Suffolk law would ban abusive tethering of dogs

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A Suffolk law will ban tethering dogs outside for more than 2 hours during a 12-hour period -- an attempt to crack down on owners who leave their canines abusively chained up.

The new bill, passed last week unanimously by the Suffolk County Legislature, also requires that tethers or chains attached to a fixed structure be at least 10 feet long, cannot be more than 25 percent of a dog's weight and no more than 25 pounds, and don't restrict blood or oxygen to the dog's brain.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone plans to sign the law, which passed the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously last week, spokesman Justin Meyers said Monday.

Legis. Louis D'Amaro (D-North Babylon), said he introduced the bill after being approached by animal rights groups and presented with photographs of tethered dogs with chains embedded in their necks and left without water and food.

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"The target is abusers who leave their dogs out in bad weather and overnight," D'Amaro said Monday. "This is not targeting most people who care for their animals appropriately." Violating the law would be punishable by a $500 fine.

Nassau County has no law restricting dog tethering, said Gary Rogers, spokesman for the Nassau County SPCA.He said the SPCA works on educating dog owners who leave their dogs outside in an effort to increase awareness.

Kayra Dorn, president of the Suffolk-based nonprofit volunteer group Unchained New York, which formed last year, called this "a massive step in the right direction."

Chained dogs are prevalent in some areas of Suffolk County, she said. In Wyandanch last year, the group rescued a 65-pound dog with a 43.6 pound chain on its neck. The tethers can entangle the dogs, preventing them from getting to food and water. Left untended, the tethers can become infected and dig into dogs' necks, she said. "Sometimes we have to use bolt cutters to get them off," she said.

Unchained New York and other animal welfare groups approach homeowners with chained or tethered dogs and try to educate the homeowners. The group builds those dog owners fenced-in runs and dog houses, or offers to adopt out the dogs.Some humane groups said their ultimate goal is to ban tethering altogether in Suffolk, something D'Amaro said he'd consider. He called this bill a compromise.Roy Gross, chief of department of the Suffolk County SPCA, said "most calls we get of alleged animal cruelty and abuse, the dog is tethered."

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