We may still be waiting on an answer to the age-old question of who let the dogs out but the passing of Texas Senate Bill 5 will give us clear ideas of how to legally keep them in. 

Taking effect on January 18, 2022, SB5 will add specific new regulations for restraining your four-legged friends and violations of these rules 

Aimed at the well-being of dogs generally kept outdoors, SB5 added new definitions to Chapter 821 of the Health and Safety Code which defines “Adequate Shelter”. 

The new rule states that a sturdy structure must provide the dog protection from inclement weather and with dimensions that allow the dog while in the shelter to stand erect (on all fours), sit, turn around, and lie down in a normal position. Inclement weather includes rain, hail, sleet, snow, high winds, extreme low or high temperatures.

Rusk County Sheriff John Wayne Valdez pointed out that items such as camper shells might still be defined as adequate shelter, the breed of dog will determine whether these turn into a citable offense. 

“If you’ve got a Welsh Corgi, that dog can walk in and out of a camper top, turn around, stand up, and do the hokey pokey in that thing,” Valdez said jokingly, “but if it’s a Great Dane you better put it on stilts.” 

The newly added language specifically relating to extreme low and high temperatures sets the bar a bit higher with regard to the quality of your dog’s domicile. 

Texas summers have always posed a threat to our outdoor animals but the bitterly cold winter weather we’ve witnessed more recently might call for some upgrades to your pooch’s palace. 

One often-used, cost-effective trick to combat the cold is to lay thick beds of hay in your dog’s house. The hay acts as insulation, holding in the dog’s radiant heat. Sealing up gaps in the construction of the house will add to its ability to protect from cold winds and chilly temperatures. 

When temperatures soar, as they will, be sure to allow your animals to have a shaded area to escape the sun’s rays and a constant supply of clean, drinkable water. 

Another update added by SB5 is the specifics regarding the unlawful restraint of a dog. 

Restraint is defined as a chain, rope, tether, leash, cable, or other devices that attach a dog to a stationary object or trolley system.

Under SB5, an owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of restraint unless the owner provides the dog access to adequate shelter, an area that allows the dog to avoid standing water and exposure to excessive animal waste, shade from direct sunlight, and potable water. All restraints must be five times longer than the length of the dog from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail, or 10 feet, and under no circumstance can an owner use a chain as a restraint. 

“I’ve already had questions regarding chains and even though I understand there are dogs that will chew through almost anything, a chain will still be illegal,” said Valdez. 

While ropes are easily destroyed by a determined dog, a good substitution for a cumbersome and unlawful chain is vinyl-coated steel cables. These lightweight alternatives can be found at most local big box, farm supply, and home improvement stores. 

Sheriff Valdez wants the citizens of Rusk County to know that he continues to take every aspect of his job seriously and these new laws will be enforced. 

“These are all classified as Class C misdemeanors and are a citable offense,” said Sheriff Valdez. “I’ve instructed my deputies that initial contact about these violations will receive a warning, but if people continue to ignore the law, I will put people in jail over this. I don’t want it to come to that, but I will enforce the law.” 

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