By Billy Liggett

Dr. Julie Davis was the only vet on staff at Carolina Veterinary Hospital of Sanford back in July 2019 when a 7-month-old pit bull puppy was brought to her with a severe spinal cord injury.

The pup had been left in a yard unsupervised for nobody knows how long — the chain used to tie him up to a stake was found wrapped around his body. Davis suspects the dog had spent his entire life tied up — something happened eventually that caused massive inflammation on his spine.

The injury left the dog mostly paralyzed in his back legs. He couldn’t support himself standing up, and he certainly couldn’t use those legs to walk or run.

“We didn’t have a clue how it happened or how long he’d been like that,” Davis recalls. “We just know he came in with no feeling or sensation whatsoever in his back legs. He couldn’t move anything back there. That was no way for a dog to live — I doubt he’d ever been indoors.”

Fast forward nearly 17 months, and Beans (that’s his name) is a different story.

A sweet, energetic, curious and surprisingly fast young dog, Beans is now a permanent resident and professional greeter at Carolina Veterinary Hospital, located on Broadway Road in Sanford. He’s got a nice, warm bed underneath the front desk in the hospital’s lobby, and he’s got a friend in a small white cat — Emma — who was also brought in a few months ago with a chronic red wound on her neck.

He gets around mostly by scooting, dragging his back legs as he runs to check on the barking going on in the kennel area or to sniff the legs of a visitor. He also has a wheelchair for his back legs to help him maneuver better outside.

“He doesn’t know that he’s injured,” she says. “It doesn’t get in his way. He loves to move and play, and he certainly has a lot of affection to give.”

Beans’ plight brings up a controversial issue in Lee County that’s been around for over a decade — the tethering law [we at The Rant have been writing about it since our days at The Sanford Herald].

Section 4-61 of the Lee County Animal Ordinance allows for tethering of dogs (and other animals) under certain guidelines. First, the tether must be equipped with a swivel on both ends and should be at least 10 feet in length and made of either a metal chain or a coated steel cable (ropes, belts and other ties are not allowed). The tethers are supposed to be attached to a buckle collar or harness and cannot be tied around the animal’s neck or body.

There are more regulations on the weight of the tether, the dog’s ability to move freely and more, but there are no guidelines for how long an animal can be tied up.

Several surrounding counties and communities have enforced tethering laws in recent years. The City of Raleigh prohibits a dog to be tied up for more than three hours in any 24-hour period. Raleigh’s ordinance was passed “to prevent the possibility of strangling when a dog becomes entangled in ropes and chains or surrounding objects.” It also sought to prevent dogs from being left exposed to harsh weather conditions without access to shelter, and being unable to reach a supply of food and water.

Tethering is also prohibited in Asheville, Cary, Chapel Hill, Clayton, Cumberland County, Davidson, Enfield, Durham County, Forsyth County, Guilford County, Halifax County, Hertford, New Hanover County, Roanoke Rapids, Weldon, Woodland and other communities in the state.

Tethering laws are among the causes Davis advocates for in her role as a veterinarian in a small town (she’s butted heads with Animal Control on a few issues, such as care for stray animals and feral cat spay/neuter programs). A graduate of NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Davis began working as a part-time relief vet at Carolina Veterinary Hospital in 2017 and joined on as full-time a year later. She purchased the practice in April of this year — her first time owning a business.

In addition to Beans and Emma, she has rescued cats available for adoption in her lobby and countless stories of helping previously unwanted animals find homes.

“These kittens, people leave them with us instead of dropping them off at a shelter. If we turn them loose, they add to the feral population, and if we take them to the shelter, there’s a chance they don’t make it,” she says. “So we’re trying to adopt these guys out, but we’re also trying to manage the feral population here. I just want to do what’s best for the welfare of the animals.”

She originally worked with community members to find Beans a new home, but because of the constant care he needs and attention to his recovery, she decided to keep him. When her 15-year-old dog at home finally crosses that rainbow bridge, she hopes to bring him home for good.

“Just because he’s a little bit broken doesn’t mean he is not worth it anymore,” she said back in 2019 in a WRAL feature on the pup’s recovery. “If you’ve got the life and you’ve got the chance, reach for more.”