Fort Worth tries to control animal neglect

One TCU student said he thought if he left his basset hound in the front yard while he went to class, he would allow it to be social with other people in the neighborhood. A few days later, he found out he had violated a new city ordinance.

The student, who asked to be unnamed, said he received a notice from the city of Fort Worth that he broke the city’s new tethering law, which says a resident can’t leave an animal chained or tethered outside of a secure enclosure, such as a back yard.

“I left him out in the front yard because he’s really friendly and I thought people would pet him,” he said. “I’d have class for a few hours, and I didn’t want him to be alone.”

The city didn’t fine him, but he said he would never leave his dog tethered in the front yard again.

Fort Worth wants to educate residents about the harmful effects of neglecting animals that can occur from leaving them chained, said Amy Casas, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Public Health Department.

If residents refuse to obey the ordinance, they can expect a citation that could cost them up to $2,000, Casas said.

“If students are currently chaining their animals, we need to know about it,” Casas said. “Dogs by nature are very sociable animals, and they need the opportunity to interact with humans and other animals.”

According to the City of Fort Worth Public Health Department, the ordinance, passed Jan. 22, makes it illegal to use a rope, tether, leash or chain to keep an unattended dog stationary.

Junior psychology major Sarah Burns said she recently e-mailed the Humane Society of North Texas to report a resident who left his or her dog in the cold with no shelter. The pet owner then provided his or her dog with a doghouse, Burns said.

“When you leave your dog unattended with no food or water, it’s not fair,” Burns said.

Casas said the ban is to strictly enforce the state law passed in 2007 that prohibited residents from neglecting animals by leaving them chained outside a secure enclosure.

By passing the ordinance, the city of Fort Worth aims to curb both the amount of animal abuse and number of animal attacks, Casas said. According to the Public Health Department, 25,500 neglected animals were impounded last year by Fort Worth animal control officers, and 70 percent of those animals died in a shelter.

Casas said the city has talked with other cities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to determine the best way to decrease animal abuse.

Animals kept roped or chained are 2.8 times more likely to bite, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Valarie Tynes, a board-certified veterinarian and specialist in the behavior of animals, said chaining might be a form of neglect that could lead to a lack of socialization an animal displays in its environment, but banning chains doesn’t solve the problem.

“It makes sense that dogs that are chained outside will be more likely to bite somebody,” Tynes said. “But not all dogs that have been chained will bite. I applaud the city of Fort Worth for caring about dogs, but chaining alone does not determine whether an animal will be aggressive with humans.”

Tynes said there are no published documents that can accurately link aggressive behavior in an animal solely to chaining. She said problems arise with animals because people are not able to give them proper care.

The Animal Care and Control Division encourages anyone who witness animals chained or tethered to report it, Casas said.

For Your InfoAccording to the ordinance, using a collar that is pinch-type, prong-type or choke-type or that is not properly fitted to the dog is illegal if the length of the restraint is shorter than five times the length of the dog, if the animal is in an unsafe condition or if the restraint injures the dog.

Source: Texas Health and Safety Code 821