Local and State Laws Regarding Pets in El Paso

Here is a basic run down if you don’t want to read the entire page:

  • You must vaccinate your pets against rabies. They must also be registered (rabies and microchip) with El Paso Animal Services.
    • While it is not required by law, it is wise to vaccinate your dogs and cats against common viruses in this region. Parvo, distemper, and bordetella are very common in dogs. It is recommended that cats be tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline HIV.
  • Dogs, cats, and ferrets over 4 months are required to be microchipped. Please make sure that you also keep the contact information on the microchip up to date and ask your vet to scan for the microchip each visit. Sometimes microchips can move around the body and become hard to find with a scanner. If you notice your pet’s microchip float to another part of the body include a tag on it’s collar that states where the microchip is located. Of course always put an I.D. tag on your pets as well. It’s easier to return a lost pet that has tags than having to scan for a microchip.
  • It is illegal to sell, adopt, or “rehome” a pet for more than $150 if it is spayed/neutered, or $50 if it is not sterilized. Your pet may be exempt, read the details for more info.
  • It is illegal to sell, adopt, rehome, or otherwise transfer an animal on the side of the road or in a public right of way.
  • Aquatic turtles are illegal inside El Paso city limits. Sale or possession. Selling aquatic turtles under 4 inches is against state law.
  • Wolf hybrids or “wolf dogs” are illegal inside El Paso city limits. A dog suspected of being a wolf dog or wolf hybrid may be euthanized. This is because there is no rabies vaccine that works for wolves. Even if the dog is partial wolf.
  • It is illegal to have your dog or cat off leash. Even in your own yard if the yard does not have an enclosure.
  • There is no limit on how many dogs a person can own, as long as they provide proper care for it.
  • It is illegal to sell or “rehome” puppies under 8 weeks of age.
  • It is illegal to sell or “rehome” puppies without a litter permit.
  • It is illegal to breed dogs or cats without a permit.
  • It is illegal to tie up your dog in many cases.
  • It is illegal to force an animal to fight with another animal.

People may ask why are the laws so strict in El Paso? The answer is that in 2013 WE killed over 25,000 of our pets. WE. Not the city government. Not Animal Services, Not the animal control officers. WE as a community let this happen. This is because there are so many unwanted and lost pets and not enough of them being adopted. We must control our pet population and we must become educated about caring for our pets. We don’t have many animal rescue organization in this area and most of the time they are completely full and can not take in animals that people can’t keep. Please spay and neuter your pets. Don’t buy from backyard breeders. Please be sure you can commit the time and dedication to the life of your pet. Pets are not temporary. They are a life that can sometimes grow to be over 15 years old. If you would like to help us become a pet friendly city please contact me at info@elpasopets.org to learn how you can help. 

So now, on to the legalities of owning a pet in El Paso, TX:

El Paso Municipal Code, Title 7

7.12.010 Running at large prohibited.

Every person owning or having charge, care, custody or control of any dog or cat shall keep such dog or cat exclusively upon his own premises by means of appropriate and humane physical restraint; provided, however, that such dog may be off such premises if it is under direct control of a competent person by means of a secure leash or by some other equivalent means of direct physical control, and such cat may be off such premises if it is under direct physical control of a competent person.

(Ord. 16807 § 3 (part), 2007; Ord. 16229 § 1 (part), 2006)

7.12.020. Registration, vaccination, and microchips required.

A. Dogs, cats and ferrets shall be registered, vaccinated and have an implanted microchip as provided in this title.

  1. No person who is a resident of the city shall have within the city for more than thirty days any dog, cat or ferret four months of age or older unless such dog, cat or ferret is currently registered with the program.
  2. No person who is not a resident of the city shall have within the city any dog, cat or ferret for more than ninety days unless such dog, cat or ferret is currently registered with program.
  3. No dog, cat or ferret shall be registered unless it has a current vaccination as is required by the director and an implanted microchip. A registration certificate and tag may be obtained from veterinarians who have obtained authority from the program to issue them, or from an employee at the center upon presentation of a certificate of current vaccination and evidence of microchip.
  4. No person shall have within the city any dog, cat or ferret four months of age or older for more than ten days unless such dog, cat or ferret is currently vaccinated against rabies.

