Restraining dogs with chains will be a Class C misdemeanor for first-time offenders after Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 5 into law Oct. 25. It goes into effect Jan. 18, 2022, and is viewed as a win by Highland Lakes animal advocates.
“We absolutely (consider this law a win),” said Susan Willis, executive director of Highland Lakes Canine Rescue. “Any legislation helping protect animals is very welcome and appreciated.”
Highland Lakes Canine Rescue is a no-kill shelter that rescues abandoned, homeless, and abused dogs across the Texas Hill Country.
Under the new law, it is illegal for dogs to be restrained by a chain, a weighted restraint, or a restraint attached to an improperly fitted collar or harness. Restraints shorter than 10 feet or, for larger dogs, five times the length of the dog are also a violation.
“Restraining an animal in this fashion is highly detrimental,” Willis explained. “This goes against their nature and can lead them to be aggressive and antisocial, lashing out at those who restrain them. The gist of what is at issue is making sure animals have access to water, safety from the elements, including heat, rain and wind, and not putting them in harm’s way.”
Owners must also provide access to adequate shelter, shade, and potable water for animals left outdoors.
Upon first violation, offenders will face a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. If an owner violates the law a second time, the offense will rise to a Class B misdemeanor, which could result in up to 180 days in county jail, a $2,000 fine, or both.
The law does not apply to those walking a dog with a handheld leash and has some exceptions, including the restraint of dogs in a public camping or recreation area. A list of exceptions is included in the bill itself.
While the new law impacts the entire state, some cities already implement similar regulations. Marble Falls, for example, restricts the tethering of animals altogether, outlined in the city’s Code of Ordinance, Sec. 6.06.008.
“I do come across inadequate outdoor enclosures from time to time,” Marble Falls Animal Control Officer Jacey Ferguson said in a statement. “These situations are generally addressed through education and subsequent compliance. In most of these cases, citizens were unaware of the minimum standards required to house animals.”