MIDLAND, Texas — A new state law went into effect Tuesday, and many animal advocates think it will help keep dogs safe and healthy.
The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act will ensure that animals have enough shelter and that they are are free of being tethered by heavy chains. Owners who do not provide these for their dogs could be looking at criminal charges.
Many people keep their dogs outdoors, either in a fenced-in yard or restrained in some form.
"Making sure that tethered animals have adequate shelter, which we do provide the dog barrels stuffed with straw, adequate food, adequate water and adequate care," said Karen Patterson, the President of Fix West Texas.
The new law requires that dogs that live outside have shelter to protect themselves against the elements. Water and food must also be provided for the pups outside.
Dogs are also not to be tethered by chains, which can be dangerous. They can still be tethered, but it must be done properly with a correctly attached collar or harness.
"Its about tethering and chaining, when you can, when you can't, how you can, how you can't," said Patterson. "The most important thing to Fix West Texas is that our local pets don't suffer."
Law enforcement can now take immediate action if they see a dog in distress, whereas before there was a 24 hour warning period.
"It definitely provides actual consequences for habitual offenders, or people that are just not changing their ways," said Patterson. "It definitely equips our law enforcement with some tools they can use."
If someone does break these laws, they could be looking at receiving a Class C misdemeanor, with hefty charges for repeat offenders. However, it's important not to overwhelm the law enforcement system, so the first step might just be offering help.
"Things that we can do as neighbors, friends, coworkers, is go by and just ask, 'hey do you need some help? Noticed your dog is tethered, the laws just changed, how can we help you?'," said Patterson.
If someone is continually not complying to the new law, you can call law enforcement.
"I would only encourage calling the police or animal control if you have approached your neighbor in a kind-hearted manner wanting to help, and they're resistant to that," said Patterson.
This law will help in making sure animals, especially dogs outside, are treated properly.
"I think this really going to provide forward momentum and social change on how we treat our local animals," said Patterson.
If you have a dog that mostly stays outside and you need some help providing for it, you can contact Fix West Texas to get some necessary supplies.