While a new state law imposes limits and requirements for tethering your dog, Denton’s local ordinance on dog tethering remains stricter and requires owners to be around their tethered dog.
The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act went into effect Jan. 1 and set a statewide standard of care for animals left outdoors. It tackles tethering to try to prevent animals from hurting or killing themselves while tied up.
In Denton, an ordinance addressing dog tethering passed in 2020. A grace period of education lasted from February through the end of July 2021, and enforcement started in August.
“Our local law is more strict than the state law,” said Dorcas Johnson, the supervisor of animal services in Denton. “The state law, even the new updated one, does not require an owner to be attending to the dog when it’s left outside [tethered]. It simply requires that the dog has access to shelter, food and water and not [be] in sunlight.”
Tethered animals in Denton have to have their owners with them. Johnson said this is to protect the animal so they don’t accidentally strangle themselves with their chain. Johnson offered a myriad of ways a dog can tangle itself in its chains and get hurt.
Another dog running up to them can trigger a fight or flight response, or maybe someone else coming up to the dog can overstimulate them, and the owner won’t be there to intervene and calm their dog down.
Tethered animals can’t have collars or harnesses that choke, pinch or harm them, and animals can’t be attached to a chain or tether that weighs 10% or more than the animal’s body weight. The local ordinance also prohibits tethering any animal to the open bed of a pickup-style vehicle that’s open to the elements, unless it’s a trailer designed to transport livestock.
On top of the local ordinance, the new state law mandates that the length of a restraint be at least five times the length of the dog, or 10 feet. Violating the state law is a Class C misdemeanor, or a Class B misdemeanor if someone violates more than once.
Johnson said that since January 2021, animal services had received 119 calls about tethered animals. Three of those calls resulted in citations.
“When it comes to gaining compliance, we are successful at that,” she said. “Our officers are successful in educating the public, especially in breaking down the severity [of tethering].”
Those citations came after owners didn’t readjust during a warning period after animal services personnel were first alerted to the dog tethering.
Nicole Heyer, the lead animal services supervisor, said the animal control officers first try to help owners who are reported for unlawful tethering.
“They let them know what’s not permitted and give them some different alternatives, whether it’s a dog run or bringing the dog in when they’re not home and kenneling inside, and just giving them resources they can use as opposed to tethering.”
The citations for violating the tethering ordinance are rarely issued. Heyer said animal control officers try to work with owners as much as possible, and those citations have gone to those who weren’t willing to cooperate and find an alternative solution.
“We won’t give them a citation unless they won’t cooperate at all and they’re not wanting to move in either way,” she said. “If somebody had a setback in their time frame and they weren’t able to put those processes in place just yet, we will give them time.”
By Zaira Perez Staff Writer email@example.com ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @zairalperez.