For many Texans, dogs are part of the family. They are social animals who love to spend time with their owners. Yet many dogs all over Texas spend their entire lives wasting away at the end of a heavy chain. Dogs permanently tied up outside often lack proper food, water, and shelter because their owners have all but forgotten about them. It is a tragic existence for the animals that many call family.
Have you seen a dog chained up and weren’t sure what to do about it? Here are answers to commonly asked questions regarding tethering and The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act.
Why is it dangerous to tether a dog long-term?
Dogs are social animals who need interaction with other animals or humans. Intensive restraint for long periods of time, can cause physiological and physical damage to the animal.
Dogs that have been continuously tethered may endure physical ailments such as a raw or sore neck from their collar rubbing against their fur from constant yanking and straining to escape confinement. Some chained dogs have collars embedded in their necks because their owners fail to replace them when they outgrow them or suffer from strangulation from being caught in the tether.
Dogs also frequently become entangled in their chains or tethers, limiting their access to food, water, and shelter, and can cause serious physical injury. And the chains often weigh more than the dogs themselves, which significantly limits the dogs’ range of movement.
These pets may also endure severe neglect and neurotic tendencies as a result of inadequate or no shelter, not having enough space to exercise normal activities, and a lack of veterinary care or affection from their owners.
Pets left outside become lonely, bored, and anxious, and can also develop aggressive behaviors from psychological and social deprivation. Not only is it dangerous for dogs to be left tethered outdoors and unattended, it may pose a safety issue for humans too. Dogs are territorial and may bite or become aggressive as a fight-or-flight response to being provoked or approached. An otherwise friendly dog, when kept continuously chained, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and often aggressive.
(humanesociety.org, “Chaining and tethering dogs FAQ”)
Chained dogs are statistically more dangerous than even free-running packs of dogs because their unfortunate circumstances render them undersocialized, territorial, and prone to aggression.
According to a study, chained dogs killed at least 109 people between 1965 and 2001 (Denko, DPS Tethering Study): 99 of the incidents involved children who wandered into the reach of a chained dog and 11 were attacks by dogs who broke free of their restraints. Several Texas children are included among these fatalities; in 2007, ten-year-old Amber Jones was mauled to death by a chained dog she helped free from a fence in San Antonio (PETA.org, “Chained-Dog Attack Summaries”) and in 2008, five-year-old Pablo Hernandez was killed by a neighbor’s dog who was “always chained up” in Weslaco (BrownsvilleHerald.com, “Pit bull attacks, kills boy near Weslaco”).
How can we stop people from tethering their dogs?
In 2021, Texas passed The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act which protects the safety and wellbeing of outdoor, unattended dogs. Under this law, outdoor dogs are REQUIRED to be safety restraint and strikes the use of chains and weights. Owners must use approved cable tie-outs, trolley systems, or “zip lines” while also being provided adequate shelter and access to water.
Unsure of how to properly tether your dog outside? Here is a great resource about properly restraining your dog outdoors: Resource Guide.
How has The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act improved previous Texas law?
The law became effective in the state of Texas on January 18, 2022. Previous legislation was extremely vague and unenforceable by law enforcement and animal control. For example, previous legislation did not have a specific definition of what it means to have ‘adequate shelter’ and protection from extreme weather conditions. In February 2021, Texas faced an incredibly devastating snow storm. During this time, we received over 100 calls about dogs being left outside to freeze. Due to vague language in legislation, it was nearly impossible to get these dogs out of critical situations and many outdoor dogs lost their lives during that time.
Specifics that were implemented in The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act include:
|Defines adequate shelter to protect dogs from extreme temperatures, inclement weather, and standing water. Previously, there was no definition for shelter, thus tethered dogs routinely perished from exposure.Requires access to drinkable water. Before the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, state law did not include this vital requirement.|
Requires safe methods of restraint. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act strikes the use of chains. Other means of restraint, such as cable tie-outs, may be used so long as they are correctly attached to a collar or harness designed to restrain a dog.Strikes the 24-hour waiting period so animal services and law enforcement can take immediate action for dogs in distress.
Are there any exceptions to the law?
The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act does not prevent owners from tethering dogs. It clarifies and provides a well-balanced policy on what it means to properly restrain unattended, outdoor dogs. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act requires that unattended dogs are tethered in a way that keeps them and the people around them safe. However, there are exceptions to the law. It does not apply to dogs that are:
Attached to an approved 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 read the law to its entirety, visit https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/legbills/files/C387/SB5.pdf
To read additional resources from Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN), visit https://www.thln.org/a_brand_new_day
How do I report an inappropriately tethered dog or suspected animal abuse?
If you see active animal abuse or outdoor dogs in your community whose level of care does NOT meet the outlined requirements in the new law, PLEASE document and REPORT it to your local law enforcement or animal control. These officials are trained on how to best handle these situations. Taking your own actions could risk the safety of yourself or the animal(s). Response times may vary by city or county, depending upon available resources. Your report may not be directly addressed the day of the report, but make a plan of action. Continue to document your case and follow-up with officials until you see a result.
We’ve compiled a list of local nonprofit organizations and civic groups available to help our friends and neighbors who have dogs tethered outside that may need further assistance with ordinance guidelines. Head to: thln.org/a_brand_new_day for the full list.
How can we ensure that The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act is being enforced?
The first step is to find out how your community (city, county, state, township) is planning to implement enforcement of the new laws and how they will respond to incoming reports. If you see a homeowner not in compliance, document what you see, take pictures, and report it to your local authorities. Law enforcement or animal control can then make a friendly visit to the property for a welfare check and offer other solutions to address any underlying issues the pet may be having (behavioral or frequent escapes).
If you know the owner and feel comfortable speaking to them about their pet, offer to walk the dog, take it to the dog park to run, or offer to watch the dog when needed. You can also bring the dog toys or treats!
I’m not in Texas… How can I stop people from chaining up their dogs near me?
For more information on how you might be able to pass a local ordinance in your city or county, contact our hotline directly. We look forward to helping other locations pass similar laws. 1-888-548-6263