By Jan White
Senate Bill 5, sometimes known as the “Safe Outdoor Dogs” Act, was approved by Governor Greg Abbott in October 2021. The law was meant to reduce or prevent inhumane treatment of outdoor dogs.
While the bill’s main thrust is to outlaw the use of chains or weighted tethers for outdoor dogs, it also outlines other humane requirements:
• Owners must provide adequate, sturdy shelter from inclement weather, including rain, sleet, hail, snow, high winds, extreme cold, and extreme heat. The dimensions of the structure must be large enough for the dog to be able to stand erect, turn around, and lie down in a normal position. Owners must also provide an area so the dogs can avoid standing in water or excessive animal waste and must give them access to potable water.
• Collars must be made of a band of material specifically designed to be placed around a dog’s neck and appropriately sized for the dog’s measurements and body weight.
The collar must not impede the dog’s breathing or swallowing and must not cause any pain or injury.
• Harnesses are defined as a set of straps constructed of nylon, leather, or similar material specifically designed to restrain or control a dog.
• An owner is not allowed to restrain a dog outside and unattended by a chain or a restraint with weights attached.
• A tether or restraint cannot be shorter in length than the greater of :
• A. five times the length of the dog, measured from the base of the dog’s tail to tip of its nose, or
B. ten feet.
• The tether/restraint must be attached to a properly fitted collar.
• The law permits trolley systems that allow dogs to move along a running line, but owners must follow the guidelines previously specified regarding shelter, sanitary conditions, water, collars, and the type and length of the restraint.
The bill is also specific about exceptions. For example, temporary restraints used during training activities, shepherding or herding livestock, at public recreational areas, dogs unattended in an open-air truck for a brief period, and other specified outdoor tasks don’t necessarily fall under the stricter requirements. Check with local authorities if you have questions about the guidelines.
The new laws do not supersede any local regulations relating to a dog’s restraint. They don’t affect the adoption or enforcement of existing ordinances, so long as they are compatible with or more stringent than those laid out in SB 5’s new subchapters. And the new subsection does not prohibit a person from walking a dog with a handheld leash.
An offense of these regulations is a Class C Misdemeanor unless the person has previously been convicted, in which case it becomes a Class B Misdemeanor.
Enforcement of the laws created by SB5 will begin on January 18, 2022.