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BOC considers anti-tethering rule for dogs
Board also looks at code of ethics
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Some county officials are concerned that tying or tethering dogs can be inhumane and cause dogs to become more violent.

Jenny Carter with the County Attorney’s office said Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hooson has expressed concern about dogs being tied up.

Newton County allows tethering if the dogs have access to food, water and shelter, while Gwinnett, DeKalb and Athens-Clarke counties all have stricter anti-tethering laws. Gwinnett and Athens-Clarke simply prohibit dogs from being tethered if they are alone, whereas DeKalb’s ordinance allows certain types of tethering during certain hours.

Carter said from an enforcement standpoint it would probably be easiest to either allow or forbid tethering; however, exceptions could be made.

Commissioners Tim Fleming and Nancy Schulz said they had received several complaints from constituents about inhumane treatment of tethered dogs, including dogs that became tangled up by their lease and couldn’t move.

According to a memo from Carter to the BOC, illegal breeders, especially those who breed dogs for fighting, commonly use tethering as a way to cheaply raise and keep numerous dogs. The memo also states that dogs that are tied for long periods of time tend to be more aggressive, and that tethering animals at night can lead to noise complaints because of barking.

“Some of the meanest dogs are the ones that are chained up,” Fleming said.

District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said he would have concerns about completing forbidding tethering, because many people depend on dogs for safety.

“However, people who leave their dog out in the hot sun or leave them out in the winter, that is a concern,” Ewing said.

The DeKalb ordinance allows for the use of a running cable line or trolley system, both are non-stationary tethering devices, and Schulz said she could support these exceptions.

The commissioners also discussed allowing tethering if the owner was outside with the dog; leashing dogs to take them on walks would be allowed under any scenario.

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson expressed concern that passing an anti-tethering ordinance could lead more people to simply let their dogs run loose or go free.

Chairman Kathy Morgan said it would be important to allow people to tether in certain temporary cases, like when a person is building a fence or doing other construction work.

Carter was instructed to pursue the creation of a common-sense ordinance.

Code of Ethics

The BOC also discussed their ethics policy, specifically the section about accepting gifts. Morgan said other counties had more specific policies about the dollar value of gifts that elected officials were allowed to receive. Based on these examples, Morgan proposed limiting gifts to amounts less than $50, which would be consistent with the county employee personnel policy.

District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons said he had mixed emotions, and he felt $50 was an arbitrary number. He said if someone was to take him and his wife out to dinner that could easily surpass the $50 mark

Simmons also agreed with Henderson, who said the county seemed to be trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. Henderson said he doesn’t receive gifts from constituents.

Schulz wanted to make sure that gifts related to her position as a business owner would be differentiated from gifts received as a commissioner.

Fleming said whether a dollar limit was set, he would be in favor of commissioners publicly disclosing all gifts they receive. The board will likely discuss changes to the code again at a future work session.

Adult Entertainment

When the BOC was discussing the possibility of an alcohol by the drink ordinance, they also discussed updating their adult entertainment ordinance.

Carter said the ordinance hadn’t been updated in 15 to 20 years. Ewing said the county should do whatever it can to strengthen the ordinance’s restrictions on adult entertainment.

Carter said adult entertainment businesses are only allowed in industrial zoning areas and only when they have received a conditional use permit from the BOC. She said counties can’t prohibit adult entertainment businesses outright because of the first amendment, but they can use strong ordinances to prevent adult entertainment.

County Attorney Tommy Craig said ordinances can be written to make it very difficult for any adult entertainment business to make a profit, by regulating dress, conduct, sale of liquor and other aspects.