Thln

  • Denton puppy store offering loans on unaffordable puppies

    Originally Published in: Kera News
    Published on:
    April 2, 2024
    Written By: Christian McPhate

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  • THLN Featured in North Texas Daily

    Originally Published in: North Texas Daily
    Published on:
    March 26, 2024
    Written By: Brendan Schilling


    In April 2023, the Denton Record Chronicle reported that more than 100 people are waiting to surrender their big dogs to the Denton City Animal Shelter. Adoption fees cost between 10 and 60 dollars, a cheaper alternative than buying an animal from a pet store — which can cost thousands. People take out loans in order to buy pets, with predatory interest rates up to 189 percent. If an animal dies from diseases acquired from the mills or during transport, the owner is still expected to pay off the loan. 

    Denton must ban the sale of commercial animals and only allow for the adoption of rescues and strays. Cities all across Texas have passed similar ordinances. These include Dallas, Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, The Colony and Waco, reported by CultureMap Dallas in April 2022. 

    The majority of pet store animals come from puppy and kitten mills, which mass breed 50-1,000 domesticated animals, living under inhumane conditions. They live amongst their own urine and feces, slipping through cage floors and falling on animals below, which increases the risk of exposure to ammonia. Offspring often die during transport and survivors wind up with diseases which are costly to treat.

    The main obstacle banning the sale of commercially bred pets is House Bill 2127, known as the “Death Star” law by its opponents. It prevents cities from passing their own regulations on “agriculture, business and commerce, finance, insurance, labor, natural resources, occupations and property.” Texas also added an amendment which prohibits cities from targeting pet stores. 

    When the bill passed, Houston sued Texas, saying the law violated the “home rule” amendment of Texas’ Constitution, which was was added in 1912. They argued that while the state has traditionally had power to overturn individual ordinances, this law completely removes city control.

    The bill was originally designed by the state GOP to target “Democrat-run cities such as Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.” However, conservative cities like Arlington, Denton, Plano and Waco later filed a letter supporting Houston’s lawsuit, according to Texas Monthly in November 2023. 

    In 2023, Texas House Representative Jarod Patterson proposed a state law, HB 1818. It is identical to a law passed in 2021. This law would prevent the sale of animals from anywhere except for animal rescue agencies, shelters or licensed breeders. The bill never left the House of Representatives.

    Even if Patterson's proposal had been considered, there are several roadblocks.

    First, the “Death Star” law still needs to be overturned. Animal management is run by cities, not states. 

    Second, it is not enough to switch to “licensed breeders.” The main protection for pet animals comes from the Animal Welfare Act, under the purview of the USDA. These regulations are minimal and barely enforced. Under these, mothers still live in cages barely bigger than their bodies. They are denied social contact, kept perpetually pregnant and dumped when their uterus’ shrivel.

    The only added layer of protection are local, city and state laws. Dallas’ ordinance has a provision requiring breeders to vaccinate animals four months and older. They also allow sale from “registered breeders.”

    State law in Texas only requires a breeding license if you breed 11 or more animals, or sell more than 20. 

    The Texas Humane Network demonstrates that getting a breeding license is fairly simple, filling out one application. If the breeder owns 11 to 25 animals, they pay a fee of $300. If they own over 26 they pay $500. 

    At bare minimum there needs to be stricter requirements to obtain a license, and better enforcement of the state laws. 

    Some policy improvements suggested by Texas Humane Legislation Network include doubling the size of dog cages, not keeping dogs outside in temperatures colder than 50 degrees and hotter than 90, not allowing cage floors to be made of wire, and not allowing dog cages to be stacked on top of each other.

    Due to the “Death Star” law, city officials sit on their hands and claim there is nothing they can do. They have passed responsibility to the state. But politics are infinitely complicated while bureaucrats are capable of passing off responsibility forever.

    The local government is capable of managing the city if they are motivated. While stores cannot be targeted, mills can be. Yet due to a lack of inspectors, people are forced to rely on citizen reports to initiate inspections. This could be fixed by providing additional funding and making this issue a priority. 

