Senate Bill 5, by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), represents the latest effort to update state canine-restraint laws that involve the prosecution of certain animal cruelty and neglect cases. Advocates laud the effectiveness of the long-standing authority of cities to pass and enforce ordinances to protect dogs against harmful methods of restraint, which can include the use of heavy chains, the lack of access to potable water, the lack of shelter from extreme weather, and the inability to reasonably move about and lie down. SB 5 would grant counties similar authority to regulate the health and safety of a tethered dog. The bill has been attempted over multiple sessions, most recently during the regular session of the 87th Legislature, only to be vetoed each time, most recently by Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott felt the bill as passed in the regular session was overly prescriptive toward dog owners. “Texas is no place for this kind of micro-managing and over-criminalization,” he said.
SB 5 notably bans the use of heavy chains to restrain a dog, and it requires adequate shelter from rain, hail, sleet, snow, high winds, and extreme high and low temperatures. Additionally, restraints must be properly sized, without weights, and allow for proper breathing. A restrained dog must also have 10 feet of space for movement, or five times the length of the dog from nose to the base of the tail. Violations would be a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class B misdemeanor for any subsequent offense.
“Sheriffs around Texas deal with the sad occurrence of animal cruelty on a daily basis,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said. “Without SB 5, our county officers are fighting animal cruelty with one hand tied behind our backs. The Sheriffs’ Association of Texas was pleased to see the Governor add SB 5 to his list of priorities in the special session, and proudly testified in support of the bill.”
SB 5 passed the Texas Senate 28-3 and the House 106-23. Abbott has signed the bill into law; it will take effect on Jan. 18.
For information about this article, please contact Austin McCarty.