by JENNIFER BIUNDO
Dogs can no longer spend their days outside on the end of a chain, Kyle councilmembers ruled Tuesday night.
In a 4-3 split, councilmembers voted to ban the practice of tethering a dog outside. The new law would also prohibit pulley tethers, such as those attached to a clothesline, that allow dogs more room to run. Under the ordinance, dogs kept in outdoor pens must have 150 square feet per adult animal.
Violations would be a class C misdemeanor, with exceptions only for a lawful animal event, veterinary treatment, grooming, training or law enforcement activity.
Vanessa Harris, who runs a business opening day spas, moved to Kyle in November. She said she was appalled to see emaciated dogs chained up along Burlesson Street and approached the city council to make changes.
“We don’t tolerate child abuse,” Harris said. “Let’s not treat our pets this way.”
Most animal welfare groups say tethering animals outside for long periods constitutes animal cruelty, leaving dogs exposed to the elements, poorly socialized and even neurotic or aggressive.
The new Kyle ordinance is stricter than the Texas law passed in 2007 that prohibits dogs from being tethered overnight or for more than three hours in a row. The state law is nearly impossible to enforce, said Kyle Animal Control Officer Brianna Brecher, because it would require the understaffed office to stand watch waiting to see if the dog was let off the chain every three hours.
Brecher told councilmembers that she’s seen one dog who was injured by the tether and required an amputation. But overall, she said, the owners of most tethered dogs are not violating other animal cruelty laws.
“They’re not in a pile of trash, they’re regularly fed and watered,” Brecher said. “Overall, the dogs appear to be getting their basic necessities.”
She also said she was concerned that the new law could adversely impact residents who keep their dog tethered temporarily while fixing damage to a fence, or those who tether the dog temporarily when the animal is outside because of digging or fence-jumping behaviors.
“My concern is how these people are going to be able to afford these fences,” Brecher said. “The houses I know around town are areas where they don’t have a fence because they’ve never been able to afford to put up a fence.”
Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson motioned to approve the ordinance.
“It seems like the people who would be affected by this law are also mostly in non-compliance with state law,” Johnson said. “My concern is those people are currently breaking state law and it is not within our means at this time to enforce that law.”
Councilmembers Jaime Sanchez, Russ Huebner and Brad Pickett voted against the ordinance.
“We could pass six more laws like this but nothing is going to change because our animal resource officer doesn’t have the time to get to these issues,” Huebner said. “The unintended consequences are these people are going to get rid of the dog or let the dog die. It’s not going to give us the results we’re looking for.”
He added, “I think we should consider the situations these people are in and look for ways to help them, rather than come to city hall, write a law we can’t enforce and go home and feel good about it.”
City leaders have not yet announced when the new ordinance will come into effect.
Harris said she would be willing to start a non-profit to raise funds for dog-owners impacted by the ordinance who need to build fences or buy kennels.