B. Upon application by a veterinarian, the program shall furnish the veterinarian with a supply of microchips and pre-numbered registration certificates and corresponding tags. The veterinarian shall be authorized to receive applications and issue registration certificates and tags for animals that are currently vaccinated and microchipped. Copies of all certificates issued shall be distributed and transmitted to various city agencies in accordance with arrangements made by the program with the veterinarians, provided that no information shall be released in violation of Texas Health and Safety Code Section 826.0211. When applying for additional microchips, certificates and tags the veterinarian shall account to the program for all those previously supplied to him, and shall remit to the program all fees collected. He shall be held financially responsible for any microchips, certificates and tags no longer in his possession that have not been issued or voided and returned to the program. The program may refuse to supply additional microchips, certificates and tags to any veterinarian who fails to account for all items previously furnished to him by the program. All fees collected by any veterinarian are payable to the city upon demand.

C. Application for initial issuance or renewal of each registration must be made by the owner in writing or in person, and be accompanied by the established fee for a dog, cat, or ferret. If an original current registration certificate is lost or destroyed, the owner may obtain a duplicate by paying the established fee.

D. A registration shall be renewed annually.

E. No person shall use a certificate or tag for any animal other than the one for which it was issued.

F. If there is a change in ownership or owner contact information of a registered dog, cat or ferret, the new owner shall update contact information to include any new address and telephone number, and have the registration and microchip information transferred to his name or new contact information within seven days after the change in ownership or change in owner contact information. Application for a change of ownership or change of contact information of a registered dog, cat or ferret shall be made to the program in the manner established by the director in writing, in person, or at the office of a participating veterinarian, and be accompanied by the established fee.

G. Fee-exempt registrations may be issued for the following, provided however, eligibility for fee-exempt registration does not relieve the owner of his responsibility under other provisions of this title:

  1. Dogs that are trained and used in an official capacity by a law enforcement or governmental agency;
  2. Service animals; and
  3. Animals other than dogs, cats or ferrets that are vaccinated against rabies.

(Ord. 16807 §§ 3 (part), 4 (part), 14, 2007; Ord. 16229 § 1 (part), 2006)

(Ord. No. 17428, § 5, 10-5-2010/eff. 1-1-2011)

7.12.030 Collar and tag required.

A. Upon registration there shall be delivered to the owner a metallic tag stamped with the registration certificate number and the year in which issued.

B. The owner shall see that the dog or cat wears at all times a collar or harness to which the current registration tag shall be attached, except as in subsection C or D of this section. It is unlawful for any person to remove the tag from the collar or harness without the owner’s consent.

C. Dogs or cats confined within a residence need not wear their collar or harness nor their registration tag while within the residence. However, in no case shall a dog or cat be allowed to exit the interior of the residence without wearing their collar or harness with the current registration tag attached.

D. Dogs or cats competing at approved dog or cat club shows or trials or while being transported to and from such events need not wear their collar or harness nor their registration tag.

E. If such tag is lost or destroyed, the owner shall apply at the center in writing, in person, or at the office of a participating veterinarian, for a new tag by presentation of the applicable vaccination certificate, registration certificate, and evidence of microchip, accompanied by the established fee.

(Ord. 16229 § 1 (part), 2006)

(Ord. No. 17428, § 6, 10-5-2010/eff. 1-1-2011)

7.12.040 Vaccination and microchip required.

No person shall own, keep or harbor within the city any dog, cat or ferret four months of age or older unless such dog, cat or ferret has a current vaccination and implanted microchip. A dog, cat or ferret will have a current vaccination for one year. However, after April 1, 2006, a vaccination may be current for a period of three years dependent upon the type of vaccine administered. All vaccinations shall be administered according to the label recommendations of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved vaccine. The dog, cat or ferret must be re-vaccinated before the expiration of the first and each subsequent current vaccination period.

(Ord. 16229 § 1 (part), 2006)

7.12.050 Animals in public places.

A. Nothing in this section shall apply to dogs in the company of law enforcement personnel while executing official duties.

B. It is lawful for any service animal to be admitted when actually accompanying a disabled person to any public place or vehicle, which the disabled person may have the lawful right to enter, if the animal is currently vaccinated, registered and microchipped.

C. Except as provided in subsection A or B of this section, it is unlawful for any person having charge, care, custody or control of any animal to allow such animal in any public vehicle or in any public building not used primarily for animals or their care, unless permission in writing has been issued by the program.

D. All persons having ownership, care, custody or control of any animal shall be prohibited from taking the animal upon or into any public playground, school grounds or athletic facility within the city unless permission in writing has been issued by the owner of the premises or their designee.

