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Animal Ordinance FAQ

City Council adopted an updated animal ordinance (18751) during its Aug. 11, 2009, meeting.

Enclosures

  1. Do all dogs have to be kept in pens? No. All enclosures, including pens, must have at least 48 square feet per adult dog. If your yard is fully enclosed by a four foot fence that is properly built and maintained and provides at least 48 square feet per adult dog you are OK.
  2. If I am a recognized rescue group, would the 48 square foot pen apply to the animals in my temporary possession? No. Registered 501c3 non-profit agencies that have animals for rescue, rehabilitation or adoption in their temporary custody of 30 days or less would be exempt.
  3. My fence is made of many different materials including scrap materials and chicken wire holding it together, does this mean I will have to install a new fence? Maybe. Fences will have to be constructed of sufficient strength to prevent the animal from escaping and be made of chain link, welded wire, wrought iron, brick, block, wood stockade or other material approved by the Director. The Director can also modify the enclosure requirements by petition of the property owner. Realistically, the Director would probably not authorize scrap materials and chicken wire; however, the exception does allow the Director to make exceptions for new and comparable materials, architectural barriers and other similar solutions.
  4. My fence is less than 4 feet tall, will I need to build a new one? Maybe. Generally speaking, the minimum fence height required will be 4 feet. The vast majority of residential fences in Fort Worth are at least 4 feet tall. However, there could be HOA, Covenant, Zoning, Historic or other requirements that limit fences to a height of less than 4 feet. In these circumstances, if the owner can demonstrate that the shorter fence is sufficient to keep the dog from escaping, the Director can approve a shorter fence.

Aggressive Dogs

  1. Is the City still recommending an Aggressive Dog Ordinance? No. Instead, the recommendation is to increase the fence height requirement for dogs that have repeatedly, and unprovoked, bitten or attacked other domestic animals or people inside the dogs enclosure or who repeatedly and aggressively attempt to escape from their enclosure in an attempt to attack another domestic pet or person. Instead of a 4 foot fence, a 6 foot fence would be required. The Director can waive the 6 foot requirement if the pet owner can demonstrate that the additional height would provide no additional public safety measure based on the nature of the precipitating incidents, size, age and nature of the animal, etc.
  2. Why the change? All along, the concept was to protect the public from an attack. While the City could have recommended 6 foot fences for all dogs, it made more sense to require a 4 foot fence for all dogs except those that have aggressive tendencies. This benefits the greater population that do not have aggressive dogs and imposes a reasonable height requirement on those that do. Because all dogs and incidents are not identical, the recommendation is to allow the director to waive the additional height requirement when it would more than likely provide no additional public safety benefit, e.g., a smaller non-climbing capable dog.
  3. Who makes the decision for a taller fence? Since the criteria specifically calls out unprovoked and repeated, the behavior would have to be observed by a trained Animal Control Officer. This ensures accurate assessment and documentation.
  4. If my dog charges the fence and barks, is that aggressive? No.
  5. Will there still be a dangerous dog ordinance? Yes. There are no recommendations to change that ordinance. A dangerous dog is one that is outside of its enclosure and attacks another animal or person.

Spay/Neuter

  1. Will Spay/Neuter be mandatory? No. Residents can get an intact permit for free by attending a class, or pay a one-time $50.00 permit fee. The permit is perpetual so long as the person provides food, water, shelter, etc. for their pets. Owners that have dangerous dogs, are convicted of cruelty, fail to provide adequate food, water, shelter and proper enclosure or do not comply with other animal ordinances will not be eligible for the permit.
  2. What are the benefits of such a concept? 1. Reduces the number of unwanted pets, stray and feral animals and euthanization rates at shelters. 2. Enables City to stop backyard “puppy mills” that fail to provide food, shelter and proper care. 3. Allows responsible citizens to have intact animals without paying high administrative fees, annual fees and other regulations.
  3. Other cities with Intact Permits charge several hundred dollars per year/per animal. Why is Fort Worth going with a single/one time permit for free or $50? The City wants to focus on compliance and allocate resources addressing violations, not processing additional permits every year. Compliant and responsible pet owners do not add to the City’s cost, so they would be rewarded. Keeping the cost reasonable will also promote greater compliance.
  4. Why would owner’s reclaiming their pet (one that was caught running at large) have to place a $200 deposit to take the animal to the veterinarian of their choice? By current City ordinance, reclaimed animals, with a few exceptions, have to be altered within 30 days of reclaim. The City will alter the pet at no additional charge (part of the reclaim fee), or owners can leave a deposit and have their own veterinarian perform the task.