    The state government needs to hear complaining from city officials, and right now city officials are not motivated to complain. A statewide ban on commercially bred animals would be good too, but at the end of the day, all politics are local. Cities know what’s best for themselves, and ideally, they should minimize intervention from larger entities as much as possible. 

     

    Illustration by Macy Kanekkeberg


  • The History of the Texas Dog or Cat Breeder Act

     

    In 2011, the Texas Humane Legislation Network was instrumental in passing HB 1451, which licenses and regulates large-scale commercial dog and cat breeders.

    The Dog and Cat Breeder Act provides basic protections for tens of thousands of dogs and cats confined and raised in large-scale breeding facilities by requiring humane housing and care standards and needed veterinary care.  The law is administered and enforced by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and requires periodic inspections and annual veterinary care. 

    THLN's 2011 Victory

    THLN knew that federal dog and cat breeding regulation was too broad and left too many loopholes in which unscrupulous breeders could evade regulation. Specifically, THLN fought hard to regulate large-scale commercial dog breeding operations that placed profit over the well-being of its animals. In 2011, The Texas Dog or Cat Breeder Act (also known as HB 1451) enabled regulation to ensure that facilities that breed dogs and cats for sale in Texas provide a minimum standard of care for their animals. It acknowledged that many commercial breeding facilities do not provide adequate and humane care for the animals they are breeding and often fail to keep animals properly sheltered or to provide adequate veterinary attention.

    During its 2011 session, the 82nd Texas legislature passed HB 1451 in the Texas House and Senate, and Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law on June 17, 2011. The Act requires a person acting as a dog or cat breeder to obtain licensure by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

    Senate Bill 876 – THLN Strengthens the Texas Dog or Cat Breeders Act 

    In the 2023 Legislative Session, THLN helped strengthen the Texas Dog or Cat Breeders Act.  While the 2011 law successfully prevented animal cruelty at licensed facilities, loopholes allowed numerous large-scale breeders to avoid inspections and meet basic standards of care, by 2023, it was clear: the Texas Licensed Breeders Law needed reform to regulate commercial breeders masquerading as hobbyists.

    SB 876 requires breeders with five or more breeding females to be licensed. Previously, only breeders with eleven or more breeding females were regulated, which meant a large swath of the industry went sight unseen. According to a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) study, unlicensed breeding facilities are responsible for the majority of cruelty and neglect complaints.  SB 876 also removes the need to prove a breeder sold 20 or more animals in a calendar year. Many breeders conduct cash-only sales, which are untraceable. By removing the “proof of sales” requirement, SB 876 closes a significant loophole that allowed commercial breeders to evade accountability. This legislation will effectuate change for thousands of animals across the state and allow the Texas Licensed Breeders Law to oversee the industry as originally intended.

    SB 876 was authored by Representative Brad Buckley and co-authored by Senator Pete Flores and Senator John Whitmire. SB 876 is effective September 1, 2023, and breeders with five or more breeding females must be licensed by January 1, 2024.

    UPDATE:  Between now and January 1, 2024, THLN needs YOU to ensure the rules associated with these changes to the Texas Dog or Cat Breeders Act do not allow loopholes for breeders to avoid licensure.  STAY TUNED and continue looking for additional updates throughout the rule-making process!

    About the Legislation

    HB 1451 The Dog and Cat Breeder Act

    Bill Caption: Relating to the licensing and regulation of certain dog and cat breeders; providing penalties. Effective Immediately on: June 17, 2011 Authors: Thompson | Pitts | Rodriguez, Eddie | Lucio III | Branch Coauthors: Hartnett | Johnson | King, Phil | Laubenberg | MarquezSponsor: Whitmire
    Cosponsor: Ellis

    Read more about this bill

     

    What is Dog or Cat Breeding?

    There is no Texas statute or rule that specifically defines “breeding.” However, you can infer by the collective definitions found in the licensed breeder statutes and rules that “breeding” means the practice of mating selected dogs with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics in order to sell the offspring for commercial purposes.

     

    Who must be licensed?

    Anyone who has 11 or more adult intact female dogs and /or cats and who sells or offers to sell 20 or more dogs or cats in a calendar year must be licensed. The law provides exemptions for certain types of dog breeding, including dogs, bred for herding livestock, hunting, or competing in field trials.

