Johnson City Commission limits chaining dogs in unanimous vote


City ordinance passes final reading, new laws to start January 2020

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In a win for local animal rights activists’, the Johnson City Commission passed an ordinance that will restrict chaining dogs outside in a unanimous vote Thursday night.

The ordinance, which you can read here, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020 and limits the time a dog may be chained unsupervised outside.

According to the ordinance, a dog may be chained or tethered for no longer than 12 consecutive hours.

Beginning on Jan. 1 2021, it will be illegal to chain unsupervised dogs outside for any period of time.

The ordinance limits the time a dog can be chained to no more than 12 hours at a time.

Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter Director Tammy Davis described the emotions as five votes in favor of the ordinance passed through the meeting room.

“I was overwhelmed with joy and emotion,” she said. “It just makes us happy to know that we can kind of be the first one in our area and we can set the pace and set the example, be the example.”

Johnson City is one of the first municipalities in the region to join what’s known as the “chain-free movement,” Davis said. She and other members of a region-wide task force who are working to enact similar legislation across northeast Tennessee.

The purpose of phasing out the new laws, she said, is to give dog owners time to find accommodations to replace tethering.

She said the shelter will provide resources for people seeking alternatives to chaining their dogs.

“We want the animals to have a better, happier healthier life,” she said. “It is not to punish anyone, it is not to punish the owner, it is to make the animals more healthy and happy in our community and to educate the public on how they can do that.”

In 2021, the ordinance says dog owners may not leave a chained dog unsupervised.

According to the ordinance, fines won’t be issued for those who fail to comply in 2020. After Jan. 1, 2021, fines will be issued for the first two offenses, and a third offense “shall result in the surrender of the dog to the WCJC Animal Shelter.”

Christy Rabatoy has been a chain-free advocate for about five years. She estimated this ordinance is about two years in the making, but she said she doesn’t intend to stop there.

She and Davis said they have their sights set on Washington County next. They said plans are in motion to begin drafting a similar ordinance within the county.

Rabatoy noted other municipalities like Bristol, Tenn., and Kingsport, which she said are considering similar chaining ordinances.

“We would love to be able to say ‘Chainfree Northeast Tennessee,'” she said. “That would be the ultimate goal.”

The shelter will be providing resources for those who are seeking alternatives to chaining their dogs.

Other pieces of the ordinance

Davis said the ordinance strengthens some existing laws within the city.

It establishes a registration process for dog owners in the city. While dog registration has been a city ordinance for a few years now, Davis said it is seldom enforced.

She added that a small, annual fee will also be incorporated. Details are still forthcoming on registration fees, but she said registration fees won’t exceed $10.

“Those funds that are generated from this will come back to help the animals here in the animal shelter,” Davis said.

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