(Ord. 16229 § 1 (part), 2006)

7.12.060 Dangerous dogs.

A. A dog suspected of being dangerous may be impounded or quarantined in accordance with procedures as established by this title.

B. A dog that is designated as dangerous may not be released from impoundment or quarantine until such time as the owner has complied with the standards for keeping a dangerous dog enumerated in this title and Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822.042. Failure to comply with the requirements for keeping a dangerous dog within thirty days of the receipt of notice by the veterinary officer or director that said dog is dangerous, shall result in a determination that the dog has been abandoned.

  1. Exception. The program may not proceed with humane destruction of a dangerous dog in any case where the owner has filed a proper appeal of the dangerous dog determination with the municipal court.
  2. All fees for administration, quarantine and impound shall be paid prior to the release of any dangerous dog.
    a. The veterinary officer director may extend the thirty-day compliance period by written request of the owner provided that documentation of the need for an extension is provided (for instance, building permits, building plans, building contracts, correspondence from insurance company). During the period of extension the dog shall remain in the custody of the center and impound fees shall continue to accrue.

C. Appeal of a dangerous dog determination shall be in accordance with Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822.0421.

(Ord. 16807 § 2 (part), 2007; Ord. 16229 § 1 (part), 2006)

(Ord. No. 17635, § 6, 8-30-2011)

9.40.040 Exterior noise standards.

There is a table of permitted noise levels in residential areas. You may want to read the full ordinance at the link to fully understand the specifics of a violation. This problem is one of the most common that Animal Services and Police Officers receive regarding dogs. While barking dogs are a nuisance and can create problems in neighborhoods it is one of the hardest issues to enforce. 

No person shall make, continue or cause to be made or continued any noise such as, but not limited to, the following:
3. Owning, possessing or harboring any animal or bird which frequently or for continued duration, howls, barks, meows, squawks, or makes other sounds which create a disturbance across a residential real property boundary or within a noise sensitive zone. This provision shall not apply to the El Paso Zoo;

(Prior code § 12-110)

State Laws Regarding Pets

§ 821.077  Unlawful Restraint of Dog

(a) An owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog’s movement:

  1. between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.;
  2. within 500 feet of the premises of a school; or
  3. in the case of extreme weather conditions, including conditions in which:

     (A) the actual or effective outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit;

     (B) a heat advisory has been issued by a local or state authority or jurisdiction; or

     (C) a hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning has been issued for the jurisdiction by the National Weather Service.

(b) In this section, a restraint unreasonably limits a dog’s movement if the restraint:

  1. uses a collar that is pinch-type, prong-type, or choke-type or that is not properly fitted to the dog;
  2. is a length shorter than the greater of:

(A) five times the length of the dog, as measured from the tip of the dog’s nose to the base of the dog’s tail; or

(B) 10 feet;

       (3) is in an unsafe condition; or

       (4) causes injury to the dog.

 Penalty

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly violates this subchapter.

(b) A peace officer or animal control officer who has probable cause to believe that an owner is violating this subchapter shall provide the owner with a written statement of that fact. The statement must be signed by the officer and plainly state the date on which and the time at which the statement is provided to the owner.

(c) A person commits an offense if the person is provided a statement described by Subsection (b) and fails to comply with this subchapter within 24 hours of the time the owner is provided the statement. An offense under this subsection is a Class C misdemeanor.

(d) A person commits an offense if the person violates this subchapter and previously has been convicted of an offense under this subchapter. An offense under this subsection is a Class B misdemeanor.

(e) If a person fails to comply with this subchapter with respect to more than one dog, the person’s conduct with respect to each dog constitutes a separate offense.

(f) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section, the other law, or both.

Health and Safety Code.  Title 10. Health and Safety of Animals.  Chapter 822. Regulation of Animals.

Subchapter A. Dogs That Are a Danger to Persons.

§ 822.001. Definitions

In this Subchapter:

(1) “Animal control authority” means a municipal or county animal control office with authority over the area in which the dog is kept or the county sheriff in an area that does not have an animal control office.(2) “Serious bodily injury” means an injury characterized by severe bite wounds or severe ripping and tearing of muscle that would cause a reasonably prudent person to seek treatment from a medical professional and would require hospitalization without regard to whether the person actually sought medical treatment.

(3) “Dangerous dog,” “dog,” “owner,” and “secure enclosure” have the meanings assigned by Section 822.041.(4) “Secure” means to take steps that a reasonable person would take to ensure a dog remains on the owner’s property, including confining the dog in an enclosure that is capable of preventing the escape or release of the dog.

Chapter 822. Regulation of Animals

Subchapter D. Dangerous Dogs

§ 822.041. Definitions

In this subchapter:

(1) “Animal control authority” means a municipal or county animal control office with authority over the area where the dog is kept or a county sheriff in an area with no animal control office.

(2) “Dangerous dog” means a dog that:

(A) makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own; or

(B) commits unprovoked acts in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person.

(3) “Dog” means a domesticated animal that is a member of the canine family.

(4) “Secure enclosure” means a fenced area or structure that is:

(A) locked;

(B) capable of preventing the entry of the general public, including children;

(C) capable of preventing the escape or release of a dog;

(D) clearly marked as containing a dangerous dog; and

(E) in conformance with the requirements for enclosures established by the local animal control authority.

(5) “Owner” means a person who owns or has custody or control of the dog.

§ 828.003. Sterilization Agreement

(a) The sterilization agreement used by a releasing agency must contain:

  1. the date of the agreement;
  2. the names, addresses, and signatures of the releasing agency and the new owner;
  3. a description of the animal to be adopted;
  4. the sterilization completion date; and
  5. a statement, printed in conspicuous, bold print, that sterilization of the animal is required under Chapter 828, Health and Safety Code, and that a violation of this chapter is a criminal offense punishable as a Class C misdemeanor.

(b) The sterilization completion date contained in the sterilization agreement must be:

  1. the 30th day after the date of adoption in the case of an adult animal;
  2. the 30th day after a specified date estimated to be the date an adopted infant female animal becomes six months old or an adopted infant male animal becomes eight months old; or
  3. if the releasing agency has a written policy recommending sterilization of certain infant animals at an earlier date, the 30th day after the date contained in the written policy.

Texas Penal Code

§ 42.09. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:

  1. tortures an animal;
  2. fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;
  3. abandons unreasonably an animal in the person’s custody;
  4. transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner;
  5. kills, seriously injures, or administers poison to an animal, other than cattle, horses, sheep, swine, or goats, belonging to another without legal authority or the owner’s effective consent;
  6. causes one animal to fight with another;
  7. uses a live animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack;
  8. trips a horse;
  9. injures an animal, other than cattle, horses, sheep, swine, or goats, belonging to another without legal authority or the owner’s effective consent; or
  10. seriously overworks an animal.

§ 42.10. DOG FIGHTING    Attending or Participating in an event involving animal  fighting is now against Federal Law. LINK

(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly:

  1. causes a dog to fight with another dog;
  2. for a pecuniary benefit causes a dog to fight with another dog;
  3. participates in the earnings of or operates a facility used for dog fighting;
  4. uses or permits another to use any real estate, building, room, tent, arena, or other property for dog fighting;
  5. owns or trains a dog with the intent that the dog be used in an exhibition of dog fighting; or
  6. attends as a spectator an exhibition of dog fighting.

(b) In this section, “dog fighting” means any situation in which one dog attacks or fights with another dog.

(c) A conviction under Subdivision (2), (3), or (4) of Subsection (a) may be had upon the uncorroborated testimony of a party to the offense.

(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subdivision (1) or (2) of Subsection (a) that the actor caused a dog to fight with another dog to protect livestock, other property, or a person from the other dog, and for no other purpose.

(e) An offense under Subdivision (1) or (5) of Subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor. An offense under Subdivision (2), (3), or (4) of Subsection (a) is a state jail felony. An offense under Subdivision (6) of Subsection (a) is a Class C misdemeanor.

House Bill 653 and Senate Bill 1724, commonly known as “Loco’s Law” went into effect September 1, 2001, making animal cruelty a felony and punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to two years in jail. The law was named for a puppy called Loco, whose eyes were intentionally gouged out. Prior to Loco’s Law, animal cruelty was not considered a felony under Texas law. Today, animal cruelty convictions are classified as either a felony or misdemeanor.
Compared to other states, Texas’ animal cruelty statutes are very narrow in scope because they exclude certain types of animals—including circus animals, wild animals and animals used in experiments—from protection from animal cruelty laws.
Sources: www.animallaw.info, www.capitol.state.tx.us, Texas Health and Safety Code 821.001, Texas Penal Code Chapter 42, El Paso Municipal Code Title 7, Title 9.

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