TYLER, Texas — Texas' new tethering law is now in effect making the unlawful restraint of a dog a criminal offense.
Deborah Dobbs, president and founder of the SPCA of East Texas, says this will help paint a clearer picture for law enforcement and animal control officers when it comes to taking appropriate action against violators.
“One of the biggest hurdles has been the confusion and the vagueness about what’s considered appropriate confinement, appropriate shelter, appropriate care for the animals,” said Dobbs.
The biggest change is the ban of chains and heavy weights as restraints which Dobbs explains are common in dog fighting.
“What has been used historically, and tragically, for dog fighting is tow chains and logging chains," Dobbs said. "Chains that I can’t even pick up. Chains that one dog would have to wear around its neck for its entire life to reach its food, its water and its shelter.”
Tethering or restraining a dog is not illegal, as long as it is done in a humane way.
The new law, also known as the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, will enforce requirements such as having adequate shelter for the animal that allows it room to sit or stand in a normal position with access to food and clean water.
Dobbs says even with the newer guidelines rural areas are facing the issue of staffing needs.
“Numerous counties have no animal control," Dobbs said. "The only people they can call on is there local law enforcement or constables.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the SPCA of East Texas and Smith County Animal Control were called out to a location that was holding approximately 70 dogs on one property.
Smith County Constable Josh Joplin also responded to the call.
“Unfortunately in this situation where we are out today, they have shelter but the dogs are facing malnourishment, they’re facing disease problems, issues with not being fed proper," said Joplin. "There’s many situations on this property today that we’re dealing with and all of them are different."
The SPCA and local law enforcement will have information on how to report animal cruelty cases and information on the new law going into effect.
If you do not have animal control, contact your local constable, sheriff's office or police dept.