License Fee and Microchips

  1. Is the City raising the registration fee? Yes and no. The current fee is $7.00 per year and the proposed fee is $12.00 for three years, or a reduction of $3.00 a year. If a dog cannot be given a three year rabies shot, the fee does increase to $12.00 a year.
  2. What is the history of license fees? The City hasn’t raised animal registration fees since 1994. The decrease recommendation for the three year rabies is based on the City not having to handle the paperwork every year and thus passing on the savings. The $12.00 per year reflects the City operating at a reasonable loss.
  3. Will the new fees raise general revenue for the City? No. While fees collected are deposited in the general fund, the general fund also pays for Animal Care and Control services. The current annual cost to operate Animal Care and Control services is approx $3.1 mil and fees bring in less than $300,000. While new fees will reduce this gap, they will more than likely equal less than 20% of the City’s cost (general tax payer will pay 80 cents and animal owners 20 cents on the dollar for the services).
  4. Do microchips cause cancer? The only extensive microchip study was conducted by The British Small Animal Veterinary Association whose study consisted of 4 million microchipped animals and only 361 or .00009% had an adverse reaction and only 2 developed tumors associated to the microchip. The American Veterinary Medical Association supports the BSAV microchip study and believes the benefits of microchipping far outweigh the risks.

Overview of Adopted Changes

Current Ordinance Starting Concept Adopted Ordinance
Aggressive Dog Concepts and Related Fees

The “Dangerous Dog” Ordinance does not apply until after an attack actually occurs. This often is too late for victims who suffer pain, disfigurement and sometimes death as a result of an attack.

Create an “Aggressive Dog” designation that would define aggressive propensities and behavior and would trigger mandated enhanced safeguards, preventive measures and penalties, and allow a more proactive/preventive response.

Sample aggressive behaviors to define “Aggressive Dog”:

  • Charging fence
  • Attacking other animals within their own enclosure
  • Frequently assuming a threatening posture toward people

“Aggressive Dog” means any dog that has not been provoked and repeatedly demonstrates one or more of the following behaviors:

  • While not at play or incidental to basic interaction, attacks other domestic pets within their own enclosure
  • Attempts to climb, dig, chew through or otherwise attempts to escape from their enclosure in an attempt to attack, chase or harass a person or domestic animal
  • Bites a person who is lawfully and reasonably inside the animal’s enclosure

The owner of a property where an aggressive dog resides must enclose the aggressive dog behind a 6-feet tall chain link, welded wire, wrought iron, brick, block, wood stockade or other material approved by the Director except where the enclosure abuts a building with a solid wall, inclusive of windows and doors that is at least 6-feet tall and would prevent escape.

Director can reduce the height requirement if the only violation is No. 3. The Director shall give consideration to the size and physical condition of the animal, past history of the animal, events that precipitated the bite and the likelihood of another bite occurring in the future.

Dangerous Dog Concepts and Related Fees

“Dangerous Dogs” are allowed to relocate in Fort Worth.

“Dangerous Dogs” from other communities would be prohibited from relocating to Fort Worth.

Adopt concept. A “Dangerous Dog” would be a dog that has been found to be dangerous in another jurisdiction through a legal process similar to that of the State of Texas or City of Fort Worth.

The current registration fee for a “Dangerous Dog” is $50 per year.

Increase the registration fee for A “Dangerous Dogs” to $500 per year.

Adopt concept. Current dogs would be grandfathered at $50.

Use of Chemical Immobilization 

Animal Care and Control does not use chemical immobilization for capturing stray aggressive or dangerous animals.

Implement a chemical immobilization program for capturing stray aggressive and dangerous animals. Require training, rules of engagement, standard operating procedures, appropriate equipment and required veterinarian care for all animals tranquilized in the field.

