AUSTIN, Texas — Last February, the extreme winter storms brought attention to the rules for how tethered dogs are treated in Texas.
Then, this past session, the state legislature passed a new law with updated requirements that take effect this month, on Jan. 18. It's called the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, or Senate Bill 5 from the third special session.
It deals with dogs that are tethered up outside and how to lawfully do that.
Laws on this go back to 2007, according to Texas Humane Legislation Network. But there have been updates in 2015, 2017, 2019 and now 2021. So what's different with this one?
One of the big things is officers no longer have to wait a 24-hour period before addressing any violation.
"It makes it easier for us to enforce that and make the animals safer," said Mark Sloat, an animal protection officer with the Austin Animal Center. "It gives us as animal protection officers, animal control officers, the ability to react right away to an animal that's tethered in an unsafe condition."
The new law also prohibits using chains as the tether, or any other material that could cause harm to the dog. It requires that dogs have drinking water available.
The law also defines what qualifies as an adequate shelter for a dog, which includes protection from extreme temperatures, standing water and other things that could be dangerous for an animal. The tether has to be at least 10 feet or five times the length of the dog.
If you feel someone is in violation of these rules, that's when you can call your local animal protection officer. Sloat said the earlier you can call, the better.
"We'd rather help people out than throw a ticket at them and hope for the best," he said.
"This just honestly, as a new law, it's the bare minimum. I wish we could have done more, but this is a bare minimum," said Marty Irby.
Irby is with Animal Wellness Action, a nonprofit political action committee that lobbies for these types of laws both federally and at a state level.
He hopes there's even more down the road, but this is a place to start, he believes.
"The weather conditions can change so quickly overnight that they can literally freeze to death, and that has happened in the state of Texas, I believe last winter," said Irby. "It does speak a lot for the governor and the state legislature. We're glad that they finally pushed this through, but we know they can do more in the long run as well."
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