A new law goes into effect across Texas on Tuesday, January 18 that will help pets who unfortunately spend their lives outdoors.
Called the Safe Outdoors Dog Act, it establishes basic safeguards for outdoor dogs, as follows:
- Defines “adequate shelter” to protect dogs from temperature extremes, weather and standing water. Previously, there was no definition of shelter, and dogs that were tethered could (and die) from exposure.
- Requires access to drinking water. Prior to the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, state law did not include this vital requirement.
- Requires secure restraints. The Outdoor Dog Safety Act prohibits the use of chains. Other tethering options such as cable ties can be used, as long as they are properly attached to a collar or harness.
- Removes the previously required 24-hour waiting period that prevented animal control officers or law enforcement from taking immediate action when they find a frozen dog.
Unfortunately, the Safe Outdoors Dog Act does not prevent owners from tying up their dogs or keeping them outdoors. But it sets out basic requirements to ensure dogs get adequate shelter and water, and limits the types of restraints allowed to be used.
The Safe Outdoors Dog Act was made possible through the work of the Texas Humane Legislation Network and was signed into law on October 25, 2021, after what THLN calls “the most controversial Texas legislative session in memory.” The organization has been working on this legislation for six years, during which time the legislation has been targeted and unexpectedly vetoed.
Of all the changes, the organization sees the removal of the 24-hour warning period as the most significant change, allowing animal control officers to take immediate action for tethered dogs in distress.
The other big win is the banning of chains, which can tangle, rust and break, and often cause pain and injury.
The Outdoor Dog Safety Act does not apply to dogs that are:
- Attached to a cable tie or trolley system
- Camping or using other public recreation areas
- Herding livestock or helping with farm chores
- Hunt or participate in field trials
- In an open truck bed while the owner performs a temporary task
To encourage dog owners to get on board, THLN has created the following list of nonprofit organizations and civic groups that will help:
Bastrop and Travis Counties: Dejando Huella ATX donates kennels and specializes in outreach to Spanish-speaking dog owners. Contact: [email protected]
Corpus Christi: People Assisting Animal Control organizes educational and welfare events for pets, distributing collars. Contact: [email protected]
Dallas/Fort Worth: The Texas SPCA Russell H. Perry Pet Resource Center provides temporary support for pet owners in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area who are experiencing financial hardship and may have to abandon their pets. Contact: [email protected]
McLennan County: Cribs for Canines provides kennels for under-resourced dog owners. Contact: Cribs for Canines (cribs4canines.com)
Midland: Fix West Texas donates kennels and other pet supplies to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: [email protected]
North Texas: The Love Pit is a Dallas-based nonprofit that improves the quality of life for pit bull-type dogs through rescue, education, and outreach in the DFW area. Contact: [email protected]
Travis County: The City of Austin Fencing Aid Program donates fencing materials to under-resourced dog owners in Travis County. The city also donates doghouses to qualified residents. Contact: [email protected]
Tyler: The East Texas SPCA donates kennels and other pet supplies to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: [email protected]
Victoria: South Texas Tales donates kennels and other resources to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: [email protected]
Wichita Falls: Chain Off Wichita Falls donates fencing equipment and labor to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: [email protected]
Williamson County: The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter serves Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, Hutto, and rural Williamson County, and donates kennels and other items to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: [email protected]
Fences for Fido also provides support and mentorship to groups dedicated to getting dogs out of chains. Contact: [email protected]