FBCC about to rein in practice of animal tethering

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
May 17, 2017


At the urging of Fernandina Beach Commissioner John Miller and Fernandina Beach Animal Rescue the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at the May 16, 2017 Regular Meeting considered an ordinance designed to prevent cruelty to dogs and cats. Ordinance 2017-17 prohibits outdoor tethering or restraint of dogs and cats, unless the animals are in the visual range of the owner and the owner is located outside with the tethered animals. The FBCC unanimously passed the ordinance on First Reading. It will return for Second Reading and public hearing in June.

City Attorney Tammi Bach

City Attorney Tammi Bach said that for at least the last five years dozens of cities and counties across the state have adopted such an ordinance. She walked the commissioners through all the proposed changes, presented below.

Sherry Merritt, Fernandina Beach Animal Control Officer

Sherry Merritt, the city’s animal control officer, said that the current ordinance has been difficult to enforce because it states that an animal cannot be tethered for more than 10 hours a day. It would require an animal control officer to literally watch a property for 24-hours to determine how long the animal had been tethered. The elimination of that time limit would allow officers to respond quickly and take immediate action.

Octavio Martinez, owner of Hot Paws

Octavio Martinez, owner/operator of Hot Paws on 8th Street, also addressed the FBCC on the need for the revised ordinance. From his background in working with dogs for more than ten years during which time he has trained and groomed dogs, raised show dogs, and worked with the local shelters on extreme cases. He said that working with dogs that are victims of long term tethering is worse than dealing with dogs that come from so-called puppy mills. He said that trying to rehabilitate dogs that have been tethered for a long time is fraught with problems, ranging from health issues to psychological issues. He said that dogs that have been tethered too long become aggressive and often cannot be rehabilitated. “People need to understand,” Martinez said, “it goes way beyond [looking at a tethered dog] and saying, ‘Oh, poor dog.’ Those dogs may never be able to have a normal life.”

Vice Mayor Len Kreger reminded commissioners and the public that this is a nuisance ordinance, and is complaint driven. Animal control officers won’t be routinely patrolling areas looking for violations. He said that during a recent Nassau County Board meeting the same issue was also considered. There the argument from some quarters was to eliminate all tethering to let the animals roam free. Kreger endorsed the city’s proposal as “a good interim step.”

Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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2 Responses to FBCC about to rein in practice of animal tethering

  1. Viv Gotkin says:

    My husband and I, long time animal advocates and rescuers, attended and spoke at this meeting. The characterization of “an argument from some quarters to eliminate all tethering and let the animals roam free” is grossly inaccurate and represents an acute lack of understanding the horrific, torturous and often fatal nature of irresponsible tethering. Nobody said or implied that pets should “roam free” … a clear danger to both the animals and community. What we all said was that tethering was not acceptable pet containment. Keep your dogs inside
    and walk them or fence your yard, even a kennel area with shelter. If you can’t afford some field fencing you certainly can’t afford proper care of a pet. So don’t have one.
    A number of community members, including myself, spoke up to criticize this useless, unenforceable measure that inadvertently supports this brutal tethering. Who exactly will be at each location to ensure that a tethered dog is under responsible supervision with adequate water and shelter from hot sun and storms; to ensure it does not tangle and strangle itself in the tether; to ensure that it doesn’t get attacked by another animals roaming freely?
    Instead of sanctioning and penalizing tethering for the abuse it is, this ordinance winks at the abuser and expects those of us with a heart, soul and conscience to be grateful for the intervention. This ordinance does nothing but convince me that we need better informed, more evolved community representatives.
    Very disappointing and disheartening.

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