A city ordinance could be pushed through in the next few weeks to prevent dogs from being chained for more than 24 hours.
"For a dog, it's a painful, depressing way to spend your life," said Karen Walsh, executive director of the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center.
On first reading two weeks ago, the City Council voted 8-0 to approve changes to the local animal ordinance. Councilwoman Deborah Scott abstained.
The revisions would make chaining or tethering a dog for more than 24 hours illegal. Other provisions would permit veterinarians to sell city animal licenses and collect a $2 convenience fee and pet owners to receive a one-year license waiver for spaying or neutering animals.
The ordinance updates laws on stray animals.
The current ordinance states a person keeping an animal for longer than 10 days becomes the owner.
ANIMAL ORDINANCE CHANGES
* Dogs cannot be chained or tethered for more than 24 hours.
* Any stray animal must be taken to the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center.
* Veterinarians will be able to sell city licenses and collect a $2 convenience fee.
* Pet owners who spay or neuter their animals can get the license fee waived for one year.
Source: McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center
The proposed revisions require strays to be sent to the McKamey center. If someone wants to keep the stray, the adoption must go through the center, Ms. Walsh said.
One of the major changes is the 24-hour chain law, aimed at keeping dogs from being kept in inhumane conditions, which might make them aggressive, she said.
"It's just neglect," she said.
The current city ordinance doesn't give animal control officers authority to use the law to help rescue chained animals, Ms. Walsh said.
Now, officers can only tell owners they shouldn't tie up their dogs, Ms. Walsh said. Under the new ordinance, officers could issue a warning to the dog owner. If the complaint is repeated, officers could impound the dog and cite the owner to court, Ms. Walsh said. The maximum penalty is a $50 fine, plus court costs, she said.
"We'll have the ability to take the dog out of that situation," Ms. Walsh said.
Several dog owners who keep their pets tied up in their yards and did not want to give their names for this story said the ordinance, if passed, will lead to dogs running loose in neighborhoods.
Peter Murphy, chairman of the council's Legal and Legislative Committee, expects the ordinance to emerge from the city attorney's office and go before the council within two weeks.
Business owners already are talking with McKamey personnel about effects of the ordinance.
Jack Berry of All Fences said he would offer discounts to dog owners who want to build fences.
"As a dog owner, I think it's great," Mr. Berry said. "How would you like to be chained up?"
Guy Bilyeu, executive director of the Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga, also supports the change. Waiving license fees for a year if an animal is spayed or neutered could be a positive incentive to hold down the animal population, he said.
Chattanooga is the only Hamilton County municipality considering a chaining ordinance, he said, but others could be lobbied.
"If it's successful in Chattanooga, we could definitely use their ordinance," he said.