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Editorial: Kingsport should step up and protect dogs

Editorial Board • Nov 12, 2019 at 2:31 PM

Johnson City is expected to take final action on a new ordinance to protect dogs from abuse by ignorant owners who permanently tether them. Bristol and Rogersville have similar laws in effect. Kingsport has yet to act.

The ordinances forbid owners from tethering dogs more than a maximum of 12 consecutive hours per day and, at that, are inadequate. At minimum the law should require a trolley or pulley system to allow dogs freer range of movement. But the laws are a start.

In time, Johnson City’s law will take the lead regionally in the protection of dogs. Initially, it will ban dogs from being tied up for more than 12 hours, but beginning Jan. 1, 2021, it will provide that no dog may be left unattended while tethered or chained outside to a fixed object.

That’s where all municipal laws need to go. It is cruel and inhumane to torment a dog by tying it to something and largely ignoring it other than providing food and water. Dogs are social animals that require interaction with people or other animals. Permanently restraining them damages them physically and psychologically, according to the U.S. Humane Society.

“An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained or intensively confined in any way becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive,” the society states. “It is common for continuously tethered dogs to endure physical ailments as a result. Their necks can become raw and sore and their collars can painfully grow into their skin. They are vulnerable to insect bites and parasites and are at high risk of entanglement, strangulation and harassment or attacks by other dogs or people.

“Tethered dogs may also suffer from irregular feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care and extreme temperatures. During snowstorms, these dogs often have no access to shelter. During periods of extreme heat, they may not receive adequate water or protection from the sun. Because their often neurotic behavior makes them difficult to approach, chained dogs are rarely given even minimal affection,” says the society.

Tennessee municipalities should not have to pass these ordinances because state law should provide for the full protection of dogs. Currently, 33 states place specific restrictions on tethering animals, and Tennessee is among them. However, it makes it an offense only if “tying, tethering or restraining a dog ... results in the dog suffering bodily injury.”

That law has been on the books for years as the welfare of dogs continues to be ignored by state legislators. In Johnson City, Christy Rabetoy, who co-chaired the task force that put together the ordinance and also is the founder of Chain Free Dogs, reports that in just the last five years, that organization has caused 160 dogs to be taken off chains in the city and Washington County.

Thank you, Johnson City commissioners, for coming to the rescue of dogs. Will Kingsport follow suit?

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