York Township and Mount Wolf residents who keep their dogs outside permanently will no longer be able to tether them continuously.
At their regular meetings Tuesday night, Mount Wolf borough council and the York Township commissioners each voted to pass the ordinance, first proposed about two months ago by the York County SPCA.
It affects only dogs that live their entire lives outside, according to Melissa Smith, SPCA executive director, and will be enforced by the SPCA's humane police officer.
"It's like a dream come true to know we have an extra tool in our belt to help dogs living in those types of situations," she said. "I'm excited and relieved."
Owners of "24-7 outside dogs" will now either have to build kennels or take their dogs inside regularly, she said. Violators will first receive a warning, then could be cited and fined, she said.
Constantly tethered dogs are twice as likely to bite someone, posing safety hazards for children and adults, according to Smith. Constant tethering can make dogs neurotic, anxious and aggressive, she said.
First in state: Tuesday's votes make York Township and Mount Wolf the first two municipalities in Pennsylvania to enact ordinances limiting dog-tethering, according to Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for the Humane Society of the United States.
"We are thrilled that Mount Wolf and York Township have taken this important step to protect their neighborhoods by limiting the 24-hour-a-day tethering of dogs," Speed said.
Thirteen states either ban or restrict the tethering of dogs, according to the Animal Law Coalition.
The ordinances also require York Township and Mount Wolf residents to bring in their outside dogs during severe weather, whether that be a blizzard or a heat advisory, Smith said.
Smith said her agency receives complaints every week about tethered dogs, and those numbers increase in bad weather. Some of those dogs don't make it through harsh winters, she said.
Pat Poet, Mount Wolf borough council president, said the vote there was unanimous.
She said she believes the new ordinance is a good thing for both dogs and borough residents.
"This did not cost Mount Wolf Borough a penny to enact," she said. In fact, she said, an anonymous SPCA donor has agreed to reimburse the borough for costs it incurred to advertise the ordinance and have its solicitor review it.
"The SPCA is handling everything," Poet said. "That was real important to us."
York Township: York Township manager Elizabeth Heathcote said the commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of passing the ordinance, which was rewritten by the township's solicitor to fit the municipality's first-class township status.
"The ordinance we received from the York County SPCA was written for second-class townships," she said.
Heathcote said the ordinance clearly states the SPCA is entirely responsible for its enforcement.
The ordinances take effect on Sunday, according to Poet and Heathcote.
Smith said she and SPCA Humane Police Officer Nicole Boyer have already been sworn in by both municipalities, to allow them to enforce the municipal ordinance. Typically, humane police officers can only enforce the state's cruelty laws, she said.
"Although the idea to have this passed on a local level came from our organization, we could not have done this if there weren't municipalities willing to stand up, recognize this need and take a chance on it," Smith said. "My hope is that other municipalities will see that this is working, and it may prompt them to go in the same direction."
The background: In early February, the York County SPCA sent out packets to every municipality in the county, asking them to consider adopting a tethering-restriction ordinance. Enclosed in each packet was a proposed ordinance crafted by the SPCA and local officials with the Humane Society of the United States.
Smith has said the SPCA will enforce the ordinance, meaning there will be no cost to municipalities.
Several municipalities are still considering it, according to Smith.
West York, Dallastown, Dover and West Manchester, Lower Windsor and Manheim townships have voted down the proposed ordinance, she said.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at email@example.com, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.