In from the cold: City council hears requests regarding the treatment of dogs

Published 6:30 pm Wednesday, November 28, 2018

On Tuesday, Evie Ketler asked the LaGrange City Council to consider updating the city ordinance concerning the weight of tethers for dogs and temperature considerations, among other things. 

“I am here to propose the following changes,” Ketler, the founder of Paws 4 Chainge, said. “Banning the use of chains on a trolley system and changing the current tether weight from 25 percent of a dog’s body weight to 5 percent; removing chains from being used as a leash to walk a dog; consideration of raising fines for tethering still going on; defining clear shelter requirements for summer and winter; providing a year-round weather proof shelter; educating the community that direct point tethering is not allowed either every six months or once a year, just like Hogansville does. 

“As the weather gets colder, dogs are forced to endure extremely frigid temperatures,” Ketler continued. “Nothing in the current ordinance protects them from hypothermia and frost bite. Dogs should be provided with a four-sided structure that is wind proof and water proof. The floor should be off the ground with a door covered with a flap. Adequate bedding such as cedar shavings and straw should also be provided.”

Ketler suggested that LaGrange send out one page fliers with utility bills explaining the current ordinance to inform the public about what is allowed in the city in terms of tethering. 

“I am hearing several things. One of those is an education request,” Thornton said. “I think Mrs. Katie Van Schoor, who is our marketing and communications director, can work with you and we can probably do some PR work. We can probably put something in with the utility bills, like you say, a reminder.”

Thornton also acknowledged the need to ensure the ordinance is enforced, while noting that the city has limited resources for code enforcement in animal control. However, possible changes to the ordinance will take time and in-depth conversations before any steps can be taken. Council members did indicate that they would be interested in reviewing the ordinance though.

“I am a dog lover, so yeah, I am interested in a revision,” Council Member Willie Edmondson said.

That revision could include updates to the maximum weight of the tether used on dogs who are on runlines. 

Ketler asked council members to look at and hold a 9.5 pound chain that was used on a 40 pound dog before Paws 4 Chainge built a fence for the dog with its owner’s permission. The chain would be legal under the current ordinance as long as it is attached to a trolley system. Ketler asked that the council reconsider that portion of the ordinance.

“The reason that I am asking that the chain be removed is because there is no reason to use heavy chain on a trolley system when cables are affordable and available in different sizes,” Ketler said.

The dog’s owner also attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the proposed changes to the ordinance.

“I love Evie for what she came to me to do,” said Mary Bass, who was the recipient of one of Paws 4 Chainge’s fences for her dog, Man. “When she first came to me to talk about my dog on the chain, she pulled up my temper. … Now [that a fence has been installed] he is a different dog. He loves to play.” 

There was also a brief discussion on what considerations should be made for outdoor temperature and shelter in relation to dogs.

“I think that the concerns that you raised a couple of years ago was that not only was there no shelter requirement, but there was no temperature, no number specified [when dogs can no longer be left outside],” Thornton said. “You thought it would be easier for code enforcement or animal control if there was a specific temperature in mind, below which animals had to be [brought indoors].”

The City of LaGrange adopted an ordinance banning single point tethering within city limits in December 2016, and Troup County amended its ordinance banning single point tethering in the county in November 2017. Since then, Ketler has discussed those changes one-on-one and offered assistance to individuals, even beyond meeting the current ordinances in the city and county.

“I partnered with animal control last year, and we donated several bales of straw that animal control was kind enough to deliver to dogs in the city,” Ketler said. “In the summer, outdoor dogs are prone to heat stroke, thus dog houses should be placed in the shade.”

While donations like those do help some dogs, Ketler worried that many dogs would still be left out in the cold unless the ordinance is changed.

“At some point, they do get very, very cold, and it is dangerous for them, just like it is for us,” Ketler said.

Any changes to the ordinance would require that city staff review the ordinance and the council to vote on changes, but several council members acknowledged her points.

“Every dog needs shelter,” Council Member Mark Mitchell said. 

Ketler brought with her letters of support from major organizations to support her case to the council.

“It is time for the City of LaGrange to hold owners responsible and accountable for humane and proper care of a pet they choose to bring home,” Ketler said. 

It was unclear on Tuesday when any changes to the ordinance would be addressed further at the LaGrange City Council.