Smith County Animal Control is seeing an increase in calls as the new Dog Restraint Act goes into effect

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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – A new Texas dog protection law is now in effect. On Tuesday, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act went into effect.

The new law prohibits the use of chain restraints for dogs outdoors, but allows other restraints such as cable ties or trolley systems. The law also requires dogs to have adequate shelter and access to drinking water when outdoors.

And perhaps the most significant change, the law eliminates the old 24-hour warning period, which in some cases meant the difference between life and death for a dog in distress.

“We’ve already had half a dozen calls and three emails about dogs being chained outside,” Smith County Animal Welfare Superintendent Amber Greene said around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Aside from the dogs barking in kennels, the phone ringing at the Smith County office and shelter was almost constant.

“We work on a complaint basis, so the incoming calls come up on the screen and officers have to go out and take them as soon as possible,” Greene said. “And of course I have four animal officers for 964 square miles, so it’s going to take a little while – but we’re coming as fast as we can.”

With the law banning chain restraint systems, Greene also recommends other secure restraint methods such as cable ties or trolley systems.

“They can chew through lines and ropes and things like that,” she said.

The law also clearly requires and defines adequate shelter and potable water.

“Three sides and a roof and where the animal can stand up and turn around lays down in a natural position,” she said. “And potable water is water they can drink, not just a puddle on the floor.”

Greene officials are focusing on education rather than enforcement as people become more familiar with the law, but she says those who don’t follow the new law will soon face consequences.

“The first offense will be a Class C misdemeanor, which allows animal control officers to write that subpoena, but if they violate it again and are issued another subpoena, it will be a Class B misdemeanor, which only law enforcement can write.” “

And it’s that last bit of enforcement that makes things difficult for Greene’s animal control officers, who aren’t licensed peace officers. That means they have to call the sheriff’s office or police officers for help. Greene hoped to prevent this increased need for assistance by asking county commissioners in December to send her and all Smith County animal control officers to the police academy. The commissioners eventually decided to send only Greene and one other officer.

“Which if we were all peace officers we could deal with it right away and not have to expend resources.”

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said Jan. 11 that while front-end costs would be borne by the East Texas Councils of Government, back-end costs would be incurred related to the equipment and time off required during the officers were in training. It was this reasoning that prevented the commissioners from fully complying with Greene’s request. However, the commissioners said they were ready to consider the motion after Greene and the officer-elect visited the academy.

CONNECTED:

+ Smith County commissioners partially agree to request to send animal control officers to police academy

+ Smith County Animal Control Proposes Program to Send Officers to Police Academy

+ New “outside dog” rules apply to East Texans

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