SEMINOLE – It’s official. Anyone who ties up an unattended dog will be subject to a fine from the city of Seminole.
After hearing arguments from both sides of the issue, the Seminole City Council voted unanimously on second reading Dec. 22 to pass an ordinance that prohibits dog owners from leaving their pets chained up.
Connie Brooks, operations director of SPCA Tampa Bay, spoke in favor of the ordinance, which she said will prevent animals from suffering.
“We pick up animals daily that are sick or suffering,” she said. “Dogs are social animals and need to be with humans, not at the end of a chain.”
Michael Doyle, a retiree who lives at 11710 Park Blvd., said he did not support the ordinance because his dog enjoys being outside and is often left unattended when Doyle goes to the store. Doyle demonstrated a tether he uses that has a volleyball on the end that keeps his dog from crawling through a hole under his backyard fence.
Councilor Dan Hester, who sponsored the ordinance, reminded Doyle the ordinance does not prevent dog owners from tethering in all instances.
“You can (tether a dog) but you must be with your dog,” said Hester. “If you leave to go to the store, you would be in violation of the ordinance.”
Ebele Okonkwo-Onuigbo and her father, Dr. Obif Okonkwo-Onuigbo, of 12645 74th Ave. N., own six German shepherds that they keep tied up on their fenced, three-acre homesite. They argued against the ordinance.
“They (shepherds) are left outside during the day when family members are at work and school,” Ebele said. “They’re on 25- to 30-foot leashes but they’re left to roam over three acres when we’re present.”
“We do not agree with the ordinance but we’re law-abiding citizens,” said Obif. “If you approve it, we will abide by it.”
When informed that they do not live within the city limits of Seminole and would not be affected by the ordinance, the Okonkwo-Onuigbos said they were concerned because the ordinance “might spread,” meaning the county may be next to enact a similar ordinance.
The ordinance affects only pet owners who leave dogs outside unattended. Dogs may still be on a tether if the owner is outside within visual range of the animal.
Persons walking dogs on a leash would not be affected.
Tethered canines must be at least 6 months old and have access to water, shelter and dry ground. Pulleys, running lines and trolley systems must be at least 15 feet in length and no less than 7 feet above the ground.
The purpose of the legislation is to provide better safety to dogs, said Hester, a former board member of SPCA Tampa Bay.
“This may not be politically correct,” said Hester, “but maybe there are some people that shouldn’t own animals.”
The ordinance will be enforced by city code enforcement personnel.
Those found in violation will receive a warning with 10 days to correct the issue.
A second offense will result in a $100 fine and a third offense in a $250 fine. Any violations beyond that point will result in a $500 fine and a charge of animal cruelty, which carries a $500 fine and/or imprisonment up to 60 days.
The ordinance is the first of its kind in Pinellas County and is fashioned after a similar ordinance in Miami.
“This is the best Christmas present animals in this area could have,” said Brooks.
In old business, Councilor Patricia Plantamura expressed concern as to why the city’s Web site was not updated until Dec. 2 with current information for potential City Council candidates when the city’s qualifying period began Dec. 1.
She said she received calls from residents complaining that the information on the Web site still listed former City Clerk Ginger Stilton as the contact person nearly two months after she resigned.
Director of Administration Harry Kyne, who is handling election responsibilities for the city for the 2010 election, and City Manager Frank Edmunds said the information was updated Dec. 2. Plantamura said that was untrue.
“We’re beating a dead horse here,” remarked Mayor Jimmy Johnson.
Councilor John Counts backed up Johnson.
“If the city manager says it was taken care of I have every reason to believe it was taken care of,” he said.
“Did any of the candidates that filed (for candidacy) mention any problems with the information on the Web site?” asked Councilor Bob Matthews.
Edmunds said “not to my knowledge.”
The issue is somewhat of a moot point because state law does not require election information to appear on a city’s Web site. State law does require a city to advertise election information in a legal ad prior to the qualifying period, which the city did on Nov. 1 and Nov. 15, Kyne said.
This and that
• Hester suggested putting a list of recently passed city ordinances in the next edition of the city’s newsletter.
• An attempt by Plantamura to secure additional travel funds from other councilors failed.
• Edmunds said construction on the city’s new Emergency Operations Center-Public Works administration building on 70th Avenue is progressing well. He said once the construction site is safe, he would arrange for city councilors to take a tour of the EOC site and a Public Works garage that is also under construction across the street.
• Edmunds said Seminole Fire Rescue has been approved by the Pinellas County Health Department to dispense H1N1 vaccinations beginning Jan. 1.
• Councilor Thomas Barnhorn received a plaque for completing the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy.