With the new Safe Outdoor Dogs Act in effect in Texas, El Paso city and county governments have programs that could help some dog owners who may be out of compliance.

The new law that took effect Tuesday, Jan. 18, bans the use of heavy chains for tethering outside dogs and mandates basic needs such as shelter, shade and clean water. The law also requires dog owners to protect their pets from inclement weather, which includes rain, hail, sleet, snow, high winds, extreme low temperatures or extreme high temperatures, by providing shelter.

Violations of the law are a Class C misdemeanor that carries a fine up to $500.

Ramon Herrera, the interim director for El Paso Animal Services, said while funding is limited, a program called the Resource Rovers can provide some necessities, including dog houses.

He said the city is also trying to educate the community on how to humanely tether their outdoor dogs with methods such as dog trolley systems that allow animals more ability to move around.

El Paso Animal Services demonstrates the use of a trolley system to restrain shelter resident Lola on Friday. The trolley system, approved under the Safe Outdoors Dogs Act, allows dogs a wide range of movement while restrained. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

“Oftentimes we’ll run into (instances) where we see that people — it’s not like they don’t care for their animals — they just may not be in compliance because they may just not have the resources,” he said.

Herrera said when animal protection officers see those situations, the city may be able to help provide pet owners with needed items through the Resource Rovers program.

“We do not have endless resources right now,” he said, adding he hopes to get more grant funding for the program.

The El Paso County Animal Welfare Department also offers help to some dog owners who may not be in compliance with the new law, but may not have the resources to make the proper changes.

Lauralei Combs, director of the county’s Animal Welfare Department, said the county uses grant funding in cases where animal welfare officers see that items such as dog houses may be needed. The department also offers education on how to humanely secure pets.

“Having an animal on a chain is just inhumane and the major reason why people do it is because they don’t have a fence,” Combs said. “(Chains are) really inexpensive, but chains belong on cars or trucks, not animals.”

Lauralei Combs, executive director of El Paso County Animal Welfare, explains the new statewide law that prohibits chaining dogs. Combs said that the county is prepared to assist pet owners to comply with the law. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Combs said the county also operates a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, although services are currently free.

Find help

Call (915) 212-7297 for more information about the city’s Resource Rovers program.

Call (915) 834-8250 for more information about El Paso County Animal Welfare resources.

Cover Photo: Ramon Herrera, interim director of Animal Services, attaches shelter resident Lola to a trolley tie system, while a stuffed husky demonstrates the now-illegal use of a chain restraint. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Elida S. Perez is a longtime community and investigative reporter. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper...