Residents, experts discuss proposed changes to animal ordinance

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | 9:20 p.m. CST; updated 1:47 p.m. CST, Friday, February 11, 2011

*An earlier version of the story incorrectly identified Melody Whitworth's title.

COLUMBIA — No dogs should be tethered while unsupervised by their owners, Melody Whitworth, *area representative for Dogs Deserve Better, said at Thursday's Board of Health meeting.

Whitworth and 25 others turned out for the meeting at the Department of Public Health and Human Services to discuss proposed changes to city ordinances regarding feral cats and tethering animals. The board was looking for comments to improve the proposed changes.

The proposed changes would make the following illegal:

  • Tethering an animal as the primary method of restraining it to any property.
  • Tethering an animal using a choke collar.
  • Tethering an animal without using a properly fitted collar or a harness made of nylon or leather. 
  • Tethering an animal without using a tether of appropriate length and weight for free movement that includes swivels at both ends. 

Although residents said they were pleased with the proposed tethering guidelines, some expressed concerns that the laws were too subjective.

The goal should be to eliminate gray areas in the ordinance, attorney Michael Whitworth said.

Other changes to the ordinance would require any pet that is impounded three times to be spayed or neutered before being released.

Liz Burks — a volunteer for the Central Missouri Humane Society, an organization that houses and spays or neuters stray animals — said she would propose spaying or neutering the animal after two impoundments.

Another part of the proposed changes would force feral cat owners to follow a number of regulations, including paying $25 for a permit.

Christina McCullen, caretaker for the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program, expressed concerns about the proposed fees for taking care of feral cats.

“These cats are a man-made problem," McCullen said. "I’m concerned about the financial burden and regulations affecting those people who step forward and do something about it.”

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Eric Cox February 11, 2011 | 1:19 p.m.

I used a choke collar on my Golden Retriever because he was so big and pulled so hard on the leash, once I had him chained to the fence post while I cleaned out his kennel, another dog came into the yard and he took of after it, when he reached the end of the chain he snapped that choke collar like a twig and never missed a step as I had to run him down. Yeah it seemed real inhumane, have you ever been pulled down by a hundred and twenty pound dog, personally I'd rather "choke" the dog a bit then have my shoulder dislocated. All dogs are not the same and a choke collar can be an excellent training device, no more inhumane than a shock collar. Additionally a choke collar hangs loose when not under pressure, a regular collar has to be tight all the time to be effective.
Pass whatever law you want if I get a large dog it's getting a choke collar if I feel it's going to be the best collar. Pointless to pass laws you have no way of enforcing.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock February 11, 2011 | 1:41 p.m.

So what if they tethered a dog but had a fence to keep it in? Would the tether be the secondary or primary mode of keeping it on the property? Like Eric said dogs can break their leash. Also how would they define what is too long of a time to be tied up? How can anyone prove if you are not supervising a dog as it is tied up? I mean if you are inside a house who can say you are not looking out the window? Do they expect people to stare at their dogs for every min they are tied up? Who determines what is proper in any of this? PETA, Vets, HSUS? This rule will do nothing but allow HSUS a chance to do more animal "rescues" so they can get more publicity.

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne February 11, 2011 | 1:47 p.m.

True choke collars are inhumane regardless of how they are used. A choke collar differs from a pinch collar. Pinch collars provide discomfort without injuring the animal while a choke collar works more like a noose.

Eric, if you'd read the article you'd see that the ordinance seeks to limit the use of choke collars while the animal is tethered. This does not limit the use of a choke collar while walking the animal on a leash. Again, using a choke collar as opposed to a pinch collar for walking a large dog is a poor choice for both owner and animal.

This ordinance would not prevent you from tethering your dog temporarily while cleaning a kennel. All it does is state that tethering cannot be the primary method of restraining the animal.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 11, 2011 | 2:19 p.m.

Eric - I had a similar experience at age 15, with my Irish Setter which had trouble running through the birds. With advice from the old timers I put a choke collar on him with 30ft of clothesline rope. Neither of us weighed 125, but that dog drug me back and forth through the woods, no worse for the wear, until He wore Me out.

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall February 11, 2011 | 2:26 p.m.

Like many such ordinances, everybody seems to ignore the elephant in the room.

The question is not whether long-term tethering as a primary means of confinement to a yard is inhumane. The question is what will actually happen if an anti-tethering law is put into effect.

The primary consequence I see of an anti-tethering law is that the people who think it's just fine and dandy to leave their dogs tied out in their yard all day will find a very simple solution to tethering. They will just let the dogs roam free.

These people already see the dogs as animated yard ornaments. They are not going to suddenly have an epiphany, take the dog to training class, bring it into the house and make it into a full-fledged member of the family.

I predict I will be calling Animal Control a LOT more often as my neighbors down the street let their assorted pit bulls loose. We'll see a lot more dog fights, more calls to police as people confront loose dogs roaming at will, more puppies dumped at shelters, and more dead dogs Columbia roads.

As much as I hate tethering, I think the answer is to put strict provisions on it, not seek to eliminate it as a source of confinement.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 11, 2011 | 2:30 p.m.

More about my setter and his choke collar. He lived to an old age, wore his choke collar all the time and if removed, would stand perfectly still with head extended until it was back around his neck. I believed he liked the jingling of the tags required by the City.

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall February 11, 2011 | 2:56 p.m.

@Frank dogs do not understand what is right and what is wrong for them. Just because your dog liked his collar does not mean a choke collar is EVER suitable as a general collar. Nor is a choke collar an effective tool to teach a dog not to pull since they can still hang in the collar. Plus its ability to severely harm and/or kill a dog is very high.

As a long-time trainer (who used to use choke collars) I now see them as the worst and least effective collars available today. Far more inhumane than both pinch collars (which have a very limited range to which they can close) and even properly used electric collars. (note the caveat on proper; no electric collar should ever be used except by trained professionals specializing in those skills). I know of a few too many dogs who have choked to death on a choke collar, and more that have had systemic, long term damage to their larynx. Leaving a choke collar on a dog 24/7 is a disaster waiting to happen and you're lucky, it did not happen to your dog.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 11, 2011 | 5:25 p.m.

Robin - "Just because your dog liked his collar does not mean a choke collar is EVER suitable as a general collar."

As a long, long,time dog owner and dog lover,who trained hia dog (I have said "do everything except talk and set birds")I would submit that just because You say the collar can be injurious, you do not necessarily have a point. As for me we are talking about over 50 years of love and concern for dogs and I have never heard of Any injury because of a choke collar. From the proposals, who decides what a "properly fitted collar" looks like? Seems to me it is only going to be more difficult and expensive to own a dog and am glad that we decided no more dogs (wanted to travel), after we found a good home for our last Old English Sheepdog (also wore choke collar the 10 years we had her).

(Report Comment)
Yves Montclear February 11, 2011 | 7:46 p.m.

It is times like this that one must reflect upon how great it is to live in the United States of America.

With all the events going on in Egypt, and other places in the world, the biggest problems that people in Columbia, MO have to deal with (at least discussed here) are dogs rights, feral cats, and whether or not you can have chickens in the city limits.

It is mind boggling the things many here are concerned about, consider important, instead of just trying to stay alive. If you have time to be dealing with those heavy issues, you've got a very good life. Welcome to America.

I work with many people who have immigrated here legally, and you have no idea how happy they are to be here. I'm sure the illegal immigrants are happy to be here, too.

I'm going to type to you one thing now...I work with two men who became legal U.S. citizens about six months ago after seven years. They lived under the Soviet Union, as did their parents, and their parents parents.

You should have seen the beaming looks on their faces when they finally got to vote in the U.S. November elections last year. They couldn't wait to go vote. And just to hear the excitement in their voices after they did it, it was inspiring.

It is a sad statement upon all the people who are Americans now, and have been for a long time, who don't even bother to take the time to vote because it is too much trouble.

Paul, maybe we should send those Americans, people who don't want to vote because it is 'inconvenient'...TO IRAQ!

Of course, we are seeing the legislative and judicial branch of government overriding decisions made by the democracy these days in America. It seems to be OK to over 'rule' the 'will of the people', the popular vote. That is troubling. Possibly those branches have too much power in the system our government has warped into.

Some smart political scientists need to get together, devise a plan, to form other branches of government, more checks and balances to the present system, to where this doesn't happen. As long as it reduces the costs of the aforementioned two branches, to pay for the costs of the new ones.

And then let the populace vote on it.

Wow, what a concept.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 11, 2011 | 9:25 p.m.

Yves - "Some smart political scientists need to get together, devise a plan,". Have to admit I shared your concerns until Nov. elections. Still do, but we need to remember the "scientists" that got together to give us the branches of gov't we now have. They told us that someone would always be trying to subvert our Constitution and our right to freedom. Today is only another day in that fight. That you and the legal immigrants you refer to are concerned is the greatest "plus" we can have for the continuation of the greatest nation the world has ever known. Many Americans have been too self satisfied, "fat, dumb and happy,to vote. In years past to vote for the one who would win was the thing. Then, everyone was certain that both parties wanted a better America, but had different ideas how to do it. This is no longer the case. Our public education system has been polluted until love of government supersedes love of freedom. In my opinion,this is where change is needed and Republicans are trying to do that. All of you, hang on! One of the old ones said (I can't determine which one)"the wonder of democracy is not that it works so slowly, but that it even works at all. I hope every one appreciates your post as much as I do.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 11, 2011 | 10:23 p.m.

Frank twists an inspiring post about democracy into a pitch for Republican dominance. The irony of the collar... IT BURNS!

(Report Comment)
Yves Montclear February 11, 2011 | 10:41 p.m.

I hoped it was obvious that I was typing in that last post, about the Federal government subverting States rights.

States have rights. I moved to a State I love living in. Which is not Missouri anymore. It used to be, I loved living in Missouri, but not anymore.

The Federal government can not continue to tell States how they have to live, 'rule' over them. When the majority of the people in a State, the 'will of the people', through the simple process of voting, don't want to live that way.

There needs to be more checks and balances in our Federal system of government. They have too much power, and that power is wobbling out of control. Needs more checks and balances.

The Federal government should be concerned with protecting us from foreign transgressions. Not legislating, and judging, over the rights of States, how to live our lives in our own States. The Federal government has lost sight of the Founders intention of the Constitution for the United States of America.

States have a right to their own laws. And if you don't like the laws of the State you live in, you can move to one where you like them better. I did. Or you can just leave America if you can't find any State you like, good luck to you.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 12, 2011 | 7:23 a.m.

D. Fogle - We are supposed to be polite in these posts, but you push me over the edge. Not only are your posts wrong more often than not, but your Ice Sculpture sucks as well! How do you like that?!!!

(Report Comment)

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