Tethering is generally considered the action of tying an animal with a rope or chain so as to restrict its movement.
To many, like animal advocate Debbie Darino, it is considered cruel and unusual punishment. Animals left outside chained on a hot day without access to adequate shelter can die of heat stroke, for example. She is on a mission to ban tethering throughout Volusia County while also adding a definition of adequate shelter to local ordinances.
Ponce Inlet adopted the anti-tethering ordinance several years ago. City Council member Lois Paritsky said, “At the time of adoption, this ordinance was a proactive measure that ensured our law enforcement a tool should the officer find that an animal was in distress due to unlawful tethering.
Ms. Darino is seeking a uniform standard and law enforcement response relating to tethering and shelter in the county, and possibly at the state level.
“Our town continues to work to ensure that we have appropriate regulations that will provide for the welfare of animals and for the safety and welfare of our community at large. I am working with town staff to modify our animal welfare ordinances. Setting forth clear standards for application by law enforcement safeguards our animals by clarifying owner responsibilities and animal protections.”
There are too many inconsistencies in tethering and shelter rules in the county and cities.
“When shelter is referenced in the anti-tethering ordinance but no definition for shelter is given, then people just do what they want and it is never a good thing for the animals,” Ms. Darino said. “I want to make it uniform throughout the cities in the county.”
Animal control offices cannot properly do their job to protect animals without better rules, she said. “So, I felt now was the time to update the ordinances so that animal control can effectively enforce these type cases. I get so many, many calls and emails from the community and actually all over the state asking me to intervene because a lot of the time animal control tells them that they cannot do anything to help in a situation because it's not in the ordinance. We cannot keep allowing animals to suffer in inhumane ways because we have failed to update our ordinances.”
Ms. Darino is seeking to get the state statute amended so it has a clear definition for what shelter should entail.
“Even in the state statutes, there is no definition for shelter that is referred to in them,” she said.
She is seeking to shelter removed from the misdemeanor statute and move it to a definitions statute in the 2021 legislative session.
“I love animals so much and so does our community,” Ms. Darino said. “If we can change the ordinances and educate the public in these matters, then our animals will benefit tremendously and go on to live happy lives.”
A Port Orange resident, Ms. Darino was a leader in getting passage of Ponce’s Law, which increases the likelihood that someone convicted of animal cruelty could be sentenced to prison. Ponce’s Law also allows a judge to bar someone from ever owning an animal again.
So far, Daytona Beach, Deltona and Holly Hill have approved a new anti-tethering ordinance with the adequate shelter definition. She is now proposing the move to Ormond Beach and Ponce Inlet.
Ms. Darino also recently made a presentation in Port Orange with city officials there planning a vote on the anti-tethering ordinance soon.
After her presentation Councilman Chase Tramont said, “Everybody has their niche and what they are good at and where they are most impactful and this is clearly your's. Your efforts and advocacy have been felt around the State of Florida because of a bill that you spearheaded. Well done. I’ve been looking forward to this night and talking to you about it and following the other cities and talking to our city attorney about it. I’ll be looking forward to supporting that.”
Ms. Darino also will be making presentations in New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater and Oak Hill. Ultimately, she will review current anti-tethering ordinances and adequate shelter definitions (or propose them if they don’t exist) in all Volusia County cities while also looking to make statewide changes for consistency.