    Are there different license types?
    No. Breeder licenses are required for each facility. According to Tex. Occ. Code § 802.153(c):

    A licensed breeder that has more than one facility shall: 
    1. keep separate records for each facility; and 
    2. submit a separate accounting of animals for each facility.”

    How is a Breeder Defined?

    *A “breeder” is defined as a person who (1) possesses five or more adult intact female animals; and (2) is engaged in the business of breeding those animals for direct or indirect sale or for exchange in return for consideration. *See Tex. Occ. Code § 802.001(8) and 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 91.10(8)

    Those who need a breeder’s license are those who meet the definition of a breeder or who hold themselves out to be a breeder is required to be licensed. Specifically, Tex. Occ. Code § 802.101(a) states: “A person may not act as, offer to act as, or represent that the person is a dog or cat breeder in this state unless the person holds a license under this chapter for each facility that the person owns or operates in this state. A license for a single facility may cover more than one building on the same premises.”

    The TDLR shall issue a license to each dog or cat breeder who:
    1. meets the requirements of this chapter and rules adopted under this chapter; 
    2. applies* to the department on the form prescribed by the department; and 
    3. pays the required fee ($300 - Licensed Breeder 25 or less intact females and $500 – Licensed Breeder 26 or more intact females). 


    Texas Law Specifies the Responsibilities and Standards of Care for Dog and Cat Breeders

    Licensed Breeder Responsibilities

    • Timely license renewal annually;
    • Prominently display a copy of the license at the breeder’s facility; 
    • Maintain a copy of the breeders’ rules at each facility;
    • Include the license number in each advertisement of the licensed breeder, and may not engage in false, misleading, or deceptive advertising;
    • Include in each contract for the sale or transfer of an animal by the licensed breeder: the license number and the following statement: “Dog and cat breeders are regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, P.O. Box 12157, Austin, Texas 78711, 1-800-803-9202, 512-463-6599, www.tdlr.texas.gov”;
    • Submit an annual inventory, giving an accounting of all animals held at the facility at any time during the preceding calendar year for each facility;
    • Maintain a separate record for each animal in the breeder’s facility documenting the animal’s care, and these records must be on file at the licensed facility for at least two years; and
    • Ensure that each breeding facility follows all standards of care the department sets.

    What are the basic standards of care required by Texas Law?

    Title 16 sections 91.100–.113 of the Texas Administrative Code provide comprehensive rules that regulate the standards of care for:

    • indoor, outdoor, and sheltered housing facilities,
    • primary enclosures, 
    • compatible grouping of animals, 
    • exercise for dogs, 
    • feeding and watering of the animals, 
    • cleaning, sanitation, housekeeping, pest control, onsite personnel, grooming, veterinary care, sales, and
    • transfers.


    Failure to abide by these rules may result in administrative penalties, including fines, suspension, revocation, or both.


    Ongoing Enforcement of Dog and Cat Breeders in Texas


    Enforcement and Activity

    The TDLR derives its authority to enforce license breeder regulation from the Texas Administrative Code, chapters 51 and 802, and associated rules. If a person violates Chapter 802 or a rule adopted under it, they are subject to any action or penalty under subchapter F or G of Chapter 51.99. In addition, the TDLR has the right to enter the premises of a licensed breeder to conduct complaint-driven investigations and periodic compliance inspections.*

    See Tex. Occ. Code §§ 51.351, 802.062 and 802.063.101

     

    Inspections and Investigations

    Once an applicant applies and pays, TDLR will conduct a pre-license inspection, conducted by TDLR Field Operations to ensure the facility complies with TDLR standards.

    After a license is issued to a breeder, inspectors conduct periodic inspections at least once every 18 months (16 Tex. Admin. Code § 91.52(a)).  

    Because of the newness of the program, the majority of our cases are complaint-driven. The Department is required to investigate each complaint. As more individuals are required to become licensed, more complaints arise.  

    During our investigations and inspections, we are looking whether the facility requires a license and if so, are TDLR safety and sanitation laws and rules are being followed. The Department is also looking for any signs of animal cruelty and neglect. In such cases, this information is forwarded to adequate authorities (criminal investigators).

