Council looks at no tethering for dogs

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County is one vote away from unleashing a ban on animal tethering, an important protection animal advocates say will help reduce animal injuries and abuse cases.

On Dec. 9, council members unanimously passed second reading of the ordinance, which also includes provisions curtailing animal hoarding. Third and final reading will likely occur in January.

A key component of the Fairfield ordinance is a set of guidelines for a trolley system, which resembles a zip line. With a trolley, leashes are attached to an overhead cable that gives dogs greater freedom.

Trolley lines must measure at least 20 feet between endpoints, and dogs attached to trolleys must wear a harness. The ordinance prohibits attaching the trolley leash to a collar. Harnesses are considered safer because they wrap around a dog’s chest instead of having a collar around a dog’s neck.

Dogs must also have access to adequate food, water and shelter, according to the draft ordinance.

An earlier version of the ordinance allowed limited tethering for short durations, but the latest ordinance bans tethering altogether.

“[This ordinance] takes the tethering concept away,” said Tommy Morgan, the county’s attorney.

“This [revision] is needed on so many levels,” said Kathy Faulk, a Fairfield County resident with the Hoof and Paw Benevolent Society, who spoke during the public comment session. She thanked council for their promotion of animal welfare in Fairfield County and also called for an end to overbreeding and hoarding in the county.

Chain, Collar Injuries

To illustrate the problem of animal abuse, Faulk distributed to council members a stack of graphic photos of dogs with deep neck wounds that resulted from tethering.

“We were mortified, very sad and angry as we looked at these photographs,” Faulk said.

“We seem to be picking up more and more animals that are injured by chains and collars,” Bob Innes, the director of the county’s animal control and adoption center, added.

While the ordinance also cracks down on animal hoarding, Morgan said the ordinance isn’t directed at legally operated kennels or livestock.

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright called all kinds of animal abuse a “stain on our entire county.”

Bright repeated his previous calls for the solicitor’s office to more aggressively prosecute animal abuse and neglect cases. He also noted some cases could be prosecuted under the new federal animal cruelty law, which carries penalties of up to seven years in prison for the most serious offenses.

“How can we leverage that? Federal laws have the highest penalties it seems,” he said.

Winnsboro resident Randy Sisk cautioned council members against adding more restrictions.

“While you’re doing this, think very carefully,” Sisk said. “This could cost the county significantly with lawsuits.”

In July 2018, Sisk was charged with ill treatment of animals after, according to an incident report, his two dogs were discovered in a back yard, chained to a tree and tangled in the chain so that one of the dogs couldn’t reach shade.

The dogs also didn’t have access to food, water or shelter and were subsequently taken into protective custody, the report said. However, a Fairfield County magistrate dismissed the case in October 2018.

At the Dec. 9 council meeting, Sisk said one of his dogs had died while in the county’s custody.

But veterinary documents previously obtained by The Voice state the dog was already suffering from severe dirofilariasis, commonly known as canine heartworms, when it was taken into protective custody. A necropsy report stated that there were “large numbers of nematodes within the heart, the pulmonary artery and its branches.”

This is Fairfield County’s second revision in as many years to its animal control ordinance.

In 2018, council revised the ordinance to include a $500 civil fine for violations. The updated law also includes more detailed definitions of nuisance animals and requires all pets to be fed once a day and provided potable water. It also requires mandatory reporting of pets struck by a vehicle.

As proposed, the Fairfield County’s anti-tethering ordinance mirrors a similar ordinance that Aiken County adopted in 2017. Aiken County Administrator Clay

Killian told The Voice that the ordinance has not faced any legal challenges.

Taxpayers Pay for Abuse

Innes said all types of animal abuse cases, including over breeding and hoarding, burden taxpayers in the long run.

“There’s a lot of people in this county that are just chaining a dog and just breeding it and breeding it,” Innes said. “They dump puppies on animal control, which means taxpayers are picking up the bill.”

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