City: Laws related to confinement of dogs difficult to enforce

Wanda Chapman with her dog Cocoa Bean has suggested to Hamilton city council to create an ordinance that restricts the way Hamilton residents can tether their dogs out of concern for the animals. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Wanda Chapman with her dog Cocoa Bean has suggested to Hamilton city council to create an ordinance that restricts the way Hamilton residents can tether their dogs out of concern for the animals. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

This past April, Hamilton resident Wanda Chapman asked the city’s Ordinance Review Commission to consider legislation offering more protections for dogs that are chained for long periods.

Explore FIRST REPORT: Hamilton considers protections for chained dogs

But adjusting Hamilton’s dog-control laws would cost the city more money for enforcement, Kay Farrar, the city’s health director said, and would be difficult to enforce.

According to Farrar, even if the city passes a local tethering law, the county dog warden could not enforce it, “because he works not under the city’s guidance, so that would not work.”

“So that being said, that’s a huge hiccup right there, because that’s a financial thing,” Farrar said, noting she spoke with Middletown’s health commissioner, who told her that city was in the process of hiring a former police officer to become the city’s dog warden.

In Middletown, dogs cannot be chained or tethered for more than 12 straight hours in a 24-hour period, Farrar reported to the panel.

“Those are always very difficult, because unless you’re going to sit there and monitor whether a dog is on a tether for 12 consecutive hours, and never removed off of it, you’re going to have some problems enforcing that,” Farrar said.

In Cincinnati, people are not allowed to tether dogs for more than six hours in a 24-hour period, and “you can’t tether at all between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and of course, that’s for noise,” Farrar said. In Cincinnati, someone must be present at the property when a dog is chained.

“I feel like it’s going to need to be a state code in order to be enforceable within the city,” Farrar said, “just because we do not use, currently, a local person to do the ordinance.”

She recommended Chapman and others take up the more difficult challenge of changing state law, an effort that has been unsuccessful in the past.

“I was pretty sure there was a state law, so I’m going to do more research,” Chapman said. “I’m going to see if there is a state law — which I thought there was — and see if it applies to the Hamilton area.”

The city of Dayton recently approved a law that prohibits people from tethering dogs for more than 30 consecutive minutes unless the owners are outside and in view of the animals.

The toughened Dayton laws were prompted by a mauling to death of a woman four years ago by her neighbors’ dogs. Supporters of the new law say it will lead to better treatment of the dogs and prevent them from going “chain crazy” and becoming aggressive toward people and other animals.

Explore MORE: Dayton cracks down on dog tethering

In Hamilton, it comes down to finances, City Council Member Carla Fiehrer said.

“Budget-wise, the city cannot go back to (having its own dog warden.) We’re going to have to stick with Butler County,” she said.

After a Ordinance Review Commission member suggested following Cincinnati’s lead of banning the practice between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., Fiehrer also raised concern.

“Unfortunately, that kind of stuff is complaint-driven. It then becomes neighbors have to monitor neighbors, and then call the police. I know that it’s not fair, and I know that it’s not what you want to hear, but it just becomes a whole different issue, when you are complaint-driven. Then it becomes like the city or any municipality is drawn in to battles like the Hatfields and McCoys,” she said.

“I have trouble putting (a law) in the books that you can’t enforce,” Fiehrer said.

“Unfortunately, we are surrounded by some people that take this opportunity to stick it to their neighbor,” Fiehrer said, “that maybe it isn’t legitimate, or they just don’t like the dog or they don’t like the neighbor. I mean, we got into that with the grass-cutting, or the nuisance ordinance, and all of a sudden, the city of Hamilton’s supposed to come in and settle disputes between neighbors.”

In Cincinnati, dogs also cannot be kept outdoors for more than an hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees, or below 20 degrees, or without adequate food, shelter and water. They also cannot be chained outdoors for more than six hours in a 24-hour period or when someone isn’t home.

“I’m trying to help the dog that can’t help itself,” Chapman said. “And we as human beings have made these animals succumb to our help, and now we’re not helping them. And now we’re just, ‘Can’t do it.’”

She said she is considering a petition, but first has to determine what effect it would have.

About the Author