     

    Periodic Inspections

    Periodic inspections every eighteen months. During the inspection, the inspector examines the facility to ensure animal health.  Specifically, the inspector looks for disease, sickness, visible injury, and adequate grooming. The inspector also ensures sanitation standards, such as cleanliness, sufficient food, and linen storage, and that the applicant adheres to proper waste disposal and insect treatment at the breeding facility. Further, the inspector ensures the facility’s housing and transportation requirements, including animal measurement, space requirement, kennel safety, proper heating and cooling, ground cover, adequate shade, access to food and clean water, and kennel population, are in compliance with TDLR standards.

    See 16 TEX. ADMIN. CODE § 91.52

    Out of Cycle Inspections

    In addition, after the periodic inspection, the inspector may find that the licensee is subject to out-of-cycle inspections. These additional inspections become necessary to ensure facility compliance with serious or repeated violations. Specifically, if the periodic inspection reveals a serious or repeated violation relating to sanitation violations or failure to timely remedy violations documented during periodic inspections, investigations, or commission orders, the facility will be inspected twice a year. Moreover, if there are repeated or serious violations related to shelter, food, water, and medical treatment or examinations, the facility will be inspected four times each year. If an inspector determines that a licensee is subject to out-of-cycle inspections, TDLR will notify the owner in writing if the facility becomes subject to out-of-cycle inspections and the scheduled frequency of inspections.

    See 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 91.53 

    Onsite Duty to Report Animal Cruelty

    Texas Penal Code § 42.092 (cruelty to a non-livestock animal) is a Class A Misdemeanor.

    TDLR Inspectors/Investigators are required to report all animal cruelty violations within 24 hours to local law enforcement. § 802.064

    It is advised to take photographs, write a detailed report, and turn it over to the local authorities.

    Field Operations Division

    Responsible for conducting pre-license, periodic, and out-of-cycle inspections. 

    20 inspectors in the division

    4 of the inspectors are assigned to the BRE program

    146 licensees in Fiscal Year 2014

    Most Common Violations include:

    • 1. Standards of Care—Primary Enclosure, 16 Tex. Admin. Code Ch. 91, § 91.104(1)(A). Failure to be designed and constructed of suitable materials so that they are structurally sound. 
    • 2. Standards of Care—Primary Enclosure, 16 Tex. Admin. Code Ch. 91, § 91.104(1)(B). Failure to properly maintain a primary enclosure so that it is suitable, safe, and secure for a dog or cat.
    • 3. Standards of Care—Housing Generally, 16 Tex. Admin. Code Ch. 91, § 91.100(3)(B). Surfaces. All surfaces must be maintained on a regular basis. Surfaces must be replaced when worn or soiled.
    • 4. Standards of Care—Housing Generally, 16 Tex. Admin. Code Ch. 91, § 91.100(1). Structure; construction. Housing facilities for dogs and cats must be designed and constructed so that they are structurally sound. They must be kept in good repair, and they must protect the animals from injury, contain the animals securely, and restrict other animals from entering.

    Prosecution

    After the inspection or investigation is complete, the inspector or investigator submits a detailed report of the facts to the prosecuting attorney. The attorney then proceeds, as described below to determine the appropriate resolution of the case. 

    In all cases, the prosecutor decides how the case will be resolved. If the prosecutor determines that formal enforcement action is not warranted due to insufficient evidence or other reasons, they will close the case informally by issuing a closing letter. They may also give a warning letter to the respondent, recommending that they come into compliance with the applicable law. 

    To proceed with formal enforcement action, the prosecutor issues a Notice of Alleged Violation (NOAV) seeking administrative penalties and possible sanctions against the respondent’s license. An administrative penalty is a monetary fine paid by the respondent to the State of Texas. A sanction is an action upon the respondent’s license and may include suspension, probation, a written reprimand, or outright revocation of the license. Administrative penalties and sanctions applicable to specific violations within each TDLR program are reflected in the TDLR Enforcement Plan.

