Viral Facebook post prompts local rescue group to move on a dog chaining ban

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - Harold Johnson just happened to be in Columbus when he says he saw a heartbreaking sight he couldn't ignore.

"One of my guys called out sick and I usually don't go on calls," says Johnson who works at a Harris County scrap yard. "I got to the house to pick up an old car and I saw the dog out of the corner of my eye next door."

The dog, named "Camo" by his owners, was severely underweight and tangled up with a thick metal chain around his neck.

"It was terrible, I wanted to just run over there and grab him real quick and take him with me, but being at work and the laws you can't do that," Johnson recalls to News 3's Mikhaela Singleton.

So Johnson says he decided to do the next best thing - take photos for a social media call to action. The Facebook post gained attention fast, now standing at more than 5,700 shares.

One woman tagged in the comments is a volunteer for Animal SOS, a local rescue program. She and her fellow group members took immediate legal action, calling authorities, and taking ownership of the dog, who was renamed "LeeRoy" by his friends on the internet.

"When we got him to the vet it came out he wasn't just skinny, he had every health concern you could imagine," says Becky Carter, the founder of Animal SOS. "Everything with LeeRoy was against even the ordinance we have for these things now."

Columbus city leaders passed a dog tethering ordinance back in March 2017. It states:

  • No animal shall be tethered except on a three-point pulley system.
  • Animals must not be tethered and left unattended for more than 12 consecutive hours in a 24 hour period.
  • Tethers must be made of commercial approved leash or tethering material which cannot be chewed by the animal and shall not weigh more than five percent of the body weight of the animal; ropes and chains are not considered appropriate tethering material.
  • The tether must be at least five times the body length of the dog and mounted no more than seven feet above the ground level.
  • The animal must be attached to the tether by a properly fitted harness or collar with enough room between the collar and the animal’s throat through which two fingers may fit. Choke collars and Pinch collars are prohibited for the purpose of tethering an animal.

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However, Carter says clearly, the current state of the law isn't enough. She says LeeRoy's condition went without treatment for so long, because although multiple citations were issued, they came from different agencies and were given to different people within the home. 

"The system needs to change where all parties involved - animal control, other law enforcement, the court system, even vets - the system needs to be improved so that all parties that can be involved are coordinated efforts and understand each other's roles in the process," Carter says.

She and a few other volunteers took their concerns to Columbus City Council on Tuesday. Harold Johnson was in attendance and says his spirit was lifted to see the positive response from city leaders.

"They have hearts, they all have hearts and compassion for animals," he says. "It was a good thing to get the ball rolling in the right direction to where we can get some laws changed."

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and several other city councilors expressed the possibility of changing the current ordinance to ban dog chaining all-together. Among the suggestions, reducing the time dogs can be permitted outside unattended and more severe penalties for animal neglect.

The most recent statement from Mayor Tomlinson reads:

"We look forward to working with our devoted citizens and our animal care professionals to find new partnerships and strategies that will end animal abuse in Columbus."

The Mayor gave Carter the task of helping come up with a task force plan that would assign city resources to investigate and enforce animal safety laws. Carter has so far shown Mayor Tomlinson the plan currently in place in Atlanta. She now plans to modify it to best fit the Columbus community and appear again with the finished proposal at City Council.

**The second dog featured in the above video is currently in the care of PAWS Humane and is also in desperate need of a home. Please find details on adopting Webster here.**

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