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Local group readies citizens for dog tethering ordinances, to take effect Jan. 1

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BURLINGTON, N.C. -- With dog tethering restrictions in Graham and Burlington about to take effect, one local nonprofit group is helping citizens get ready.

On Sunday, Friends of Mebane's Animals (FOMA) built its eighth fence in a year for a dog owner in need, who otherwise would not be able to afford the fencing needed to comply with the tethering ordinance.

FOMA President Renee Bartis said the organization's mission is to help low-income pet owners while simultaneously helping the community by decreasing strain on local animal shelters. She explained that every recipient of a free "freedom fence" is required to spay and neuter their pet. The fence builds, each with an approximate cost of $500, are made possible because of private donations. Fence builds have slowed because donations have slowed, she said.

The most recent recipient of a Freedom fence was Dollie Humphrey and her 10-year-old chow/pit bull mix, Max, in Burlington.

"It means the world to us to be able to get him off of that tether," Humphrey said. "He can run and play and do what he wants to do without something on his neck."

Humphrey explained that she did not want to tether Max, but said she couldn't financially afford to build him a fence on her own.

"I'm a retired, disabled, 67-year-old," she said. "I have the dog, but I couldn't afford to get the fence. FOMA is a lifesaver."

If FOMA had not built a fenced-in dog pen for Humphrey, she would have been liable to get a warning come Jan. 1.

In Burlington, Jan. 1 marks the beginning of a six-month "warning period" for the city's tethering ordinance, which states that tethering is only allowed if to comply with requirements of campgrounds, law enforcement activities, taking in a stray or when the owner is within eyesight of the dog. Further stipulations of the law are explained here. Full enforcement begins July 1, 2016 and offenses could result in a fine up to $500.

In Graham, Jan. 1 marks the date for full enforcement of its tethering law, which states that a dog cannot be tethered to a stationery object for more than two hours. During the length of the tether, the ordinance states that the tether must be 10 feet in length and weigh no more than 10 percent of the dog's body weight. Violations can result in fines up to $500 and seizure of the animal.

FOMA serves all of Alamance County, not just Mebane. It provides other services for pet owners, free of charge, for those who qualify based on income level. For more information, visit fomanc.org