Animal Welfare

Texas Bans Chaining Unattended Dogs Outside

The new state law cracks down on chains and heavy weights for restraining unattended dogs. Dallas' ordinance prohibits all tethering of unattended dogs outside.
The new state law cracks down on chains and heavy weights for restraining unattended dogs. Dallas' ordinance prohibits all tethering of unattended dogs outside. Meredith Lawrence
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott angered many after he vetoed Senate Bill 474, which would have outlawed restraining unattended dogs outside with chains or heavy weights. After he blocked the bill, Abbott defended himself by saying Texas is "no place for this kind of micro-managing and over-criminalization.”

#AbbottHatesDogs began trending on Twitter soon afterward. In late October, Abbott signed the Safe Outdoor Dogs Bill, which essentially does the same thing as the bill he vetoed a few months ago.

The Safe Outdoor Dogs Bill, or Senate Bill 5, bans leaving dogs unattended outside restrained with chains or heavy weights.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that animals that are kept roped or chained are 2.8 times more likely to bite people.

The law also requires owners to provide adequate shelter for their dogs if they’re being kept outside. Adequate shelter includes shade from direct sunlight, drinking water and enough space for dogs to avoid standing water and exposure to excessive animal waste.

The bill also eliminates a previous state rule that required law enforcement to wait 24 hours to intervene after seeing an animal in inhumane or illegal conditions. SB 5 goes into affect on Jan. 18. Violating the law will be a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Repeat offenses could lead to Class B misdemeanor charges.

Some cities have already taken steps to outlaw these practices. For example, San Antonio banned using chains and heavy weights to restrain dogs outside in 2017.

Stephanie G. Kunkle-Timko, a member of the Dallas Animal Commission, said she thinks enforcement will be a challenge under SB 5. “The problem with this is the same as any other law,” she said. “It’s enforcement. It’s not the lack of reporting.”

“The problem with this is the same as any other law. It’s enforcement." – Stephanie G. Kunkle-Timko, Dallas Animal Commission

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In 2017, Dallas passed its own rules regarding tethering and confining dogs.

In Dallas, dogs are only supposed to be tethered if they’re “in the owner’s immediate possession and accompanied by the owner,” according to city code.

If a dog is tethered, it shouldn’t be in a way that the dog may become entangled or injured. A properly fitted harness or collar should be used. Additionally, the tethering device should be attached to the collar or harness instead of around the dog’s neck.

A dog kept outdoors in Dallas is supposed to have at least 150 square feet to itself, and it must be at least 6 months old. City code mandates that dogs kept outside must have a structurally sound shelter that protects the pet from the elements and allows enough room for movement.

Many residents in Dallas supported the anti-tethering ordinance in 2017, Kunkle-Timko said.

“They spoke at City Council, they spoke to their City Council members. They supported this 100% and were really happy when it passed,” she said. “[Dallas Animal Services] does not really implement it or enforce it the way it was intended. But it’s there if they need it.”

Kunkle-Timko said the same could happen with SB 5.

The recently passed bill was backed by the animal welfare advocacy group Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) as well as law enforcement officials and animal control officers in the state.

One of the main reasons behind the bill was to help beef up enforcement.

The THLN’s efforts date to 2015, when the group pushed for House Bill 2562, dubbed the “Humane Tethering” bill. It aimed to fix what the group called Texas’ broken tethering law that’s been in effect since 2007.

A state law in 2007 was meant to address tethering standards, but the group claims it offered dogs little protection. They say this is partly because that law didn’t allow citations to be given to violators. It only allowed for law enforcement to give warnings for offenses.

Stacy Sutton Kirby, director of government relations for THLN, told ABC that the Safe Outdoor Dogs Bill is “cleaning up a section of the current Texas health and safety code to make it more clear what pet owners need to do in order to keep their dog safe when they are restrained outdoors, unattended." 
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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