Amendment added to proposed Howard dog legislation, bans tethering and expands to cover all weather conditions

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

A county animal rights advocate said Monday night that the proposed legislation for penalizing pet owners for keeping their dogs outside in cold weather doesn’t cover all the bases — including protecting a man’s best friend from extreme heat.

“The dangers of extreme heat must be spelled out,” said Ann Selnick, a member of the Animal Advocates of Howard County. “The public is unhappy seeing dogs outside in these extreme conditions.”

Councilman Jon Weinstein, who is seeking re-election in District 1, proposed the bill to deter pet owners from keeping their dogs outside without proper shelter between Dec. 1 and March 31 and when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. It specified acceptable shelters and the length of a tether.

Weinstein said Monday that he’s moving forward with an amendment to ban tethering countywide, as well as to remove the seasonal focus from the bill.

“The intent is to make sure it’s [the legislation] covered in hot weather and cold weather,” Weinstein said.

At this time the legislation is not focusing on specific temperatures, according to Jessie Keller, a district aide for Weinstein.

Weinstein’s office worked directly with animal control and reviewed legislation from other jurisdictions when establishing the bill’s guidelines, no scientific evidence or testing was looked at, Keller said.

Weinstein originally filed the bill in April and introduced it this month, but he said that after receiving feedback on the legislation, he will file the amendment. The deadline for pre-filling amendments is June 28.

Dog owners could face a series of fines if the legislation passes. A first offense is a $100 ticket, a second offense within two years is $150 and a third offense is $300. The tickets would be distributed by county police and animal control officers.

Selnick, speaking on behalf of the animal advocates nonprofit, said that the $100 “would not be enough to be a deterrent.”

“We feel that the animal control penalties are not strong enough,” Selnick said.

The animal advocates group is supporting the bill but said that the bill “needs to be tweaked,” saying that both the issues of tethering of a pet and extreme temperatures need to be addressed.

“Some [dogs] live their entire lives at the end of a chain,” Selnick said. “They [dogs] must be removed from their chains and be removed from extreme temperatures.”

Deborah Baracco, administrator for the Howard County Animal Control, spoke in favor of the bill on Monday, applauding the addition of prohibiting the tethering of dogs.

“Isolating [a dog] on a chain is one of the cruelest acts we can do against our dogs … dogs housed on chains develop both social and behavioral problems,” Baracco said.

The bill proposes for the Howard County animal administrator to have the authority to send out social media and internet alerts to residents, Weinstein has said.

Three community members also testified in support of the proposed legislation Monday, while still expressing concern about keeping dogs outside in warm weather and tethering.

jnocera@baltsun.com

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