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Knoxville City Council votes to approve animal tether ordinance

The ordinance said you cannot tether your animal outside without being outside with it.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville City Council voted to approve an ordinance that would make several changes to animal care laws, including making it illegal to tether an animal outside without someone outside at all times with the animal. 

The changes specify a "responsible and competent" person has to be outside with any tethered animal, and that the tether has to be at least five times the length of the animal's body from nose to tail or a minimum of 10 feet, whichever is longer. 

On top of that, the animal can't be tethered with a choke-type, pinch-type, or prong-type collar, on top of other requirements such as making sure the animal can reach shade and fresh, clean water. The proposed changes would not consider a doghouse shade.  

The city council approved the ordinance on second reading, in an 8-1 vote. Councilmember Janet Testerman, also the CEO of Young-Williams Animal Center, was the only vote against the ordinance. 

Testerman said she was concerned about the reach of the ordinance. 

"You can't go to the French Market Café and leave your dog on the patio, and go inside and order," Testerman said. "You would be in violation." 

Keith Hogue, a Knoxville Police Department officer, said KPD's Animal Control division is understaffed. He said only one officer works during the day, and one officer works at night. He said enforcing this ordinance would add to KPD Animal Control's workload.

"You're going to have to not answer your calls when you get done with your shift, or they're going to have to work over," Hogue said. 

After a roughly hour-long discussion, council members voted to amend parts of the ordinance and approved it. The changes will go into effect on July 1.

ChainFree Knoxville pushed for the ordinance change. Some dog owners at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville said they agreed with the city council. 

"To be left on a tether indefinitely is just cruelty," Cathy Zilber said. "Think about why you're getting the dog, and what kind of life you're going to give the dog." 

Donald Percival said he thinks dogs should be able to roam freely. 

"I don't think a dog needs to be tied up," he said. "Dogs were in the wild before we got them." 

Along with the changes to tethering, the ordinance included changes to city laws to add some specifics to existing laws, such as requiring pet owners to maintain adequate space for movement and exercise, which is at least 200 square feet of space for any dogs housed outside. It also specifies owners would need to bring animals indoors during extreme weather, including very hot or very cold days, snow, lightning, tornadoes, flooding and fires. 

Other changes in the ordinance crack down on pet retail violations and puppy mills, including requiring pet retail establishments to not source puppies from any breeder that isn't routinely inspected by the USDA or if the breeder had an NCI violation within the past two years. Retailers would also not be allowed to source animals from breeders outside the state of Tennessee.  

Another change requires pet retailers to submit yearly reports to the animal control board that would be made available to the public when they renew their permits, which would include information for each animal sold or offered for sale. 

Retailers would not be allowed to sell young animals that are unweaned or under 8 weeks old. If a retailer has puppies that test positive for viruses like distemper or parvo, they are required to post public notices warning consumers.

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