December 9, 2020
Originally published in the North Texas e-News
By Jamey Cantrell, President of Texas Animal Control Association (TACA)
Currently, Texas state law attempts to define the standards of shelter for animals that are left outdoors. However, the law is not working as intended, which means that countless animals suffer in extreme conditions. Dogs left outside in such situations become aggressive and agitated, desperate for shelter and relief from the elements. They will often lash out at anyone who comes near, and especially at unsuspecting children who don’t understand the dire circumstances. In fact, chained dogs have proven to be more dangerous to people than packs of free-roaming dogs, with three fatal attacks occurring across Texas in 2018 alone.
What’s worse, law enforcement cannot intervene in this kind of cruelty due to the current law requiring a mandatory warning before taking action. This warning stays in effect for twenty-four hours and is required each time, even for the same dog outside on the same chain day after day. In short, the situation is never actually resolved until a tragedy has struck either a community member or the animal itself.
The Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) has been working since 2015 to clarify the current law and ensure Texas keeps outdoor dogs safe – safe for them and safe for us. During the upcoming legislative session beginning in January, THLN is more dedicated than ever to passing “safe outdoor dogs” legislation. Senator Eddie Lucio is again authoring the bill in the Senate, while Representative Nicole Collier is authoring the bill in the House, with bill numbers forthcoming.
The bill will focus on accomplishing two main goals: first, to establish basic standards of shelter and restraint for dogs left outside so that owners can easily comply; and second, to remove the never-ending cycle of warning periods to allow law enforcement to intervene in a bad situation before tragedy strikes.
The bill is not meant to prevent dog owners from restraining their dogs outside, nor is it meant to unreasonably burden owners by dictating how they must keep their animals. It is intended to ensure that a dog has the proper care and shelter to prevent it from becoming a danger to society while mitigating the unnecessary suffering of a living animal.
THLN is confident in the prospect of passing this legislation during the upcoming session with the continued support of Texas residents and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. During the 2019 legislative session, THLN garnered bipartisan support for the bill and was poised to pass this commonsense reform into law. However, in the eleventh hour, a single legislator killed the bill in a procedural maneuver on the House floor.
Nearly two years later, we finally have another chance to pass safe outdoor dogs legislation during the 2021 legislative session. Whether it's animals suffering outside in the hot Texas summers or the cold North Texas winters, it’s time for Texas to get this legislation done and protect residents and dogs from the dire consequences of inhumane outdoor restraint. To help pass safe outdoor dogs legislation, encourage your representatives to support the bill. Get started by visiting thln.org.
Jamey Cantrell is the President of the Texas Animal Control Association and has worked in every aspect of the sheltering profession in various Texas cities for over 25 years