BY SHELBY BOBOSKY
PUBLISHED JULY 22, 2021
Recently, the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance published an opinion piece taking aim at broad issues within animal welfare and, more specifically, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act (SB 474), which passed the House and Senate this session but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Unfortunately, the latter was largely mischaracterized as was the Texas Humane Legislation Network, the only mainstream organization that follows no national agenda, just what’s good for Texas and its animals.
THLN has more than 27,000 members throughout Texas and proudly represents their voices, and the voices of thousands more animal lovers and advocates, lobbying for common sense legislation in the Texas Capitol as we were founded by Texans to exclusively focus on the unique challenges facing animals in our state.
Let’s focus on the facts surrounding SB 474.
First, the bill would have established basic standards of shelter and care for dogs left outdoors and provided much-needed clarification to existing law to promote the safety of animals and the people around them. It does not change the nature of the current law — it simply makes it enforceable.
All the elements Abbott and RPOA have cited as “micromanagement” were carefully negotiated compromises that addressed concerns from lawmakers of both parties to strike the right balance for our diverse state. The bill received wide bipartisan support in both chambers and had more than 90 co-authors sign onto it in the House, including Lufkin Rep. Trent Ashby.
When RPOA tries to classify a bill with this much bipartisan support as “extremist,” we would take it with a grain of salt.
To further avoid infringing upon the rights of dog owners, THLN worked closely with lawmakers across the aisle to include key exemptions in the bill, including for dogs restrained in public places like parks and campgrounds, those used for farming, field trials and hunting tasks, dogs restrained on a trolley system, and those temporarily unattended in an open-air truck bed. In fact, the “unintentional consequences” RPOA lists for underserved and rural dog owners are actually covered by SB 474’s exemptions.
Finally, SB 474 would not “over-criminalize” unlawful restraint. The criminal offense language remains the same as the law that is currently in place. We worked with Texas law enforcement organizations and animal control officers to ensure it would not have unintended consequences for everyday Texans and earned their support of SB 474.
For years RPOA has hidden their opposition behind a thinly veiled attempt to paint animal welfare organizations and issues as extremist. While they publish red meat pieces that focus on narrative and not fact, we have spent years crafting a bill that is right for Texans and improves the lives of Texas animals.
While we are disappointed in the veto decision and in a piece like this from RPOA, we will never stop fighting for animals and hope we can overcome the Governor’s objections in the future.
If you’d like to join our efforts to make a positive impact for Texas animals, please visit us at thln.org.
Shelby Bobosky is the executive director of the Texas Humane Legislative Network, a Texas animal law expert and adjunct law professor who teaches animal law and wildlife law at Southern Methodist University.