Dog tether law dawns in Johnson City. Here’s how neighbors can help enforce it

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Three weeks into a new dog-tethering ordinance in Johnson City, no one has been cited for tethering their dogs outside.

That’s not the goal, according to officials like animal control officer Nicole Stuwa.

“We’re not trying to go out and bring in as many citations as possible,” she said. “The main goal of this is to educate the public so if anybody does see a dog that’s been tethered out for a consistent amount of time . . . to bring it to our attention first, so that way we can come to the owners and we can speak with them.”

The ordinance, which passed the Johnson City Commission in a unanimous vote in November, limits the time a dog may be tethered outside unsupervised to 12 consecutive hours.

The ordinance includes pulley systems, Stua added. The ordinance dictates that pulley systems be between four and seven feet off the ground and at least 10 feet from each support of the pulley system.

The same ordinance will ban all unsupervised tethering within the city limits next year. Puppies younger than six months can’t be tethered or chained at all, according to the ordinance.

Previous story: Johnson City Commission limits chaining dogs in unanimous vote

The ordinance isn’t about punishment, Stuwa said, but education.

Stuwa said animal control officers won’t be prowling the streets looking for tethered dogs – instead, she said it’s up to neighbors to report unattended tethering.

“What we would like you to do is initially everybody bring it to our attention so that we can actually reach out to those owners and we can educate them a little bit because they may not be aware that they have that access,” she said.

The challenge right now, she added, is proving the amount of time a dog is tethered outside. While photos can help prove that someone is breaking the tethering law, it’s still challenging to prove how long a dog is tethered by using snapshots.

Taking videos could work, but Stuwa cautions neighbors to keep any video under five minutes.

“Anything over five minutes is considered legally stalking,” she explained. “If they go out every couple of hours or so and they take a two-to-three minute video and say, ‘this is how long the dog was out here this time and it did not get back in,’ if they could take another video showing the exact same position of the dog, that makes it a lot easier for us to be able to pin down and show that that dog was tethered out there.”

She added that the animal shelter is willing to work with dog owners to get a fence for their yard. Free fences are available for dog owners who meet criteria:

  • All animals on the property are spayed or neutered
  • All animals on the property are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations
  • The owner of the property consents to the fence.

Stuwa said efforts are underway to get a similar ordinance passed in the county.

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