West York has become the first municipality in Pennsylvania to pass an ordinance restricting the constant tethering of outside dogs.
West York Councilwoman Shelley Metzler predicted the new ordinance will improve the lives of both residents and dogs. Council members voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance at Monday night's council meeting.
In early February, York County SPCA executive director Melissa Smith 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. She also said she has encouraged municipal officials to amend the suggested ordinance to best fit their municipalities.
Not surprised: West York adopted the ordinance without changing it, Smith said.
"I'm very excited, but I'm not surprised, because West York Borough has a history of really stepping
up for the animals in their community," she said. "So it makes sense they would step forward and be one of the first to pass the ordinance."
Smith said it's wonderful to be involved in what she hopes will eventually be a statewide change in the lives of dogs.
"From my prior years as a humane officer, this was one of the situations that bothered me most -- the plight of outside dogs, and how miserable their lives are," she said. "To play a part in that change is very exciting."
The ordinance: West York's new anti-tethering ordinance will affect only dogs that permanently live outside, not dogs tied out for a few hours, Smith said.
So West York residents who own "24-7 outside dogs" that are tethered will now have to build kennels, or take the dogs inside, she said.
Dogs tethered for prolonged periods of time are twice as likely to bite as non-tethered dogs, posing safety hazards for children and adults, she said.
The language also includes restrictions on keeping dogs outside in severe weather.
"If there is a weather advisory, like a heat advisory or a blizzard, dogs must be taken in regardless of whether they are in a kennel," Smith said.
Next month: Metzler said the new ordinance will be advertised so borough residents are aware of it, and likely will take effect sometime in April. She is also the borough's dog enforcement officer.
Metzler said she expects the new ordinance to reduce the number of borough residents who call to complain about barking dogs. It should also create a safer environment for children, she said.
"It's common sense," she said. "What's the good of having a dog if you're going to tie it outside and not interact with it?"
Statewide first: West York is the first municipality in Pennsylvania to restrict tethering, according to Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
"We're thrilled, because we know how difficult it is to pass legislation regarding tethering," Speed said.
Community support: Smith and Speed said community support remains critical in getting the ordinance passed in other municipalities.
Dallastown, Dover Borough, and West Manchester, Lower Windsor and Manheim townships have voted down the proposed ordinance, Smith said. Other municipalities are still considering it.
Smith said she will continue working with municipalities about the ordinance, even those that voted it down.
"I think there are misconceptions about it, and concerns that are not warranted," she said. "I really feel that if the municipalities agree with the intent, then we are three-quarters of the way there. The other issues we can work through."
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.