Texas law requires pets to be sheltered from the elements

Starting in January of 2022, Texas law now mandates that pets be provided with adequate shelter from the elements, including extreme cold and rain. Houstonians are fortunate in that we don’t often have to contend with freezing temperatures, but when they do hit our region they can wreak havoc on our lives.

Even with their fur coats, our pets still need protection from the cold weather. The safest and best thing we can do for our pets is to bring them inside when temperatures plummet. If your dog or cat isn’t usually an indoor pet, even a bathroom or a garage is better than leaving them exposed to the weather, especially overnight.

If there is absolutely no way to bring them in your home, then it is imperative that you provide an insulated structure with a roof, an elevated floor, and at least three sides to shelter your pets from wind and rain or snow. While blankets seem like a warm option, wet and cold can combine to make them dangerous to your pet’s body temperature. Straw (not hay!) is a cheap and readily available insulating option. Per the new law, the structure must have “dimensions that allow the dog while in the shelter to stand erect, sit, turn around, and lie down in a normal position.” (Read the entire law here.)

And of course, don’t forget about your livestock and farm animals. Fresh water must be provided at all times, so check troughs frequently for freezing and provide them shelter from the wind and rain. Make sure they have access to dry hay and a way to get out of any standing water.

So what happens if a pet is left exposed to dangerous weather?
Leaving a dog chained or failing to provide proper shelter is a Class C Misdemeanor. And thanks to the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, law enforcement can seize the pet immediately if they are in danger rather than having to wait 24 hours to allow the owner to comply.

What if it isn’t your pet who needs help?
If you see a pet who has been left to fend for themselves when the temperatures drop, please call 832-927-PAWS or submit a report online at 927paws.org.

If you have stray or feral cats in your neighborhood, you can either purchase or make your own insulated shelter to keep them safe and warm. Alley Cat Allies has a great resource with options at this link.

As always, while you’re looking out for the safety of animals please don’t forget about your human neighbors. Check on them and make sure they are safe from the cold, too.


Lisa Tynan