by ANDY SEVILLA
Special to the Hays Free Press
Kyle city council members seem poised to pass legislation that would prohibit tethering or chaining dogs, as a method of restraint, even though state law has prohibited it since 2007.
Kyle’s Animal Control Officer, Briana Brecher, said at Tuesday night’s workshop meeting that among the chief difficulties in enforcing the present state law is the inability to prove dogs are being chained or tethered for periods of time that exceed what state law allows. She said she sees about 20 tethered dogs on a regular basis, but that number could be higher.
Chapter 821 of the Texas Health and Safety Code states that a dog may not be tied outside for more than three hours in a 24-hour period, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., within 500 feet of a school, or in the case of extreme weather conditions.
Last year, in a split decision, council members opposed legislation that prohibited tethering or chaining dogs, but come September, that outcome may be reversed.
The council is tentatively scheduled to take up the matter for a vote at their September 18 meeting, after the city’s Safety Committee considers the tethering ordinance along with Brecher’s new recommendations.
“I felt like there was a general consensus on council tonight that we need to be doing more to protect animal welfare in Kyle,” said Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson. “There was a strong feeling that, at least from where I was sitting, that the council is willing to move forward and come up with some solutions and is generally positive about the tethering ordinance.”
Brecher suggested, in an email to council members, that Kyle’s ordinance should stay in line with San Marcos’ animal ordinance as it relates to spaying and neutering, as well as the timing of animals becoming animal shelter property after impoundment. Brecher also wants to increase the $100,000 liability insurance requirement for owners of dogs deemed dangerous, to update livestock legislation, and to do away with written warnings to straight citation for certain pet negligence situations.
Brecher, who is the city’s only animal control officer, told council members that although Kyle police, San Marcos police and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office sometimes lend her assistance, additional resources are necessary for dog restraint law enforcement, including the potential for a second animal control officer.
“Every year we would love to have the opportunity to hire new employees, but we have a very lean budget in Kyle, and hiring new employees is very expensive, and it means tax increases,” Johnson said. “We are doing our best right now to put together a balanced budget for the city for next year, and bring the best value to the citizens. While we would like to hire a second, or even a third, animal control officer, the reality is that we’re like any other government organization right now; it’s all we can do not to have to let people go.”
Johnson said that even if the city did hire more animal control officers, they would not “have the luxury of sitting around in someone’s private property just to be able to prove that they’re actually breaking state law.” Johnson said that although the state law is well intentioned, its unenforceability causes problems for local jurisdictions.