House Bill 1156 would regulate owners who tether dogs, which is pictured. (Laura Skelding/Austin American-Statesman)
A Republican lawmaker has filed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to chain up a dog in Texas.
State Rep. Sarah Davis, of West University Place, has filed House Bill 1156 which would prohibit a person from tethering a dog outside with a chain or with a restraint that has weights or is shorter than five times the length of the dog. Under the measure, a dog can be restrained to a stationary object only if the dog has access to adequate shelter, shade and water and if the area is dry.
The bill was heard on Tuesday before the House Public Health Committee.
Davis told her colleagues that the law is confusing and allows abusive owners to receive multiple warnings before they're penalized.
"There is actually record of no one ever being cited because it is so difficult to enforce. So because of the difficulty, abusive dog owners are able to repeatedly offend without any repercussions," Davis said.
The bill would not interfere with cities or counties that have more restrictive tethering regulations.
Davis said on Tuesday that she opposes tethering altogether but her bill gives five exceptions that would allow a dog to be restrained. Those exceptions include if a camp site requires a dog to be restrained and if the dog is restrained during training for a valid license issued by the state, herding livestock or helping in "cultivating agricultural products" and is left in an open-air truck temporarily.
Anyone who violates the law would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which brings a fine up to $500.
About half a dozen people, many from law enforcement agencies, testified in support of the bill on Tuesday, saying that the bill would keep dogs from dying on the end of ropes and chains.
However, some organizations that advocate for hunting, fishing and trapping rights are concerned that the bill would unfairly affect law-abiding dog owners.
"Rather than a one-size-fits-all law that criminalizes dog owners, it would be better to judge a tethered dog by the totality of care provided and its health. House Bill 1156 makes things easier for law enforcement, but will criminalize law-abiding dog owners with healthy, well-cared for dogs," Luke Houghton with the Ohio-based Sportsmen's Alliance, said on the group's website.
As of Tuesday morning, the bill was left pending in the committee.