What To Know About Dog Laws In Texas
Our four-legged friends aren’t always so friendly when they are left loose in unfamiliar situations, or tied up uncomfortably. If a dog bites another person or pet, or they are restrained in a manner not compliant with Texas law, their owner could face legal trouble and fines, even if they intended no harm.
Responsibilities of a Dog Owner in Texas
Texas does not have a statewide “leash law” requiring dogs to be leashed while off their property, although many municipalities and counties do. It is important to know what your local area’s rules are before letting your dog roam unattended. Violations of local leash laws could result in misdemeanor criminal charges or fines in some cases. Under Houston’s municipal code for dogs, for example, a dog may not be allowed to “run at large” on public or private property without the owner having “direct control” of the animal. Harris County, meanwhile, has its own dog ordinance requiring that all dogs be “kept under restraint” while in unincorporated areas of the county.
These are strict liability laws, in general, meaning that an owner can be liable even if they did not mean for the dog to “run at large” under the code. For example, if a dog gets loose and causes damage to another person, their dog, or livestock, the owner can face penalties even if they didn’t know their dog was “at large”.
Dog Restraint Laws in Texas
Texas enacted a new law in January 2022, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, which is incorporated within Sec. 821.102 of the Texas Health and Safety Codes. These new provisions require that a dog cannot be left unattended outside without:
- Adequate shelter and shade from the sun (previously not required by law)
- Access to drinkable water (previously not required by law)
- Freedom from standing water or excessive animal waste
Additionally, the law bars the use of chains or chained weights to restrain a dog, or the use of improperly fitted harnesses or collars. Tie-outs or other lawful restraints must be at least 10 feet long, or 5 times the length of the dog itself.
Violations of dog restraint laws under this section can be charged as a Class C Misdemeanor, or a Class B Misdemeanor if the owner has a prior offense.
The new law also does away with the 24-hour warning period that dog owners were previously entitled to. Now, if a violation is reported, the owner can be immediately cited by law enforcement.
When to Call an Attorney About Violations of Dog Restraint Laws or Ordinances in Texas
Violations of dog ordinances and laws are not to be taken lightly in Texas. Dog owners can be ticketed, fined, and even charged with misdemeanor crimes if their dog runs loose or is not restrained within the definitions under the updated Texas laws. Even if you are facing a violation, you might have a reasonable explanation for the alleged offense. It could also be the case that your dog was properly restrained but there was some type of misunderstanding involved.
Our Legal Team Can Help If You Are Accused of a Dog-Related Offense or Violation
Whatever the circumstances may be, a Pearland criminal defense lawyer at Keith B. French Law will meet with you to discuss the facts involved in your situation and make sure you are not admitting to an offense you did not commit. To learn more, don’t hesitate to contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC online or call 832-243-6153 today.