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Let’s Talk about Animal Paw-licies!

Pet ownership has been on the rise lately, with up to 67% of households owning a pet, according to a national survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2018. In Texas, the statistics are slightly lower, with 58.2% owning a pet, the majority being dogs and cats. Though pet ownership may be high, there has unfortunately been an increase in stray animals throughout Texas. For example, Houston’s BARC animal shelter reported over 1 million stray pets in 2017 alone. While we all love our furry friends, it is important cities understand what tools they have at their disposal to help control the number of strays running at large. Fortunately, the legislature has granted municipalities quite a bit of power to regulate animals within their jurisdiction, but we will focus on registration for today.

Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter §826.031 allows a municipality to require registration of all dogs and cats within its city limits. In addition, municipalities may collect and retain a fee to help defray the cost of enforcing the local ordinances. Registration serves many purposes but most importantly, it creates a record for the city to know precisely how many dogs and cats are in their city and to whom they belong.

The easiest way to register dogs and cats is with microchips. Unlike a tag, which can be lost or attached to the wrong pet, a microchip will stay in place and with the right pet. While there are expenses in microchipping and registering animals, they can be easily recouped through registration fees. Additionally, under Texas Health and Safety Code §823.004, all animal shelters and releasing agencies, must scan all incoming strays “as soon as practicable” for microchips.

Since any city who operates an animal shelter is required to purchase a scanner if they did not already have one, the scanner might as well be put to good use through helping animals find their way back home by requiring a microchip at the time of registration. Any person who fails to register an animal may be issued a Class C Misdemeanor. Under state law, an animal is required to be vaccinated for rabies; if they are not, a city cannot register the animal. If a person refuses to vaccinate the animal, they can also be cited for a Class C Misdemeanor. Since State law already requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats, some sort of recorded keeping system should already be in place. Adding registration to the mix would not greatly further burden the city.

Registration is one way a city can regulate animals, but there are other options available to a city. The goal is always to get the pet back home to its original owners, or alternatively, to help it find a new home. Chances are, a pet will make a run for it at some point in time, and if they do, having registration in place and enforced can help decrease the cost to the city when rounding up strays and boarding them, as well as increasing the likelihood of pets returning home safely.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our commercial and business litigation practice can be found here.

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