Many dogs and their owners are social creatures. They want to meet other pups and make new friends throughout the day. Two dogs can play together at the park while their owners also get to know each other.
However, not all dogs are friendly and eager to play. Some dogs experienced trauma in their past and they could become dangerous in certain circumstances. For example, one dog could bite another at the park or a dog could bite a human they do not trust. If you own a dog that injures another person or animal, you could be sued for damages related to the incident.
Know your responsibilities as a pet owner in Texas and take steps to protect yourself and your furry friends. Here are your legal obligations to keep your community safe if you keep a dog in your home.
Dog Rights: Your Responsibilities If You Are A Pet Owner
Having a canine companion can be a wonderful experience. They provide emotional support and unconditional love that lasts for years. However, these animals can even be considered legally entitled to certain basic rights, and still come with responsibilities. These include:
- Providing lifelong care to the pet, including food, drinking water, exercise, shelter and medical care.
- Choosing a pet that is well-suited to your home and lifestyle so they have a good life.
- Keeping up with local licensing and tagging requirements so the animal is easily identified.
- Investing in care to prevent the spread of illness to your animal and others in your community—like fleas, rabies and worms.
- Following proper waste disposal guidelines in your community, like picking up after your dog when they poop in your neighbor’s yard.
- Preventing your pet from negatively impacting other people, such as using a muzzle so they don’t bite others or teaching them not to bark excessively.
Many of these responsibilities come with legal recourse if they are not followed. The City of Austin has animal waste laws, while Houston has nuisance laws because of continued barking and howling. Not following your responsibilities as a dog owner could lead to fines or confiscation of the animal, especially if you are found guilty of animal cruelty.
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Important Laws To Know About
Laws about pet ownership vary by state, city and neighborhood. Your homeowner’s association or apartment complex might have rules that go a step further than local laws. However, many laws are similar across the country and are meant to protect both animals and humans.
Research local laws in your area so you are familiar with your obligations as a dog owner. Here are a few common laws that you are most likely to encounter.
Dog bite laws
Dog bites are one of the most common injuries caused by pets. There are more than 4.5 million dog bites each year in the United States and 800,000 people receive medical attention for their injuries. At least half of people bitten by dogs are children.
There are multiple dog bite laws in place to protect victims and owners. The type of bite laws you need to follow will depend on your area. Here are a few city ordinances you may need to follow.
- Dog bite statutes: In most cases, the owner is responsible for any damage a dog causes, including bodily harm through a bite.
- The “one bite” rule: This law states that the owner is not liable for the first bite that a dog inflicts. The dog isn’t labeled vicious at that time and doesn’t have a pattern of biting behavior. This provides a grace period for accidents and provocation. However, if the dog bites again, this becomes a problem. Not all states have this rule and your dog could be labeled aggressive after the first bite.
- Negligence laws: An owner might be held liable if they were negligent in controlling the dog. For example, if the owner did not use a leash when walking their dog and the dog ran after a child, the owner was negligent. They could face a dog bite lawsuit because of their poor animal control.
- Trespassing: Some states have laws that state the owner is not liable if a dog bites a trespasser. For example, a guard dog might bite an intruder who is trying to break into a house.
Dog owners can prevent bites in most cases. They can handle their dogs carefully and understand their personalities and needs. If a dog is getting worked up or stressed, it’s up to the owner to take them out of a bad situation. In the case that a dog owner does not control their dog and you are bitten, contact a personal injury attorney at Zinda Law Group for a free consultation to determine your next steps.
Leash laws provide guidelines for keeping dogs restrained when they are out in public. Texas does not have statewide leash laws, but many cities and counties do.
For example, Austin has several off-leash areas in the form of dog parks. Dogs can run around and play until it’s time to leave—when they need to be restrained on a leash. The city of Austin explains that the leash law is a safety law for other dogs and humans, to prevent attacks but also a way to protect local wildlife.
Depending on your local ordinances, you will need to keep your dog on a leash and use a muzzle or harness if they are considered aggressive.
If someone violates your local leash law and you are offended, you would only contact a personal injury attorney if the dog bites you. However, if you aren’t bitten, you could still contact animal control or the police.
Vaccinations, licensing and identification
Many animal laws are meant to protect residents and pets across a community. Counties have laws where pets are required to have up-to-date vaccinations, be microchipped with owner information and maintain valid registration with the local municipality. These laws limit the spread of disease across animal communities while also helping counties understand the dog population in the area.
In some regions, like Dallas, licensing and identification laws are considered “Fix It Tickets,” which means an owner who violates these rules can fix the issue and submit the correction instead of going before a judge. The goal isn’t to financially penalize owners, but rather to make sure their animals are safe and that the rights of dogs are safeguarded. If you lose your dog, their microchip could help them return to you faster than you realize.
As is the case with leash laws and rules pertaining to specific dog breeds, you would only contact a personal injury lawyer if an unvaccinated, unlicensed dog bites you.
Some regions have breed-specific legislation where owners cannot possess certain breeds that are considered aggressive. For example, many ordinances ban the ownership of pit bulls or Rottweilers.
However, Texas is one of several states that bans breed-specific laws (BSLs). The ASPCA speaks out against these laws because they cause more harm to animals than good. They do not reduce dog bites because any breed can be aggressive.
While you might not have BSLs at a county or city level in your area, you might live in an apartment or neighborhood that has breed restrictions. You might be limited by the type of dogs you have and their size. These are legal because you are living on private land.
Keep in mind that if a particular breed is banned in your location, the only time you would contact a personal injury attorney is if a dog of that breed bites you.
How To Find Legal Help
Pet laws can be complicated, especially when you are dealing with multiple jurisdictions. You might not know whether you need to follow city or county laws if someone says you are violating animal care and safety guidelines or if you are a victim of animal neglect.
The nature of pet laws in Texas is such that a dog bite is the only type of incident for which you would have recourse to contact a personal injury attorney.
You should immediately contact a lawyer if you are bitten by a dog. A legal professional can help you understand your rights and document your injuries so they are covered. Dog bite lawyers can help with mediation and increase your chances of getting compensated for your injuries. They can also make it easier to navigate the legal and insurance processes so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.
If you have any other issues with a dog, or someone has problems with your pet, also speak with a legal professional who is well-versed in that particular issue. You might be able to take steps to protect yourself, your animals and your community from harm with the proper support.