A new law goes into effect across Texas on Tuesday, January 18 that will help pets that unfortunately spend their lives outdoors.
Called the Safe Outdoors Dog Act, it lays down basic safeguards for outdoor dogs, as follows:
- Defines “adequate shelter” to protect dogs from extreme temperatures, inclement weather, and standing water. Previously, there was no definition for shelter, and dogs that were tethered could (and did) die from exposure.
- Requires access to drinkable water. Before the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, state law did not include this vital requirement.
- Requires safe restraints. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act bans the use of chains. Other tethering options such as cable tie outs can be used, as long as they are correctly attached to a collar or harness.
- Removes the 24-hour waiting period previously required that prevented animal control or law enforcement officers from taking immediate action when they found a freezing dog.
Unfortunately, the Safe Outdoors Dog Act does not prevent owners from tethering dogs or from keeping them outdoors. But it does define base-level 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 due to the work of Texas Humane Legislation Network, and was signed into law on October 25, 2021, after what THLN calls “the most contentious Texas legislative session in memory.” The organization has been working on this legislation for six years, during which the legislation was targeted and unexpectedly vetoed.
Of all the changes, the organization views 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 Safe Outdoor Dogs Act does not apply to dogs that are:
- Attached to a cable tie out or trolley system
- Camping or using other public recreational areas
- Herding livestock or assisting with farming tasks
- Hunting or participating in field trials
- In an open-air truck bed while the owner completes a temporary task
To encourage dog owners to get on board, THLN has created the following list of nonprofits and civic groups that will help:
Bastrop and Travis Counties: Dejando Huella ATX donates doghouses and specializes in outreach to Spanish-speaking dog owners. Contact: email@example.com
Corpus Christi: People Assisting Animal Control organizes pet wellness and educational events, distributing cable tie outs. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dallas/Fort Worth: SPCA of Texas’ Russell H. Perry Pet Resource Center provides temporary support to pet owners in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex who are experiencing financial hardship and are at risk of having to surrender their pets. Contact: email@example.com
McLennan County: Cribs for Canines provides doghouses to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: Cribs for Canines (cribs4canines.com)
Midland: Fix West Texas donates doghouses and other pet supplies to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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@example.com
Travis County: The City of Austin Fencing Assistance Program donates fence material to under-resourced dog owners in Travis County. The city also donates doghouses to qualified residents. Contact: Amber.Harvey@austintexas.gov
Tyler: The SPCA of East Texas donates doghouses and other pet supplies to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Victoria: South Texas Tales donates doghouses and other resources to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: email@example.com
Wichita Falls: Chain Off Wichita Falls donates fencing materials and labor for under-resourced dog owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Williamson County: Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter serves Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, Hutto, and rural Williamson County, and donates doghouses and other items to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: email@example.com
Fences for Fido also provides support and mentorship to groups dedicated to getting dogs off chains. Contact: katrina.FencesForFido@gmail.com