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New Dog Tethering Restrictions in Orange County

Frequently Asked Questions

Effective November 19, 2009, Orange County’s Animal Ordinance will restrict the tethering of dogs to a maximum of 3 hours within a 24-hour period.  The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved the amendment, along with a year of outreach, in November of 2008. 

What is tethering? 

Tethering refers to the keeping of dogs on chains, ropes or other such tie-outs versus within a fenced structure.  It is often defined in reference to a stationary object (for example, a dog chained to a stake near a dog house), but also includes overhead trolley systems.  Tethering does not refer to walking a dog on a leash. 


What are the restrictions of the new ordinance amendment?

1. Tethering must be limited to a maximum of three (3) hours within a twenty-four-hour period.

2. Tethers must be a minimum of 10 feet in length, have a swivel at each end, and must attach to only a buckle collar or harness. 

3. Certain exceptions exist for specific circumstances.


What exceptions are included in the amendment?

Tethering in excess of the 3-hour maximum is allowed:

1. during any activity where a tethered dog is in the visual range of its owner or keeper, and its owner or keeper is outside with the dog;

2. while being walked with a handheld leash;

3. during training and performance (or sporting) events for dogs, including but not limited to field and obedience trails, where tethering does not occur for a period exceeding 7 days;

4. while actively herding, shepherding or cultivating agricultural products where tethering is reasonably necessary for the safety of the dog;

5. when camping or during other recreational activities where tethering is required by the camping or recreational area where the dog is located;

6. after taking possession of a dog that appears to be a stray and notifying Animal Control while trying to find the dog’s owner or keeper, for a period of no more than 7 consecutive days


How long do people who currently tether have to make changes? 

The amendment was adopted on November 19, 2008 and includes a year-long period of extensive public outreach and education before becoming effective in November of 2009.  Moreover, only warnings will be issued for the first six months of effectiveness (from November of 2009 to May of 2010).  Only after the combined 18-month period, will any ordinance amendment be fully enforced.  This is intended to give citizens ample time to become informed and make changes to comply with the new law.


Will the ordinance changes affect me if I live inside a township in Orange County? 

Citizens who live inside the town limits of Chapel Hill, Carrboro or Mebane will not be affected by the County’s ordinance or any changes made to the County’s ordinance.  The County’s animal ordinance (and any changes made to it) only applies to the unincorporated areas of the County, as well as Hillsborough, which adopts the County’s ordinance. 


What resources are available for those wanting to switch from tethering to another means of confinement?

There are several other means of confinement available to those wanting to switch from tethering.  Citizens may switch to a pen/kennel enclosure; construct a fence; or choose to house their dog(s) indoors.  Supplies for outdoor enclosures can be purchased at most hardware stores and many indoor confinement methods can be obtained at pet stores.  The Coalition to Unchain Dogs offers a program to assist with fence building.  Details can be found on their or by contacting 919-308-3660 or  Information about local dog training opportunities can be found by consulting with a veterinarian, checking yellow page listings, or conducting an online search.



Why did the BOCC consider tethering restrictions? 

The BOCC created the Tethering Committee upon the request of the Animal Services Advisory Board (ASAB), which had been approached by local citizens concerned about the welfare of tethered dogs.  Their efforts mirrored initiatives elsewhere in North Carolina and other states to limit, restrict or outlaw tethering.  The Tethering Committee was appointed by the BOCC to address tethering in Orange County and to work with the ASAB to recommend what, if any, changes should be made to the existing animal ordinance regarding tethering. 


What are the reasons for these changes?

The Tethering Committee recommended these changes to the BOCC because of its concern with both public safety and animal welfare, after conducting a significant amount of research.  Long-term tethering can contribute to neglect and the current ordinance in Orange County does not address the length of time a dog can be tethered.  The ASAB also felt that tethering restrictions would make better use of Animal Services resources and help address other related concerns, such as unwanted breeding and dog bites. 



Why tethering?  Can’t dogs be neglected and abused in kennels as well? 

While it is true that dogs can be neglected in any situation, tethering raises additional community concerns.  The lack of a barrier between the dog and outside world raises the risk of dogs bites, makes some dogs vulnerable to unwanted breeding (contributing to pet overpopulation) and attack by roaming dogs or other animals.


How does the adoption of this ordinance affect County resources? 

Other jurisdictions have shown that, in the long term, tethering restrictions make for better use of County resources.  Jurisdictions which have recently restricted or eliminated tethering have reported a decrease in the number of reported dog bites, reduced unwanted litters of puppies, and reduced cruelty cases related to improper tethering.  All of these changes improve public safety and save the county tax dollars.  More information on other jurisdictions with restricted tethering ordinances can be found at


Where can I find additional information and copies of background documents? 

The ordinance amendment itself and the report of the Tethering Committee are available at  Also available are minutes from BOCC and Tethering Committee meetings, abstracts from BOCC meetings where tethering was discussed, and other supporting documents.  Questions can be directed to Animal Control at 919-245-2075.






Prepared January 2, 2009