Background: In late 2022, confusion erupted over whether Trap-Neuter-Return (T-N-R) of unowned community cats should be considered “abandonment” under the Texas animal cruelty law (Texas Penal Code §42.092 - Cruelty to Non-livestock Animals). T-N-R is widely regarded as a humane method of stabilizing the feral cat population by humanely trapping them, transporting them to veterinary clinics for sterilization and vaccination, then tipping their ear as a sign they have been treated. T-N-R programs save many thousands of Texas cats from euthanasia annually, and the prospect of prosecuting T-N-R providers for abandonment threatened to end successful programs across the state. 

HB 3660 updates Section 42.092(a) of the Texas Penal Code by defining a "Trap-Neuter-Return Program" as a means of nonlethal population control and adding defense to prosecution for returning T-N-R cats to their outdoor homes. As a result, the law now clearly distinguishes between abandoning an owned companion animal versus releasing a T-N-R cat. Under the penal code, the unreasonable abandonment of an owned companion animal is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, jail time of up to a year, or both.  

This much-needed legislation updates the penal code without weakening the penalty for actual abandonment and protects T-N-R providers from undue prosecution. HB 3660 was authored by Representative Cody Vasut and Senator Judith Zaffirini and goes into effect on September 1, 2023. 




About the Legislation

HB 3660 TNR Is Not Abandonment

Bill Caption: Relating to a defense to prosecution for the offense of cruelty to nonlivestock animals under certain circumstances. Effective Immediately as of: June 10, 2023Companion Bill: SB 1862 Authors: Vasut | CainSponsor: Zaffirini Cosponsor: Whitmire

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