Two more York County municipalities have passed an SPCA-endorsed ordinance that makes it illegal to tether dogs that spend their entire lives outdoors, bringing the total number of places where the law can be enforced to six.
Now, in West York Borough and Heidelberg Township, owners of "24-7 outside dogs" will either have to build kennels or take their dogs inside regularly.
With a 4-3 vote Monday, West York officials reversed an April decision to reject the ordinance. One council member changed her vote after residents packed an August meeting to show support for the proposal.
That came as a relief to Shelley Metzler, a council member who also serves as the borough's dog enforcement officer.
The law benefits everyone "whether you have an animal or not," Metzler said, adding that she's seen tethered dogs seriously hurt by other dogs that have gotten loose.
Tethered dogs are vulnerable, especially when no one is home, she said.
"That's not fair," she said.
Four other municipalities - Mount Wolf Borough and Springettsbury, Spring Garden and York townships - passed the ordinance earlier this year. Heidelberg Township officials joined them last week.
Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA, said she's thrilled with the response so far.
"I never expected it to go even this far this soon. I am so pleased with how far we've come with it," Smith said. "I hope that it encourages other municipalities to take a second look at it or a closer look at it so that we can keep the momentum going."
In early February, the 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 the Humane Society of the United States.
The SPCA's humane police officer enforces the law at no cost to the municipality. Dog owners who violate the law will first receive a warning, then could be cited and fined, Smith said.
No one has been cited yet, she said.
"We want to give people time to comply," Smith said. "We just want to try to work with people."
Without the law, the officer can't do anything about dogs constantly tethered outside - even in extreme weather conditions. Since the first municipalities passed the ordinance, the SPCA has gotten calls from residents concerned about tethered dogs, Smith said.
"We're getting calls from people who before knew our hands were tied," she said. "Now we have one extra thing that can help us improve the life of the dog."
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.