Tether people, not pets

by Jim Longworth

I realize that not everyone loves dogs as much as I do, but for the life of me, I’ve never understood why someone would buy or adopt a pet then tie him up in the backyard all day. Tethering is abuse, pure and simple, and it looks like officials in one Triad community are finally coming to grips with that fact. Exactly how they’re going about it, however, gives me pause.

The Forsyth County Animal Control Advisory Board is in the process of taking public comments on whether to recommend to the county commissioners a ban on tethering dogs. Such a recommendation wouldn’t be forthcoming until April, and might be accompanied by a plan for phasing in the ban over a two-year period, so that dog owners who tie their pets can be educated.

First of all, the animal-control folks shouldn’t even have to think about whether a tether ban has merit, nor should public comment be necessary. That’s because the advisory board already has in hand studies and reports that prove tethering is dangerous to both animals and humans. For example, Forsyth’s Director of Animal Control Tim Jennings cited a recent national study that shows fatalities have occurred due to tethering, especially involving young children who wander into an area where a dog has been tied. Meanwhile, the advisory board is also aware that tethering causes a plethora of other problems as well, including making otherwise docile dogs hyper and vicious.

Most humans with a functioning brain understand that tethering a dog is a bad thing, so why debate the issue? Maybe we should also have a debate on whether stop lights prevent accidents at intersections. Or perhaps we should seek public comment on whether it’s okay to pump gas while smoking a cigarette. I’m sorry, but it is just unbelievable to me that an advisory board for animal control is taking several months to formulate a recommendation on whether a dog should be tied to a tree 24/7.

And then there’s the so-called phase-in plan which is being proffered as a way to educate dog owners who currently tether their dog. Even Waldo could find the oxymoron in this scenario. Come on folks! Anyone who is stupid enough and cruel enough to keep their dog tied cannot be educated. Moreover, a 24-month transition period isn’t going to make them less cruel individuals, but it will certainly prolong the dogs’ agony. I can just imagine what would have happened if, during a debate on drunk driving laws, state legislators had recommended a two-year phase-in period to allow people who serially drive drunk to get educated about driving drunk. The offending parties aren’t going to stop drinking and driving during that transition because driving drunk is what they do.

Moreover, a transition period is only going to bring more pain and suffering to victims until the law goes into effect. Tethering is the same way. If something is wrong and dangerous, then it should be banned immediately, not 24 months from now.

Of course, the effective date of a ban may be moot, because the ban itself must first be adopted by the county commissioners, and they don’t have a very good track record as of late when it comes to progressive thinking. This is a board who is fighting to force Christian prayer on everyone within earshot of their meetings. In other words, they are tethered to dogma, so tethering a dog probably doesn’t concern them. Looking on the bright side, though, these Old Testament thinkers might decide to amend the ban to include some good, old-fashioned “eye for an eye” retribution. For example, we could punish tether offenders by simply tying them to a tree with a short chain.

Regardless of possible phase-ins and penalties for non-compliance, however, if a tethering ban is eventually approved, county officials must then deal with collateral issues, like requiring dog owners to erect fences, or else keep their pets in their homes. That, in turn, will probably trigger a whole new series of hearings and debates.

But first things first. County officials must move quickly to break the “ties that bind” between cruel pet owners and their abused dogs. Tethering is an archaic form of confinement and an uncivilized concept. It’s high time we as a society untangle ourselves from it.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).