When frigid weather approaches in North Texas, we like to remind people to protect the four P’s: people, pipes, plants and pets.
Did you know it’s illegal in Texas to leave your pet outside in freezing conditions without adequate shelter, food, and water? It’s considered animal cruelty and it can carry jail time and fines.
Here’s a look at the laws and potential punishments, as well as tips for keeping pets safe in winter weather.
Featured image: Little Annie is cozy under the covers. (Credit: VS Attorney Alex Thornton)
In Texas, there are actually several laws that would make it illegal to leave a pet outside in extreme weather. They include cruelty to non-livestock animals and unlawful restraint of a dog. Some cities also have specific ordinances in place to protect pets in extreme weather conditions.
→ Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals: Under Texas Penal Code 42.092, a person commits cruelty to a non-livestock animal if he or she fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care or shelter; abandons an animal in their custody; confines or transports an animal in a cruel manner, injures someone else’s animal, or overworks an animal. Abandoning a dog or cat in freezing temperatures without adequate food, water or shelter would certainly violate this law.
Cruelty to a non-livestock animal is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine. If the conviction is a third offense, it is a state jail felony, punishable by up to 2 years in a state jail facility and a maximum $10,000 fine.
→Unlawful Restraint of a Dog: Under Texas law, a pet owner “may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog’s movement” when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. The law doesn’t just apply to cold weather. It also applies to heat advisories, tornado warnings, hurricanes and tropical storm.
Unlawful restraint of a dog is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine, unless the owner has a previous conviction in which case it is elevated to a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to $180 days in jail and a $2000 fine.
→City Ordinance Violations: Many cities have a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to protecting pets and have specific ordinances in place. For example, in San Antonio, pet owners must provide suitable shelters for a pet – including walls, a roof, and elevated floor – or face a $300 fine.
Sadly, this time last year, Texas was bracing itself for Snowmaggedon, the great Texas snow storm of 2021. More than 246 people died in that February storm, which took down much of the state’s power grid. Pets were also among the casualties.
Here are some basic tips for keeping pets safe during winter weather:
If you see a pet left in the cold or other extreme conditions without food or shelter, contact your local law enforcement or animal control agency. For non-emergency situations, complaints may also be filed online through the SPCA of Texas website.
Leaving a dog outside in the frigid temperatures will definitely land you in the doghouse – and quite possibly, behind bars. If you or a loved one is facing an animal cruelty charge, it’s imperative to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. While it is illegal to leave pets outside in snow or cold in many situations, it doesn’t always cross the line to animal cruelty. Call 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with a member of our team.