Council bans use of heavy chains for pets

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Pet owners in Jacksonville now have tougher limits on what they use to keep their animals on their property.

Tuesday night, the City Council voted to ban the use of heavy chains as restraints and require a tether that allows a wider range of motion than a simple stake in the ground.

Pet owners have a six-month grace period to implement the changes, which inlcude the use of lighter-weight tethers no more than 2.5 millimeters thick.

For animal care officials and many residents alike, they say it's a change that is long overdue.

Jessica Golden says it's just a matter of time before the dogs tethered in her Northside neighborhood break free from their chains and attack again.

"Every time you walk by them, the dogs act like they're going to jump off the leash," Golden said.

She said that in March, 17-month-old Dylan Andres was fatally mauled by a rottweiler after wandering away from his Maynard Street home.

"I just remember hearing screams and I came outside and I didn't know what was going on, and the mother and father was over there trying to get their baby from the dog and it was too late," Golden said.

Golden is one of many supporters of the city-wide ban on tethering.

Instead of allowing a dog to be tethered to a stake, the new rules state that owners must create a line between two points, like between a tree and fence post, and it must allow 15 feet between them.

A second part of the ban won't go into effect until next year.

"The big change will be Oct. 1, 2014," said Scott Trebatoski, of Animal Care and Protective Services. "You will not be allowed to have a dog outside on a tether unless you are physically with the dog."

It's a positive step in maintaining public safety, according to one mother of two named Christina, who says the past regulations have made her family feel like prisoners in their own home.

"The kids are scared to walk to school, to walk back from school because a dog is running out jumping at them, and something needs to be done about it," Christina said. "They need to put them in a fence or put them in the backyard."

Golden said she'll continue to be vigilant, especially when walking her daughter to school.

"I walk with like a stick, walk with her close by," she said. "My spray -- I've got animal spray -- my phone, and try to make it less as possible walking past these dogs, only when she really has to go to school."

Animal Control officers will be going house to house warning pet owners about the changes. Those who fail to comply within 30 days could face a $500 fine.

The new types of chains typically run between $30 and $35 and can be found at any pet store or a Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart or Target.

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