Anti-tethering group plans legislative dog fight

February 10, 2008 

BEAUFORT -- Local group Chain Free Beaufort's efforts to prohibit long-term dog tethering -- a practice the group says is cruel -- have failed to produce an effective local ordinance, but its members have not given up their fight.

An initiative to prohibit tethering was killed by a Beaufort County Council committee last month, and though the Beaufort City Council passed an ordinance in January that bans long-term tethering, the city has no staff and no mechanism for enforcing the regulation.

Chain Free Beaufort leader Kim Bonturi has now taken her fight to the state level.

"Because of my work, I often go into backyards and homes ... and it seemed a large amount of dogs are simply tied up on chains for days or weeks on end, and sometimes the food was tipped over and there was no water," said Chain Free Beaufort member Dru Clements, who works for Beaufort County First Steps, an organization that works to improve school readiness for young children. "What kind of life does this poor animal have (if) it can't move and it's left out there in freezing weather and sweltering heat ... and denied any kind of companionship?"

A bill introduced in the state Senate in June would have prohibited tethering a dog to a stationary object for more than three hours a day or tethering to a trolley system for more than six hours a day. That bill has since been amended to prohibit tethering to a stationary object for more than 12 hours or to a trolley system for more than 16 hours.

The amended bill will be debated by the Senate Judiciary Committee at 2 p.m. Tuesday , and Bonturi is urging Beaufort County residents to contact committee members before the meeting and travel to Columbia on Tuesday to support the bill.

"We need to be the voice .... I've always heard, 'Call your representative and write letters,' and I never thought that made a difference, but I've learned in this process that it really does make a difference," Bonturi said.

Sen. Catherine Ceips, who represents Beaufort County and is a dog owner and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said she plans to support the bill and thinks there is substantial support among other legislators, but questions about who would enforce the law could be a stumbling block.

If passed by the Senate, the House of Representatives would consider the bill next.

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