LUBBOCK, Texas — Senate Bill 5, otherwise known as the Safe Outdoor Dog Act, went into effect yesterday after it passed in the legislature in October and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law.

Jessica Smith, the Field Supervisor with Lubbock Animal Services, said the law is a step in the right direction.

“I highly believe this will help the safety and welfare of all dogs,” Smith said. “We feel that it’s better for them in the long run, even if the owners don’t quite understand.”

Under the new law, owners must provide their dogs with adequate shelter and proper collars, which are specifically designed for dogs’ necks.

“The tether does have to be attached to a collar that is fitted to the dog where it can’t just come off,” Smith explained.

Shelters must be large enough to allow dogs to fully lie down and easily reposition themselves. Shelters also must protect from “inclement weather,” including “rain hail, sleet, snow, high winds, extreme low temperatures, or extreme high temperatures.”

Smith said, “Some people build their own. It can be houses, anything like that, sheds- as long as they have a place to shelter.”

The legislation also says dogs can’t be restrained by weighted chains or chains that are shorter than five times the dog’s body length. Dogs must have the ability to avoid standing water and their waste and have access to water and shade.

Animal control and law enforcement agencies previously had to wait 24 hours to act on complaints regarding dogs in desperate situations, but the new law gets rid of that waiting period.

As of Wednesday morning, LAS has already received two welfare calls regarding the Safe Outdoor Dog Act. The shelter now categorizes those reports as a high priority, so it’ll respond more quickly.

“It’s in that top priority level. Today, I’ve had couple [of calls]. So, I have to push those up,” Smith said.

Those found in violation of the law could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, or for repeat offenders, a Class B misdemeanor.

However, LAS said it would offer a grace period to owners when they receive calls related to the new law for the first few days. It hopes to educate community members and give them a chance to correct the situation, but if the dog is in immediate danger, it will not hesitate to remove the dog from the situation.

“Beyond that, if they don’t comply, then yes, it will result [in] citations,” LAS said.

If you have concerns about an animal’s welfare in Lubbock, you can call LAS at 806-775-3357.