Adopt concept.

Fencing Enclosure Concept 

The current fencing enclosure requirements are the same for all pets (except if deemed “dangerous” through a dangerous dog hearing process). The ordinance is loosely defined without regard for minimum material or construction methods.

Variable fencing enclosure requirements based on animal’s height and weight. Require maintenance and self-locking gates.

Enclosure means an area that is completely surrounded by a substantial fence or enclosure of sufficient strength, height, construction, materials, and design as to prevent any animal from escaping from the area and in manner that will isolate the animal from the public and other animals except for animals owned or under the control of the owner.

Enclosures shall be a minimum height of 4 feet and shall be made of chain link, welded wire, wrought iron, brick, block, wood stockade or other material approved by the Director except where the enclosure abuts a building with a solid wall that is at least 4-feet tall, inclusive of windows and doors that would prevent escape.

Where enclosures abut a building, there shall be minimal separation. In no case shall the separation be so great that escape would be possible.

Enclosures shall be erected and maintained in conformance with building codes and generally acceptable construction methods to include withstanding wind loads and animal escape efforts. Breaks in the enclosure shall be repaired with like material and provide for a seamless barrier that makes escape unlikely.

Where gates are provided, the gate shall be constructed and maintained in a similar fashion. Gates shall be secured to prevent escape.

The Director or the director’s designee can modify the enclosure requirements by petition of the property owner.

Animals in Moving Vehicles Concept 

No requirements or restrictions on animals in unenclosed vehicles (pick-ups).

Establish requirements for animals in unenclosed vehicles.

Adopt concept.

Tethered Animals Concepts 

No minimum pen size for dogs placed in dog runs.

Establishing minimum pen sizes for dogs

It shall be unlawful for a person to confine an animal for a substantial portion of the day in an outdoor enclosure that provides less than forty-eight (48) square feet of space for each animal that is six months old or older. It is presumed that an animal is being confined for a substantial portion of the day if a city employee witnesses the animal in said enclosure at least twice on the same day at two separate times that are at least five hours apart. 

The prohibition in this paragraph (j) shall not apply to registered non-profit agencies that keep animals for purposes of rescue, rehabilitation or adoption so long as such animals are otherwise maintained in accordance with the requirements of this chapter; or situations in which animals are being boarded for a period of less than thirty (30) days so long as such animals are otherwise maintained in accordance with the requirements of this chapter.

Tethered animal ordinance is addressed by citation only.

Add authority to seize tethered animals whose owners do not comply (cruelty process.)

Adopt concept.

Spay/Neuter Concepts and Related Fees 

There is no requirement for Spay/Neuter until an animal is captured at-large with no identification or captured at-large more than once.

Require Spay/Neuter for all dogs and cats unless they have a valid intact pet permit or unless veterinarian grants medical waiver.

Adopt concept subject to Intact Permit option. Keep current ordinance that allows reclaimed animals with a current city license a one-time exemption from spay/neuter requirements.

N/A

Require owners of unsterilized dogs and cats to obtain an annual intact animal permit at $50 per animal.

Keep the $50 per animal, one-time fee, which will be waived if the person attends a responsible pet ownership class. Fee increases to $150 per animal if owner fails to obtain the permit voluntarily.

Permit could be revoked if permit holder fails to provide a lawful enclosure, repeatedly has more animals than what is permitted by law, is convicted of animal cruelty, is convicted of repeated unrestrained animal violations, fails to keep animals properly licensed/vaccinated or otherwise violates a law pertaining to the humane treatment of animals or fails to appear in court for any of the aforementioned violations.

Permits would not be issued to citizens having a history of the issues listed above.

Upon revocation, the permit holder can appeal to the Director. The Director can uphold the appeal, place special conditions on the permit or overturn the revocation.

Where a permit has been revoked, there shall be no intact animals at the residence or business property of the former permit holder, regardless if another person at the same property holds a valid permit.

Currently animals that are reclaimed for being at-large are required to be spay/neutered within 30-days after a contract is signed.

Require pet owners that reclaim their animal after being captured at-large to pay a $200 deposit to have the animal altered at their private veterinarian.

