Smyrna Town Council approved an ordinance Monday night that limits how residents in Smyrna can tether their dogs. Council waived the third and final reading so the ordinance is now in effect.

The ordinance includes a six-hour time limit for tethering, requirements for tethering device compliance, periods when an animal can't be tethered, and overall conditions dog owners need to follow. The first offense is a $50 fine, the second offense is a $100 fine, and the third and subsequent offenses are $300 fines.

During the discussion, the topic of enforcing the ordinance during the summer months was immediately addressed. Councilwoman Valerie White said the ordinance details what types of inclement weather dogs can and cannot be tethered in, but there's no specific temperature for times of extreme heat. She wanted to know how officers would address the issue of dogs being tethered in times of extreme heat like this week.

"Obviously if the National Weather Service issues a heat warning, clearly the resident will be in violation," said Police Chief Wil Bordley. "The officer will have to use their discretion to prove their case."

Along with the approval of the dog tethering ordinance, council also passed a motion stating there will be a 60-day grace period so residents can become better informed of the ordinance. In other words since the ordinance is new, if a Smyrna Police officer approaches a resident tomorrow regarding the tethering of the dog the officer can use their discretion to give a warning instead of the initial first penalty.

The 60-day grace period was approved by council following a comment by town lawyer Terry Jaywork, who asked about publishing the synopsis of the ordinance to make residents aware of the change.

White suggested putting the ordinance announcement in electric bills. Councilwoman Andrea Rodriguez agreed with finding a way to give residents a chance to learn the conditions of the ordinance.

"I think we should give them a period of time to get the information so they don't get a $50 fine the first time," Rodriguez said. "I know it's the heat season but I believe we should give them a grace period."

White asked Bordley if officers keep a record of warnings given to residents; when he said yes, she suggested the officers keep the initial warning on record so if there's an issue again with a resident tethering their dog the officer would know to then write the resident up on their first offense.

The ordinance came out of the Public Safety Committee so council gave committee chair Larry Thornton a chance to speak on the possibility of a grace period. Thornton suggested a 30-day grace period.

"There's no guarantee that everybody will be aware but I believe that's ample time," Thornton said.

Before council voted on the motion for the informational period, Jaywork pointed out the 60-day grace period isn't a time of non-enforcement.

"If the officers see a resident violate the new ordinance, they can be given a warning. But if the next week it's an issue again, they'll be fined," Jaywork said. "Once the 60-day waiting period is up, we're not giving warnings. This is not a free pass."

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