LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY 1:
FIX THE TEXAS TETHERING STATUTE, HB 1156 / SB 1090
Dog chaining is inhumane and dangerous. Dogs tethered by heavy chains often suffer injuries as a result of the weight of the chains and suffer from embedded collars. Dogs also often become entangled in their chains, leaving them cut off from any available food, water or shelter.
"Our cruelty investigators regularly encounter dogs that have died from starvation and dehydration - especially in the summer months -- after having twisted their chains or ropes to the point where they could no longer reach their food or water bowls," said Sherry Ferguson, executive director of the Houston Humane Society.
Texas law enforcement and animal control officers receive daily calls from citizens concerned about a dog being tethered by cruel and inhumane means. They report that many of the dogs they take into custody due to neglect and abuse are chained dogs who have been left for days on end without food and water, and often are in need of medical attention.
In 2007, the Texas legislature passed a bill to address tethering standards, but unfortunately, the law gives little or no protection to a tethered dog and, as written, is unenforceable because no citations can be issued, only warnings. Because there has not been a single prosecution since the law’s passage, it is time to fix this statute where citations can be issued before the dog’s situation becomes a cruelty case.
LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY 2:
STRENGTHEN OUR ANIMAL CRUELTY CODE, HB 1357 / SB 762
HOW TEXAS LAW DEFINES ANIMAL CRUELTY:
▸ Torturing an animal▸ Transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner▸ Killing, seriously injuring, or poisoning an animal belonging to another without legal authority or the owner’s effective consent▸ Causing an animal to fight with another▸ Using a live animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a race track▸ Tripping a horse▸ Injuring an animal belonging to another without legal authority or the owner’s effective consent; or▸ Seriously overworking an animal.
Animal cruelty exists in Texas and as you read this, animals throughout this state are being abused, neglected or forced to fight. THLN has been instrumental in helping pass amendments to the Texas Animal Cruelty Statute including:
•SB 143 (passed 1997) increased the penalty for a third animal cruelty offense from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony;
•HB 653/SB 1724 (passed 2001) increased the penalty for aggravated acts of animal cruelty from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony, and from a state jail felony to a third degree felony on the third conviction;
•HB 2328 (passed 2007) makes it a felony to kill, administer poison to, or cause serious bodily injury to homeless dogs and feral cats. It also closed numerous loopholes in the existing Cruelty Statute, and lowered the mental state for proof of animal cruelty to reckless, which makes it easier to prove animal abuse. It also added water to the list of required care elements;
• HB 963 (2011) which provides one common set of rules and requirements for appeals from all civil courts hearing cases involving the seizure and disposition of cruelly treated animals. It also provides adequate security for restitution of the costs incurred in taking care of the animals during the litigation process and expedites the appeal process so that the animals are not held in limbo for extended periods of time.
All 50 states have felony animal cruelty provisions, the FBI now includes animal cruelty offenses in the Uniform Crime Report and the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence is well documented. THLN has made much progress through incremental change to the cruelty statute. Now is the time to strengthen it again as animal cruelty is being taken very seriously.