Adopt concept. Keep current ordinance that allows reclaimed animals with a current city license a one-time exemption from spay/neuter requirements. Otherwise, animals would be altered as part of the reclaim fee (no extra charge) or the owner can pay a deposit and have their own veterinarian alter.

No current programs available for spay/neutering of aggressive breed dogs in low income areas.

Provide free spay/neuter for top aggressive breed dogs in low income areas.

As funding allows, provide free or reduce spay/neuter services to low income residents who own aggressive dogs that they wish to keep.

Micro-Chipping Concepts and Related Fees 

Currently license fees for an animal is $7 regardless of microchip status

Increase license fees for the following:
One-Year Micro-chipped Pet License (with 1-Year Rabies Vaccine) — $12

Three-Year Micro-chipped Pet License (with 3-Year Rabies Vaccine) — $12

Adopt Concept. Add Un-Micro-chipped Pet License- Annually — $36.

No ability for officers to issue licenses in the field

Allow officers to issue a 30-day provisional license in the field. The license would be provisional pending the verification of the animal being currently rabies vaccinated — $24.

Adopt concept; change fee to $36.

No current late registration fee for unlicensed animals

Require owners found to have an unlicensed animal to pay a late licensing fee of $100.

Adopt concept.

Animals At-Large Concepts and Related Fees 

Currently, the citation window fine for an unrestrained dog is $200.

Increase the citation window fine for an unrestrained dog to $500.

Adopt concept.

Currently, reclaim fees are based on occurrences of the animal being impounded.

Create additional escalating fee structure depending upon the complexity of the capture and boarding requirements and number of offenses.

Adopt concept.

Adoption and Owner Release Concepts 

Currently no programs in place to periodically reduce adoption rates.

Allow Director to periodically offer reduced adoption rates.

Adopt concept.

Currently no reduced adoption fees for citizens 65+.

Offer half-price adoptions to citizens 65+.

Adopt concept.

Currently no reduced adoption fees for older adoptable animals.

Offer half-price adoption fees for older adoptable animals.

Adopt concept.

Currently no programs in place to offer assistance to citizens relinquishing ownership of their animal to the City.

Offer spay/neuter, vaccination, micro-chipping, and registration assistance to qualifying citizens relinquishing their animal with the hope that they will retain ownership, reducing the number of animals in the shelter needing placement.

Adopt concept.

Additional Recommendations from Public 
  1. Offer dog obedience classes at/through shelter.
  2. Add additional volunteers to assist with transport of low income spay/neuter animals.
  3. Put up restraint and pooper scoop signs on the trails and in parks.
  4. Adopt-a-sign program for animal regulation signs in public spaces/parks.
  5. 24-hour on-duty officers.
  6. Form a “Friends of Fort Worth Animal Control” group.
  7. Educational programs offered in Spanish.
  8. Create on-line version of Educate the Offender class for citizens to get citations dismissed
  9. Create volunteer program for ACC

These new concepts are currently being reviewed by staff.

Suggested by the Public

  1. Add policy to recommend the dismissal of a citation and/or reduction in fines when an owner voluntarily spays or neuters their dog or cat.
  2. Add one year pilot program that would allow licensed veterinarians to issue a free license when they give a rabies vaccination to micro chipped and spay or neutered dog or cat.
  3. Add requirement for intact permit number to be included in all advertised sales in Fort Worth (sales within the City).

Contact us at CodeCares@fortworthtexas.gov or 817-392-6323 for additional questions, comments, or concerns.

Contact

Animal Care & Control Administration
4900 Martin St. | 817-392-1234

Adoption Centers

Animal Care & Control Center

4900 Martin St.
Fort Worth, TX 76119
817-392-1234

Hours:

  • Sunday & Monday: 1–4 p.m. (Owner reclaim services only)
  • Tuesday-Friday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m. (Adoptions and reclaims open at noon)
  • Saturday: 8 a.m.–5 p.m. (Adoptions and reclaims open at noon)

PetSmart Charities Adoption Centers

4800 SW Loop 820
Fort Worth, TX 76109
817-731-4353 ext. 7

2901 Texas Sage Trail
Fort Worth, TX 76177

817-392-7117
817-741-7923

Hours:

  • Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.–8:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

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