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You could be charged if you leave your pets outside during severe weather

The Houston area will experience some bitter cold weather for the next several days due to an Arctic blast. If you don't protect your pets, you could get in trouble.

HOUSTON — You’ve heard us say to protect plants, pipes and pets during a freeze. 

If you don’t protect one of them – the pets – you could be in big trouble.

The Houston area is expected to see below-freezing temperatures Sunday into Monday and may not get out of them until the end of the week. So it’s not only cruel to leave your pets outside. It’s also illegal.

RELATED: Important tips to keep pets safe from the bitter cold

RELATED: Tips for protecting your loved ones, including your pets, during winter freeze

According to Texas law, a pet owner “may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog's movement” when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. According to the Humane Society of the U.S., animal neglect is considered a misdemeanor crime in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

That law isn’t just for cold weather. It also applies to heat advisories, tropical weather or tornado warnings.

So if you decide to keep your pet outside, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says members of the Animal Cruelty Task Force might want to have a word.

If you witness any animal neglect during the Arctic freeze, you can call 832-927-7297 or submit information online.