There are no specific laws in Texas that prohibit a dog owner leaving his dog outside in cold weather unless he's tied up. However, leaving your dog outside in freezing conditions may leave you open to a citation under animal cruelty laws.
Release the Beast
Texas prohibits chaining your dog outside in cold weather only if his tether is less than 10 feet long or less than five times his body length. The law specifies that weather is too cold for this treatment if it is actually or effectively 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This means you'll need to factor in wind chill if you plan to tie your dog out on a short tether. A 40 degree temperature plus 15 mile per hour winds create an effective temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, for instance.
There are exceptions to the rule, such as dogs tied at campgrounds, where leash requirements are usually 6 feet or less. Dogs tied on a tether longer than the minimum time specified in the law are also exempt. If you are breaking the law, a law enforcement officer will issue you a citation giving you 24 hours to remedy the situation. Failing to do so is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Repeat offenders may wind up with a Class B misdemeanor, which opens them to fines of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.
Don't Be Cruel
While Texas cruelty laws don't specifically address cold weather, they require that an animal has enough food, water and shelter to maintain good health. If your pet looks haggard, or if he has has frozen water or insufficient shelter, you could face animal cruelty charges. Should a judge decide you're guilty of animal cruelty, your dog may be taken away from you permanently. A first offense of animal cruelty is a Class A misdemeanor, meaning you could get a year in jail and a fine up to $4,000. If you're convicted twice of animal cruelty in Texas, you'll level up to felony status on your third offense. You can receive up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Keeping Dogs Cozy
Bring your dog indoors when weather dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside. If your dog must be outside, provide adequate shelter and nutrition to keep him in good health and to avoid being cited for animal cruelty.
- Shelter - The type of shelter you'll need in winter varies depending on where you live in the state. In northern areas such as Amarillo, a heated or insulated dog house will keep your dog toasty during blizzard weather. In the southern part of the state, winter nights may not dip down to freezing, but your dog still needs sufficient protection from wind and rain.
- Food - Your dog burns extra calories during cold weather, so provide extra protein to supply his energy needs. Your dog's ribs or spine shouldn't be visible from a distance; they should be covered by a thin layer of fat. If you're having a hard time feeling your dog's ribs through his fat, you're probably overfeeding him.
- Water - A dog can't get enough hydration if his water freezes. Keep water thawed by putting a heated dog bowl in his enclosure. If electricity isn't available near his shelter, use black buckets or place a large pan inside a black tire to help warm the water during daylight hours. Check your dog's water several times daily, and break surface ice.
- Tie-Outs - If providing your dog a fenced area or kennel is impractical, make sure he has plenty of room to move around on his tether and that it's at least 10 feet long. Use a runner to give the dog some pacing space. Don't restrain your dog with a prong collar or choke chain when he's tied out; these are for controlling the pet on walks.
If you witness a dog living in cruel conditions, report it to your local humane society or animal welfare agency.