Unlike in many other states, there is no state-level law in Texas addressing when and where dog owners need to keep their pets on leashes, nor will the state government step in to punish anyone who does not leash their dog while away from their private property. However, most major municipalities enforce leash laws at the local level, and Houston is no exception to that trend.
Violating leash laws in Houston can lead to significant consequences, potentially including the dog owner facing civil liability for any injuries their dog causes to another person while “running at large.” Here is a brief overview from our dog bite attorneys of what the law actually says and how it could be applied to Houston residents who fail to keep their pets under control.
What Does the Houston Code of Ordinances Say About Dog Leashes?
Under Houston Code of Ordinances § 6-3, both dog owners and anyone “having the right of possession” of a dog are required to make sure the animal does not “run at large” under any circumstances. As per § 6-1 of this Code, an animal is considered to be “running at large” if it can access public or private property—including if it is tied up in a way that allows it to access public streets or sidewalks—without being under the direct physical control of its owner or some third party who is supposed to be controlling the dog.
The only exceptions to this rule are if the dog is constrained within a fenced yard or cage on its owner’s private property or in a designated off-leash area in a dog park. Notably, Harris County regulations require anyone handling a dog in unincorporated areas outside the city limits of Houston to keep their pet on a leash at all times.
Possible Impacts of Violating Houston’s Leash Laws
A dog owner or handler whose dog injures another person while “running at large” will generally be held financially liable for any injuries and subsequent losses anyone experiences as a result of the attack. If the injured person did not provoke the dog into attacking them, the dog may be categorized as “dangerous” by city and county authorities, which comes with additional insurance requirements.
If a dog already deemed to be dangerous is then allowed to run at large again, the dog’s owner may be legally liable for ensuing injuries even if they were not negligent in allowing the dog to escape confinement. In this scenario, the dog owner may also be subject to additional fines and may be required to surrender the dog to be euthanized if it causes serious injuries or death. A Houston attorney can provide more insight into how violating leash laws may lead to civil and criminal liability.
A Houston Attorney Can Explain Leash Laws in More Detail
A dog ending up off its leash and running around outside of its owner’s control will not always result in the animal being euthanized or the owner facing any serious criminal penalties. However, if you were injured by a dog, proving that the dog’s owner violated leash laws in Houston may be crucial evidence when it comes to establishing liability for your injury-related losses.
Guidance is available from a seasoned and compassionate lawyer for both dog owners and people injured by dogs running at large. Call today to schedule a private consultation.