The Coppell City Council further clarified the proposed dog tethering ordinance at its March 23 meeting.
Following its previous discussion March 9, Police Chief Danny Barton presented changes to the proposed tethering ordinance that would better clarify what would and would not be allowed.
“We’ve had several citizens over several years reaching out to the PD expressing their desire to have a tethering ordinance,” Barton said.
The current Coppell ordinance categorizes all animal-related offenses as Class C misdemeanors punishable up to $500. These misdemeanors are applied to violations of the leash law, dangerous dogs and animal care violations. The state’s tethering law is included in the Class C misdemeanors. However, items related to animal abuse are referred to the Texas Penal Code as Class A misdemeanors and felonies.
“When we see abuse – when dogs are tethered for long periods of time, dogs are left in hot cars – we turn to the Texas Penal Code,” Barton said. “It is very, very robust and very broad because it has a lot more impact.”
Barton said the city has experienced virtually no cases of animal abuse except for one reported last year.
Residents advocating for a tethering ordinance suggested pulling from the Dallas tethering ordinance, which requires the tethered dog be in the owner's immediate possession and accompanied by the owner. Additionally, the owner cannot tether the dog in any way that allows the dog to become entangled or injured, it has to be fixed to a properly fitted harness or collar that is specifically designed for the dog and attach the tethering device to the dog's harness or collar and not directly to the dog's neck.
Residents also suggested limiting the allowed time to tether a dog from three hours, as stated by the Texas law, to one hour within a 24-hour period.
In addition to the fine for violators of the proposed tethering ordinance, Councilman John Jun suggested a possible education program given by the court, so residents better understand the ordinance.
“When our officers or the animal services officers get the call, these things are typically educational,” Barton said. “With the one dog who started this discussion, we had to go out and educate the owners a couple times because they just didn’t know the law, but they immediately rectified the situation.”
Barton said he would approach the court with the possibility of an education program if tethering became an issue, but he does not foresee that happening.
Barton and members of the council also recommended changes regarding specifics of the ordinance. The current Texas law defines a collar specifically as nylon, leather or similar material. The council recommended changing the language for the city ordinance to say “non-metallic” or “no chain.” Additionally, language regarding extreme weather was also addressed to reduce confusion.
“The simpler, the better,” Barton said. “If citizens go out and read ordinances, they get confused. When the officer shows up and says, ‘you need to untether your dog’ we might get into some contention.”
The ordinance will undergo further discussion in future council meetings.