     


  • THLN and Operation Kindness Host Coffee, Donuts, and Dogs

    On March 2, 2024, we co-hosted our “Coffee, Donuts, and Dogs” event with Operation Kindness to discuss animal cruelty cases in Dallas, and the legal process behind the case.  While THLN discussed the laws that passed in 2023 combating animal cruelty, we were joined by the Dallas Police Department, Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center (DAS), and Operation Kindness’ Community Initiatives team to explain how they tackle animal cruelty cases. 

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  • THLN reminding Texans it’s illegal to leave dogs outside in extreme cold without adequate shelter

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Ahead of first freeze of 2024, THLN reminding Texans it’s illegal to leave dogs outside in extreme cold without adequate shelter

    DALLAS, TX – Ahead of Texas’ first freeze of the year, THLN is reminding Texans it is illegal to leave dogs unattended outside in freezing temperatures and educating the public on what to do if they come across a dog outside in the freezing weather. 

    “We are strongly advising all pet owners to keep pets inside during the upcoming winter weather that’s slated to hit the whole state,” said Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of THLN. “The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act passed in 2021 requires dogs left outside to be safe from the elements. During Winter Storm Uri of 2021, our hotline was inundated with calls from concerned citizens about dogs left outside in the freezing weather - hundreds of which died.”

    “The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act strikes the 24-hour waiting period so that law enforcement can address critical situations immediately to prevent tragedy,” said Jamey Cantrell, President of the Texas Animal Control Association. “If you see a dog left outside in below-freezing weather without adequate shelter, please call your local animal control. To report animal cruelty, please call 911.”

    "Extreme weather, such as the freezing temperatures that are about to hit Texas, does not allow outdoor animals to become acclimated," said Melissa Draper, a Texas shelter veterinarian. "Studies have shown that it takes 10 to 20 days for animals to acclimate to cold weather and up to 60 days for full acclimatization. The safest option for pets is to bring them inside." 

    “Owners of chickens, horses, and other equines or livestock should ensure the animals' enclosures are properly secured and insulated. Outside shelter is best lined with straw instead of blankets, as blankets are likely to freeze and make their shelter colder. The best way to protect all animals in these weather conditions is to prepare as early as possible,” concluded Bobosky. 

    The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, which went into effect January 2022, establishes basic standards of outdoor shelter and care for the safety of animals and their surrounding communities by:

    • Defining adequate shelter to protect dogs from extreme temperatures, inclement weather, and standing water. Previously, there was no definition for shelter, thus tethered dogs routinely perished from exposure.
    • Requiring access to drinkable water. Before the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, state law did not include this vital requirement.
    • Requiring safe restraints. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act strikes the use of chains. Other means of restraint, such as cable tie-outs, may be used so long as they are correctly attached to a collar or harness designed to restrain a dog.

    To learn more or to schedule an interview, contact Cara Gustafson at 561-797-8267 or [email protected]


  • Helping Law Enforcement Help Animals

    Article Written By: Jessica Milligan, Assistant District Attorney and Animal Cruelty Section Chief for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Sarah Dimas, HCDAO Intern and South Texas College of Law Class of 2019 Law Student

    It’s an average May morning in Texas. The temperature is rising. A concerned citizen comes home after dropping her kids off at school and sees the same mixed-breed dog she has seen the last several days in her neighbor’s backyard. She knows the dog has lived with her neighbor for the last couple of years and was healthy when he first brought it home. However, over the last month, the dog’s coat has begun to disappear and mange has taken over. Each day, it seems the dog gets skinnier and skinnier, its skeleton now showing through its mange-ridden and dirty coat. As usual, the food bowls in the back yard are empty and turned over. There’s only a bucket of bug-infested, dirty rain water left in the yard for the animal to drink. The dog’s nails are overgrown and it doesn’t seem to walk around much anymore, either due to the pain in its paws or its pure lack of energy from malnutrition. The dog’s whimpering now and clearly asking for help. What should the concerned citizen do? Should she jump the fence and take the animal to her veterinarian? Should she call a local rescue group for help? Or should she call 911?

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The ONLY organization in Texas that dedicates 100% of resources to pass bills that protect TX animals from abuse & fight bills that weaken animal protection.