A new law goes into effect across Texas on January 18, which will help animals who 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 or suffering 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 the dog gets 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 (THLN), and 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 it was targeted by an extremist lawmaker 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 who 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 who will help:
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: 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
BASTROP & TRAVIS COUNTIES: Dejando Huella ATX – donates dog houses & specializes in outreach to Spanish-speaking dog owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
CORPUS CHRISTI: People Assisting Animal Control organizes pet wellness & educational events, distributing cable tie-outs. Contact: email@example.com
MCLENNAN COUNTY: Cribs For Canines provides dog houses to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: Cribs for Canines (cribs4canines.com)
MIDLAND: Fix West Texas donates dog houses and other pet supplies to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAVIS COUNTY: The City of Austin Fencing Assistance Program donates fence material to under-resourced dog owners in Travis County. The city also donates dog houses 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: email@example.com
VICTORIA: South Texas Tales – donates dog houses and other resources to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
WICHITA FALLS: Chain Off Wichita Falls – donates fencing materials and labor for under-resourced dog owners. Contact: email@example.com
WILLIAMSON COUNTY: Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter – serving Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, Hutto, and rural Williamson County. Donates dog houses and other items to under-resourced dog owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fences for Fido also provides support and mentorship to groups dedicated to getting dogs off chains. Contact: katrina.FencesForFido@gmail.com