to fail to keep the dog under restraint or control as provided for in this section.

(b) A dog is considered not under restraint or control when it is running at large, whether wearing a collar and tag or not. Reasonable care and precautions shall be taken to prevent the dog from leaving the real property limits of its owner, possessor, or custodian, and to ensure that:

(1) It is securely and humanely enclosed within a house, building, fence, pen, or other enclosure out of which it cannot climb, dig, jump, or otherwise escape on its own volition. If a canine pulley system is being used, the animal must stay within the owner’s property line and not have the ability to get caught up or hung due to the location of other tangible materials that could hinder the animal(s) from freely moving within the confines of the system;  (2) It is securely and humanely restrained by an invisible containment system. If using an invisible containment system, a sign must be posted on all entry points or identified entry points of the property indicating that the system is in place; 

(3) It is housed on a lot zoned R-5 or R-10 of at least five acres in size and remains within the confines of its owners property in accordance with the provisions of 5-10(a); or

(4) It is on a leash and under the control of its owner or caregiver, or it is off leash and obedient to and under voice command of an owner or caregiver who is in the immediate proximity of the dog any time it is not restrained as provided for in subsection (1) or (2) above while on the owner’s property.

(c) It shall be unlawful to tether an animal outdoors, except when all of the following conditions are met:

(1) No animal shall be tethered and left unattended for more than 12 consecutive hours in a 24-hour period. However, for up to the 12-hour maximum an animal may be on an approved tethering system as outlined in this Section; 

(2) No animal shall be tethered except on a three-point pulley system; 

(3) Only one animal may be attached to each tethering system; 

(4) Any tethering device used to tether an animal shall not allow the animal to cross over the owner’s property line; 

(5) Tethers must be made of commercial approved leash or tethering material which cannot be chewed by the animal and shall not weigh more than five percent of the body weight of the animal; ropes and chains are not considered appropriate tethering material;

(6) The tether must be at least five times the body length of the dog and mounted no more than seven feet above the ground level;

(7) The length of the tether from the running cable line or pulley system to the animal’s harness should allow access to the maximum available exercise area allow the animal free access to food, water, and shelter; 

(8) The animal must be attached to the tether by a properly fitted harness or collar with enough room between the collar and the animal’s throat through which two fingers may fit. Choke collars and Pinch collars are prohibited for the purpose of tethering an animal;

(9) The tethering system must be a sufficient distance from any other objects or animals to prohibit the tangling of the cable, to prohibit the cable from extending over an object or an edge that could result in injury or strangulation of the animal and be of sufficient distance from any fence so as to prohibit the animal from having access to the fence; 

(10) The animal is not tethered outside during periods of local extreme weather which shall include but not be limited to an excessive heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service, temperatures at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), thunderstorms, tornados, tropical storms, or hurricanes;

(11) The animal is at least six months of age; 

(12) The animal is not sick or injured; and

(13) Animals transported in the rear of open vehicles shall be placed on a tether anchored securely and of appropriate length to prevent the animal from jumping off or being thrown from a vehicle.

SECTION 3.

Paragraph 5-10.(a)(1) of the Columbus Code is hereby amended by striking the existing subparagraph in its entirety and substituting a new subparagraph 5-10.(a)(1) to read as follows:

“Sec. 5-10. – Control of domestic animals.

(a)(1) Irrespective of and/or in addition to impoundment provisions, including assessment of penalty fees relating to impoundment of animals as prescribed in other sections of this chapter, it shall be unlawful for owners of dogs to allow, permit, or by negligence to permit, their dogs to be unattended. Any dog on the owner’s property and not confined thereto by fence, or other suitable and effective means, and when no responsible person is present to control such dog, shall be considered unattended and in violation of this chapter only if said dog has been observed on public property or private property other than property of the owner, and not in voice control of a responsible person, by an enforcement officer of Columbus, Georgia or by a complainant willing to testify in court. Dog and cat owners residing in rural areas of the city and whose lots are zoned RE-5 or RE-10 and whose said lots are five acres or more in area, are exempt from the requirements to keep dogs penned, or on a leash, and/or under voice control. These exempted owners are required to ensure that their dogs and cats do not leave the limits of the owner’s property, and these owners are subject to all other provisions of this chapter.”

SECTION 4.

Section 5-12 of the Columbus Code is hereby amended by deleting paragraph 8 of that code section in its entirety and substituting a new code section 5-12(8) to read as follows:

“Sec. 5-12(8).

(8) It shall be a violation of this section for an animal to be left unattended in a vehicle if the inside temperature of the vehicle exceeds 80 degrees.”

SECTION 4.

All ordinances and parts of ordinances in conflict with this ordinance are hereby repealed as of its effective date. Provided however, only warnings but no citations for failure to have required tethering equipment or meet new outside shelter requirements shall be issued for the first 90 days after the effective date.

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