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Proposal on tethering animals has some worried about future regulations

Hunters showed up en masse at a Haywood commissioners meeting to express their concerns about proposed changes to the ordinances stipulating how their dogs had to be tethered.

While the revised ordinances do not include a prohibition on chaining or tethering — a point of some confusion among some in attendance — some hunters said they feared these changes would pave the way to make tethering illegal.

The ordinance does put regulations on tethering, requiring dog owners to use swivel connectors and chains “of suitable length,” which Animal Control Director Jean Hazzard described as at least 6 feet for a 45-pound dog. The proposal would also require owners to keep the area surrounding the dog free of obstacles so it can have easy access to food, water and shelter. The ordinance would also ban the use of chain and choke collars for tethering to prevent strangulation.

“I think the whole issue is that most of the hunters think that one thing is going to lead to another,” said Gary Birchfield, who spoke on behalf of the hunters.

Jeff Smith, who provided information input on the draft ordinance as a spokesperson for the Bear Hunters and Raccoon Hunters Clubs, voiced similar concerns.

“The way it reads right now, there’s nothing that’s going to affect the hunters, I assure you,” Smith said.

But he warned against forbidding chaining and tethering altogether.

“You do away with that, you’re going to have dogs running everywhere because people can’t afford to have a kennel,” he said.

Others, however, spoke in favor of the proposed changes, even advocating that they be added to in the future.

Penny Wallace, executive director of the Haywood Animal Welfare Association, urged commissioners not only to adopt the ordinances but to do more in defense of animals in Haywood County.

“I ask you to vote for the recommendations and make them effective immediately,” Wallace said, adding that this is only the tip of the iceberg on animal welfare in the county.

“Haywood County is still woefully behind the national standards for animal welfare. We are even behind the standards of our neighbor, Buncombe County,” she said.

Linda Sexton also spoke for increased animal protection laws, asking commissioners to consider eventually abolishing tethering, and introducing spay and neuter laws.

“It’s way past time if you look at how many animals are unfortunately put down in our shelters twice a week because people are not taking care of getting their dogs fixed,” said Sexton.

Some audience members were also concerned about provisions requiring owners of “vicious or dangerous animals” to keep them indoors, muzzled when outside, and away from children. Hazzard described “vicious and dangerous” as an animal who had either demonstrated dangerous behavior towards animal control staff, or one who had actually bitten or attacked.

But resident Carol Underwood took issue with that, maintaining that just because a dog attacks, it should not automatically be tagged as vicious.

“If the owner is not present to stop you entering our property, they probably will attack you or bite you through their own fear, not because they’re bad dogs,” said Underwood. “We’re conflicted with animals that are vicious that we know are mean, and animals that we love that will be aggressive to defend us.”

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the revised ordinance at their next regular meeting on Nov. 1.

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