Group seeks protections for dogs in Bartholomew County

An animal rights group is asking the Bartholomew County Commissioners for new regulations requiring more humane treatment of dogs.

Two representatives of “Change 4 Bartholomew County – Animal Advocacy,” which has more than 700 members, spoke during the commissioners’ weekly meeting Monday about long time or continuous tethering of dogs.

Group member Nancy Ray used the example of a dog who, until recently, had lived eight years at the end of a chain through all forms of temperature extremes.

During that time, the dog received no veterinarian care, was never allowed inside, and had no shade anywhere except in his doghouse, Ray told the commissioners. The dog has been removed from those conditions, she said.

Last week, the animal advocacy group provided the commissioners with a document listing four potential tethering regulations for consideration that Ray said were adopted by a Florida county. They are:

  • No chaining/tethering a dog for longer than four hours at any time or for more than eight hours in a 24-hour period.
  • No dog under 6 months old can be tethered for any period of time, unless in the immediate supervision of an individual capable of helping the animal in case of an emergency. When tethered, an unattended dog must be wearing a properly fitting harness or collar.
  • When tethered, a dog must have access to water and shade at all times.
  • At no time may a dog be tethered in a manner that is dangerous to the dog.

In the Florida county that adopted these regulations, repeated violations could lead to a 60-day jail sentence and a $500 fine, the document stated.

The other animal advocate who spoke, Christine De La Rosa, said she believes a significant problem is that the language within the county’s animal welfare ordinances are frequently too broad. She wants specific language that define key issues such as shelter, safety and animal cruelty.

Ray said her organization is also asking the commissioners to consider regulations regarding weather extremes like those adopted by the Columbus City Council in September 2019. Key provisions include:

  • At any day when the temperature is at or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the animal’s shelter must be shaded by trees, a tarp or a tarp-like device.
  • Dogs must be brought into a temperature-controlled facility when a) the temperature is at or below 20 degrees. b) the temperature is at or above 90 degrees. c) when a heat advisory, wind chill warning, tornado watch or warning has been issued. The only exception is when the dog is in the visual range of a competent adult who is outside with the animal.
  • In the winter, when the temperature is at or below 40 degrees, the outdoor shelter must be just large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around. The entrance must be covered by a flexible, wind-proofing material or self-closing door. In addition, it must contain clean, dry bedding consisting of an insulating material that does not retain moisture, such as straw.

Regulations adopted by the city council are modeled after an ordinance approved in Indianapolis that utilized best practices established nationwide, city councilman and Animal Care Services commissioner Tom Dell said.

“The suggestions we have given are pretty much what other communities have adopted to bring their ordinances up to date,” Ray told the commissioners.

Nevertheless, the commissioners appeared to be hesitant about enacting additional restrictions just two months after approving regulations regarding the keeping of dogs and cats for breeding purposes.

“I don’t know if I’m fully in favor of putting a lot of specifics into our animal ordinance at this time,” Commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.

Commissioners Chairman Larry Kleinhenz explained that Bartholomew County Animal Control is suffering from a lack of manpower at the current time.

The city of Columbus’ web page lists 10 employees working under Columbus Animal Services General Manager Nicohl Birdwell Goodin. In contrast, Kleinhenz said Bartholomew County Animal Control Officer Mark Case has only one part-time employee with another in training.

Despite the labor shortage, Dell said he would encourage the county to approve similar regulations so the county would have a legal means to take action whenever they came across an inhumane act.

But the city councilman joined both Kleinhenz and Lienhoop in encouraging the group’s members to write a letter to an animal owner when they feel a pet is being neglected or mistreated.

“Twenty years ago, I would have agreed with you,” De La Rosa said. “Ten years ago, I might have said ‘maybe’. But now, with the environment we live in, if somebody were to take (the message) the wrong way, it could end very poorly for the person who delivered that letter.”

Ray agreed with De La Rosa, explaining what happened recently when such a message was delivered to a dog owner.

“(The) owner has threatened the people who reported that dog,” Ray said. “He’s a dangerous person, and nobody should have interacted with him. In this day and age, it is up to someone who has the authority and the training.”

Kleinhenz said that while he’s certain the animal advocacy group wants someone who goes out with a badge and authority who can make things happen, “we have tried to stay away from that as much as we can, while at the same time, limit suffering and discomfort that goes on.”

De La Rosa said that, at the very minimum, she would like some kind of communication between Bartholomew County Animal Control and her advocacy group, so both have a mutual, but flexible understanding of terms used in county ordinances.