The Common Law
Dogs and nuisance issues (poop, leashes, and noise)
"Someone in my neighborhood who walks their dog by my house keeps letting the dog do its business on my front lawn. Are they breaking the law or are they just being a bad neighbor"?
Your neighbor is breaking the law. According to Section 3-4-6 of the Austin City Code, "An owner or handler shall promptly remove and sanitarily dispose of feces left on public or private property by a dog or cat being handled by the person, other than property owned by the owner or handler of the dog or cat." In other words, you have to pick up after your dog wherever you are, unless you are on your own property. Violating this ordinance carries a maximum fine of $500, so make sure you're keeping those doggy bags handy. If the behavior doesn't change, take photos of the neighbor's dog doing its business and provide the evidence to Austin Police.
"I keep seeing folks walking their dogs around town without a leash. This seems dangerous to me, but is it actually illegal?"
It depends on where they are walking their dog. Section 3-4-1 of the Austin City Code states, "Except as provided in Section 3-4-4 (Public Areas Where Restraint of a Dog is Not Required), an owner or handler of a dog shall keep the dog under restraint." So, unless someone is walking the dog in the areas specifically listed in Section 3-4-4 of the Austin City Code, namely parks like Zilker, Auditorium Shores, and Shoal Creek to name a few, the dog must be on a leash. Even Austin, with its reputation for being a dog-friendly city, has passed a number of ordinances restricting dog behavior. For example, Section 3-2-2 of the Austin City Code states: "An owner or handler may not keep an animal that makes frequent or long, continued noise that is disturbing to a person of normal sensibilities." Many cities and towns have similar ordinances.
Be a responsible, law abiding dog owner by always picking up after your pup and making sure you have the dog on a leash whenever necessary. If you are dealing with any of these issues, call 311 (Austin's nonemergency line) for additional tips on how to proceed.
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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.
The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.