Council considers city code restricting tethering

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, March 23, 2023

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The Franklin City Council discussed at its March 13 meeting the possibility of adding restrictions on the tethering of dogs to the city code.

Amanda C. Jarratt

City staff was looking for direction from the council on potential language to draft and present at a later date. 

Council members showed support for adding restrictions to the city code but opted to table the matter until they receive more information on it.

Franklin City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt explained that presently with regard to tethering, the city follows the Code of Virginia Section 3.2-6500, which allows tethering under a list of conditions.

The conditions include, but are not necessarily limited to, the animal having adequate space, light and length of rope or chain it is tethered to, access to food, and the temperature must not be too cold or too warm outside.

“It’s quite specific,” Jarratt said.

She noted that city staff looked at the codes of localities in the Hampton Roads area to see how they have addressed the issue.

“What you could consider is changing our city code to say, ‘It shall be unlawful to tether any unattended dog whether or not the dog has been provided adequate space. For the purposes of this section, a dog is unattended if the owner or custodian is not outdoors and within eyesight of the dog. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a class 4 misdemeanor,’” Jarratt stated.

“So that’s in line with what other communities around us have,” she continued. “It’s just something for your consideration and your discussion. Staff is seeking your direction on this item. If you did want to amend the city code, this language would be drafted and presented to you at an upcoming meeting.”

Mark R. Kitchen

Ward 1 Councilman Mark R. Kitchen said, “You might need the chief to help on this one — a Class 4 misdemeanor is released on summons, so how many summons would they have to get before it would be upgraded or you would make a physical arrest?”

Franklin Police Chief Steve Patterson approached the dais and said it would be entirely up to the council to determine that.

“So we could actually upgrade it to a Class 3 or 2?” Kitchen asked.

“I believe based on research we did looking across the region, Class 4 is where it started at,” Patterson replied.

Kitchen followed up by asking, “At what point would you actually take control of the dog and put it in the pound?”

“By code, right now, what’s written here, we wouldn’t,” Patterson said. “We’d issue a summons. The only way we’d take the dog into custody is if it was dangerous or if it was running loose and we couldn’t find the owner, something of that nature.”

Jarratt also brought up potential consequences of adding tethering restrictions that the council might want to consider.

“We may have additional animals that are in the shelter if it comes to a point that we’re going to have to take them,” she said. “Something that is in our (Capital Improvement Plan) is expansion of our animal shelter, but that’s years out, so that’s something to take into consideration, and then just making sure that we communicate it effectively to the public to let them know that, ‘Hey, this is the new ordinance.’”

Robert “Bobby” Cutchins

Jarratt searched for language from the code of another locality at the request of Franklin Mayor Robert “Bobby” Cutchins.

“We can provide you a copy of all of these if you like,” she said.

Ward 3 Councilman Gregory McLemore made a motion that the council table the issue until it receives more information.

In the discussion just prior to the vote on the motion, Cutchins shared his thoughts on the tethering issue.

“My only concern is if you’re outside walking your dog and you’ve got to tie him up for three or four minutes to tie your shoe or something, you’ve got to be realistic about it, but leaving a dog outside, tied, I personally don’t like it,” he said.

“Days and weeks at a time?” Ward 2 Councilman Ray Smith asked.

“Yeah,” Cutchins.

Jarratt said, “I did find the Chesapeake section. It says, ‘Nothing in this section shall prohibit the tethering of a dog that is in the immediate proximity of its owner or custodian in a manner that does not cause discomfort, pain or injury to the dog.’”

“I kind of would like to see that option sent out, if you would, to us,” Cutchins said. “I kind of like it.”

Council members voted to table the matter until more information, like the Chesapeake code, could be provided to them.