On August 7, the Texas Legislature entered its second Special Session of 2021. Governor Abbott’s proclamation to convene the special session identified 17 agenda items for the legislature to consider, none of which involve dog-related issues. Nevertheless House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 78, relating to the tethering of dogs, have been filed.
Both HB 17 and SB 78 are the latest attempts at enacted updated tethering provisions in Texas. During the 2021 regular legislative session, tethering legislation, SB 474, was passed by both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Abbott on the grounds that Texas already has animal cruelty statutes that outlaw cruel treatment.
Soon after adjournment of the regular session, the first special legislative session was convened under a similar proclamation to the current (second) special session. Tethering legislation was also filed during the first special session as House Bill 163. That bill was never considered.
Not companion bills, HB 17 and SB 78 differ in their provisions. While HB 17 would prohibit leaving dogs outside and unattended by use of a restraint absent certain acceptable exceptions, SB 78 would not permit a dog to be left outside and unattended by use of a restraint unless the owner provides the dog with adequate shelter, an area that allows the dog to avoid standing water, shade from direct sunlight, and potable water. Additionally, SB 78 would prohibit use of such restraints that are a chain; has weights attached; is shorter than five times the length of the dog or 10 feet, whichever is greater; is not attached to a properly fitted collar or harness; or causes pain or injury to the dog. SB 78 also provides many exceptions, including: for dogs tethered in a public camping or recreational area; tethering while the owner is engaged or training for activities conducted under a valid state license; tethering used while related to the business of shepherding, herding cattle or livestock, or cultivating agricultural products; and tethering while an owner engages in, or is training for, hunting or field trialing. Neither bill prohibits individuals from walking a dog with a handheld leash. SB 78 does not prohibit the use of restraints connected to trolley systems.
While neither bill is expected to receive any consideration during the second special session, the American Kennel Club’s Government Relations Department (AKC GR) continues to monitor HB 17 and SB 78, and will provide updates should developments warrant. For more information, contact AKC GR at email@example.com.