A bill has been signed into law in Texas that targets animal cruelty towards dogs, making it illegal to chain dogs up outside.
The law, which has been long-awaited by lawmakers and citizens alike, bans dog owners from changing their dogs up outside. In addition, the law requires adequate food, water, and shelter be provided for dogs left outdoors. Offenders will face misdemeanor charges with increasing consequences for each offense.
The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday and will take effect on January 18, 2022. The law makes it a criminal offense for dog owners to use chain tethers, weights or improperly fitted collars. It also requires animals that are left outdoors to have adequate shelter which would keep them safe in the event of inclement weather. The shelter must allow for the dog to sit, stand and move around comfortably.
The law also gets rid of the 24-hour waiting period before law enforcement is allowed to intervene should they come across an animal living in inhumane conditions. Those violating the law for the first time face a Class C misdemeanor charge and could receive fines reaching $500. A second violation could mean a Class B misdemeanor charge, with up to $2,000 fines and jail time.
SB 5 was passed in both legislative bodies earlier this year before being vetoed by Abbott. The reason for the veto, according to Abbott, was the bill’s “micro-managing” language regarding items such as “the tailoring of the dog’s collar, the time the dog spends in the bed of a truck, and the ratio of tether-to-dog length.”
After receiving a considerable amount of backlash, like the popularized hashtag #Abbotthatesdogs, Abbott put the bill back on the agenda for the third session. The only differences between the bill earlier this summer versus now were minor language adjustments.
The Texas Humane Legislation Network has been pushing for this bill and what it entails for over a decade and slowly reaching milestones along the way. Governor Rick Perry signed HB 1411 in 2007, which regarded the “Unlawful Restraint of a Dog”. They THLN felt this didn’t extend far enough, especially since officers were required to give offenders 24 hours to mend the offense before taking action.
In 2015, HB 2562, the “Humane Tethering” bill, had 42 cosponsors, but died in the Texas House. In 2017, the organization returned with HB 1156/SB 1090, the “Adequate Shelter & Restraint” bill, which again died in the House. It was refiled in 2019, where it passed in the Senate and died in the House again. The THLN is now celebrating that their bill was passed after years of working towards this.