Unlike other states, Texas establishes no statewide rules regarding when, where, or how dog owners should control their pets. Instead, various city and county municipal codes fill this gap in the state code by establishing and enforcing their leash laws, including laws regarding what dogs may be “dangerous” and what requirements may fall on those owners.
Understanding leash laws in Houston can be vital to know whether you have grounds to file suit over injuries caused by a dog bite and what strategy can help you pursue your claim. A skilled dog bite lawyer at Roberts Markland LLP could explain these laws to you in detail during a consultation and help determine who was at fault for an incident.
According to Houston Code of Ordinances §6-3, it is incumbent upon the owner of a domesticated dog—as well as any person “having the right of possession” over the animal—to ensure that their pet is not allowed to “run at large.”
This concept means that owners in Houston cannot knowingly or negligently allow their dog to escape its enclosure, roam without a leash on, or otherwise be outside their direct physical control at any time while off their personal property unless at an established off-leash site like a dog park. Harris County regulations likewise require dog owners and handlers to keep pets restrained while in any unincorporated area in the county.
Under Houston CoO §6-151, which references definitions provided under Texas Health and Safety Code §822.041, a “dangerous dog” is one that causes bodily harm to a human being without provocation while outside of a secure enclosure or one that has committed “unprovoked acts” outside a secure location in such a way that another person believes the canine is about to attack them. However, an attack is not considered “unprovoked” if the dog was protecting itself, its kennel, its food, or its nursing offspring, or if it attacks in direct response to an injury or any torment or abuse from someone.
If a court in Houston determines that a dog is “dangerous” in accordance with Houston CoO §6-153, the owner must—among other requirements set out under Houston CoO §6-154—have the dog microchipped and confine the animal to their property in a “secure enclosure” that is locked, at least six feet tall, capable of preventing the animal from escaping and preventing other people from entering, and clearly marked with a “dangerous dog” sign. They must also keep the dog muzzled and leashed on a maximum six-foot lead and have it in their control while the dog is outside that enclosure.
Any dog owner who fails to follow local laws regarding the control and management of their dangerous dog and allows that dog to roam at large may be subject to criminal prosecution—punishable by a fine of between $500 and $2,000 per day—as well as civil liability for any injury that dog causes while uncontrolled. Civil liability may also apply to any dog owner whose dog is not dangerous but negligently fails to use reasonable care to prevent the dog from biting someone else.
How leash laws in Houston may be applied can vary somewhat from case to case. A seasoned attorney could answer any questions you have about these rules or a possible civil lawsuit during a private consultation. Call today.