2017-03-09 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Support IR1050 – the new Suffolk County Tether Law: Right here on Long Island, thousands of restrained dogs (chained or penned) endure tortured lives outdoors in filth with inadequate shelter and sustenance, 24/7, during all kinds of weather. IR1050, a new amendment sponsored by Legislator Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), will add “muscle” to the existing law, by outlining specific protections which can be more readily enforced and prosecuted.

On March 2 and 7 public hearings about IR1050 took place at Suffolk Legislative sessions in Riverhead. The resolution is scheduled to be debated and voted on in Hauppauge March 28 so there is still time for you to let your County legislator know via phone call or email how important this legislation is to the health and welfare of countless Suffolk dogs held prisoner in their own yards.

Provisions: Specifically this amendment will forbid fastening a dog to a stationary object outdoors that restricts the dog’s access to suitable food, fresh, potable water and dry ground. It bans attaching tethers to prong collars. Chains must have swivel ends. Restraints cannot exceed more than 12.5% of the dog’s total body weight, and cannot weigh more than 15 pounds for any dog. The restraint has to be at least 15-feet long but cannot be long enough for a dog to jump a barrier like a fence and hang himself.

Furthermore, the resolution bars keeping a dog tied outdoors for more than two continuous hours between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and from being restrained overnight from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. It forbids tethering sick, injured dogs, nursing mother dogs and puppies less than six months old. Multiple dogs cannot be fastened in such a way they can come into contact with each other while chained. Weather prohibitions for outside restraint include temperatures below 32 or over 90 degrees Fahrenheit or when the National Weather Service issues a chill or heat advisory, watch or warning.

Penalties: Violations constitute an unclassified misdemeanor with fines of $250 and/or five days in jail for the first offense; $500 fine and/or up to 15 days imprisonment for the second offense and $1,000 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail for all subsequent offenses. A person found guilty three or more times is subject to forfeiting all animals. (Guilty parties do not lose their dogs after the first offense because of the potential of overloading our already full Suffolk Town shelters.)

Testimonial: Kristin Siarkowicz, Babylon Shelter animal control officer (ACO) since 1999, is one of the authors of IR1015. ACOs and humane groups doing outreach in lower socioeconomic areas (where cases of tethered dogs are numerous) are in the field constantly. On a daily basis they witness and try to save dogs in terrible condition. Seeing what these compassionate souls encounter would give the rest of us vivid nightmares.

The following contains excerpts from Kristin’s remarks to Suffolk legislators in Riverhead on March 2: “I give a BIG thank you to Legislator Martinez. She worked diligently to sponsor the amendment to the outdoor restraint law, and she was incredibly receptive to hearing the suggestions made to her. This law has been long overdue to be strengthened.

As an animal control officer in this County 17 years ago, I can honestly say at this point in my career, there is not much that I haven’t seen. I cannot watch dogs be chained day in and day out any longer...Wallowing in standing water; scrape them up dead on their chains, before their owner even noticed them dead...Have embedded collars surgically removed...Watch their limbs fall off from being wrapped up...Pick them up while hanging dead over the fence they jumped...Watch no human footsteps in the snow to their dog house for four days...These are not rare occurrences. I AM SUFFOCATING in a concentrated cluster of awful and frustrating experiences that anyone in this field can have. Each one of you will be given a page of photos we’ve taken. These are proof of needed change in this County. Each of you has a page of four different dogs, put them all together and that is only a sampling.

This tethering issue has become critical. IR1050 takes greater steps to better the lives of these animals and improves on the standards that are expected for them to live as our pets and our companions. It creates long-term animal welfare change in the community by raising pet-keeping standards.

IR1050 also provides law enforcement agencies with good tools and guidelines, which can be realistically enforceable. It creates clear boundaries and sets expectations. It will help stifle what is a gateway to many other animal crimes. It is a law that is enforceable as a safe and healthy life for these animals and it will cause responsible pet ownership to be the only acceptable form of owning a dog.

The proposed penalty phase is incredible, it gives law enforcement the ability and “the teeth” to prosecute those individuals who refuse to comply.

IR1050 will not solve every dog problem in our community overnight, but it is part of a long-term solution. It may be an immediate burden on law enforcement, but it will actually help decrease their workload in the long run. Once we get this enforced and we can catch up with the blowback of dogs given up, our shelters’ dog numbers will start to reduce.

I appreciate that this Legislature has recognized tethering as a critical issue, and ask that you accept IR1050.”

To follow progress on the Suffolk County tether law amendment, visit and LIKE the “Enforce the Animal Laws of Suffolk County” Facebook page. The Feb. 28 post has over 100 photos of the victims- dogs tethered in Suffolk, and a link to your County legislator’s contact information so you can call or email in support of much-needed IR1050.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270), Lamar St., W. Babylon: “Beauty” #17-104 a nine-year-old female American Eskimo Dog, one of five dogs taken from a horrifying family situation, and “Eros” #7-49, a front-declawed five-year-old cat who is “Mr. Affectionate.”

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