Task force to study dog tethering

-A A +A

Appointments made by commissioners

By Jim Clark


The Marion County Commission appointed a task force to look at the dog tethering issue, but the plan was almost scuttled by the apparent hard line by one of the agencies fighting to ban tethering in the county.

Late in the meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, Commission Chairman Kathy Bryant called for appointments and made her own.

She then called upon Stan McClain to make his, and was greeted with a long pause and then a statement by McClain: “I don’t know if I’m prepared to do anything.” He added that “it sounds like there’s no room for compromise.”

McClain’s hesitation came after talks during the public portion of the meeting by Linda Norman, board member of the Humane Society, and resident John Marinelli, among others.

Norman read a platform statement from the Humane Society, saying that the agency would not adopt an animal to anyone who plans to chain their dog as a means of containment.”

She added that “chaining is part of the protocol for dogs kept for fighting.” She called for a 24-hour ban and said it should be enforceable, and that there should be a six-month period for adjustment.

Marinelli commented, “I represent tethered dogs in Marion County, those who have no voice. I am opposed to anything less than a 24-hour ban.”

After McClain’s statement, Commissioner Carl Zalak agreed, saying, “It does sound like there’s no room for compromise.”

Some commissioners felt that the purpose of the task force was to look at the issue and hash it out, coming back to the county with a recommendation.

Bruce Fishalow, an executive with the Humane Society, who, along with Norman, ended up on the task force, commented, “Obviously it puts me in an awkward situation. Our board does not adopt out any animals that will be tethered. That is absolute policy. Does that mean there’s no room for compromise? They’re not mutually exclusive.

“The panel needs to be set up with seven people making a recommendation to you all … we need to have this panel going.”

Bryant asked him if he could sit on the task force with an open mind. Fishalow replied, “I will negotiate in good faith to make something happen to get these dogs off of tethers.”

Commissioner Earl Arnett commented, “There are people on the panel who will not come in with an open mind. We still need to put a board together.”

Commissioner David Moore, who was the only commissioner to vote for a public hearing in the first place, said, “We’re each going to put a person on there, and they’ll come back with a recommendation.”

Bryant reminded the panel members that “this is for one specific issue and one issue only. We need to be clear with that.”

McClain continued his objection, “I’m just having a hard time … I’m sorry.”

Bryant asked Norman to come back to the podium, and the Humane Society representative backed off her hard stance just a little. “This panel, I would hope, is going to be an exchange of ideas … I let the evidence take me where it took me, let the evidence go where it would take you.”

Norman and Fishalow were appointed to the task force, as well as Animal Services Department Director Deb Horvath, Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Rowe, Ocala police officer Brandon Sirolli, former candidate Butch Verrando, and Ken Araujo, who trains K9 animals for law enforcement.

Earlier in the meeting, Patricia Reed cited studies that she said revealed that the tethering of dogs is not always harmful. “The tether is not the problem, but the people.”

She then said the “anti-tethering movement is being used to eliminate dogs.”

She said “local governments need to focus on enforcing existing laws.”

Renee Rivard of Tampa, who says she represents a group called the “League of Humane Voters,” said, “Our members support a ban on unattended tethering.”