HOUSTON — On Friday afternoon, KHOU held an adoption event to help the Harris County Animal Shelter find homes for pets in need.
It’s one of several local shelters that are overcapacity. A couple of reasons: lack of spaying and neutering and people failing to register their pets.
Martha Marquez, a spokesperson for Harris County Public Health, says her agency’s data suggests fewer than five percent of all pets in unincorporated Harris County are registered.
A staff member at a local animal nonprofit told KHOU most of the animals rescued during Hurricane Harvey had no tags or collars.
So, what are the laws pet owners need to follow? It depends on where they live.
The city of Houston requires yearly registration and rabies vaccinations for any dog or cat four months or older. Pet owners who live in Harris County but outside the city limits must have a license tag and current rabies vaccination for any dogs and cats three months or older, or risk fines up to $500 per offense.
The state of Texas requires rabies vaccinations for any dog or cat four months or older anywhere in the state. However, state law leaves requirements for licensing pets up to the city and county. Fees can vary between municipalities, and some cities, like Dallas, have replaced their old registration system with mandatory microchipping.
Sheila Goffe, Director of Government Relations for the American Kennel Club, says registration rules tend to be a local issue throughout the country. She adds that license tags help connect lost pets with their owners, and the registration fees help cover the costs of bringing them home and fund community efforts like free or low-cost spaying and neutering.
KHOU can verify the state does require all dogs and cats in Texas at least four months old to have a rabies vaccine. Most municipalities also have licensing requirements. However, the specific rules for registration depend on where in the state pet owners live.