Emily Heidt

  • Dallas considering ban on horse-drawn carriage rides in the city

    Originally Published in: Dallas News
    Published on:January 2024
    Written By: Everton Bailey Jr. 

    Animal welfare and traffic concerns are among reasons officials are considering a ban, but the city’s lone permitted operator says updated rules are the solution.

    Horse on Dallas street in front of Adolphus Hotel. scontent-dfw5-1.xx.fbcdn.net

    Horse on Dallas street in front of Adolphus Hotel. scontent-dfw5-1.xx.fbcdn.net

    Horse-drawn carriage rides through downtown Dallas and other parts of the city could end soon if some elected officials and animal rights activists get their way against the owner of the city’s only permitted carriage company, who says he’s providing an in-demand service in a safe and humane way.

    City Council members began publicly discussing a possible ban on horse-powered carriage rides in early December and will continue deliberating this year. A ban would put Dallas among the largest cities in the country to outlaw the rides, joining Chicago; Salt Lake City; Biloxi, Miss.; and other areas.

    San Antonio, Philadelphia and New York City are among other cities where officials have recently proposed similar bans. The sight of a carriage horse collapsing on a Manhattan street in August 2022 and being hosed by police officers to cool down renewed calls for reforms in New York.

    Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua, who chairs the council’s quality of life committee, said he supports an overall ban on horse-drawn carriages, citing concerns about street safety and the treatment of horses.

    “I don’t think we should have a place for horses on our streets,” Bazaldua told The Dallas Morning News. “I think it’s inhumane for the animal. I think it’s overall dangerous for having safer streets.”

    Bazaldua, who said his committee took up the issue after hearing concerns from residents, acknowledged that even if City Council ultimately adopts a ban, it is unclear how effectively Dallas could enforce it. He said he believes some carriages are operating without city-approved permits.

    Others say an outright ban in Dallas would be too harsh and not reflective of working for the animals in the city. They say horse carriage rides have been in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since at least the 1980s to help commemorate events like weddings, funerals, parades and proms, and they provide a nostalgic charm that isn’t available all over the country.

    Brian High, the owner of North Star Carriage, disputed claims that his horses are mistreated. He pointed to a series of city rules operators have to follow to ensure equine safety like eight-hour work limits and at least 12 hours rest for the horses, not working when the temperature is above 99 degrees, mandatory water breaks at least every two hours and examinations at least once every six months by a state- licensed veterinarian.

    High said he’d rather work with the city to help update regulations, like lowering the temperature limit.

    “A ban would put us out of business. Bottom line,” said High, who has overseen his business since 1996. His family owns and runs a ranch in Krum, more than 35 miles northwest of Dallas. He said he employs up to 40 people during Christmastime, the business’ busiest season, and uses a rotation of at least 10 horses.

    “There are people who depend on these jobs, it’s an important part of their yearly income, and I hope that means something,” he said.

     

    High said his horses and operators typically work five or six hours on the weekends and around three hours on weekdays.

    “I know that people think that we work [the horses] forever, but that’s just inaccurate and wrong,” High said. “If we’re out four hours during the week, it’s been a busy, busy weeknight.”

    High estimated his business takes part in around 300 engagements a year and about 150 weddings. He said people also hire the carriages for funerals along with making reservations and walk-up appointments in places like Dallas’ West End and the Klyde Warren Park area. He said they also operate in Highland Park and Plano.

    Dallas’ aviation department oversees the regulation and enforcement of horse-drawn carriages, taxis, limos and other transportation-for-hire businesses. Patrick Carreno, the department’s director, said inspectors are proactive in enforcing city rules and estimates his office will update the City Council with more information on how the industry is
    regulated as well as a plan to get community feedback on a possible ban in April.

    “If this stays and is found to be of value to the city, we’ll make sure it’s regulated properly,” Carreno told The News. “Whether it does stay, that’s not a question for our department to answer. It’s more of what direction the City Council wants to go.”

    Carreno told council members during a Dec. 5 quality of life committee meeting that his office knew of no record of any accidents involving North Star Carriage.

    “We haven’t had any significant findings from the inspectors or complaints that have shown any significant violations at this time,” the aviation department director said during the meeting.

    He said the city in the future may consider moving enforcement to the transportation department. Dallas’ aviation office took over transportation regulation from the code compliance office in 2016.

    Gloria Carbajal, lead organizer for advocacy group Ban Horse Carriages Dallas, said she believes the city should enforce a ban sooner rather than later. She said she saw horses working in temperatures above 99 degrees this past summer and has seen carriages going up and down bike lanes.

    Although she didn’t know of any incidents in Dallas leading to a horse or person being injured or killed, Carbajal said a ban would guarantee that doesn’t happen in the future.

    “It’s just a tragedy waiting to happen,” said Carbajal. “These are animals working in unnatural conditions and surroundings, and I would think that is a liability for the city and the public.”

    Jodie Wiederkehr, a Chicago-based animal rights activist who helped campaign to get horse-drawn carriages banned in Chicago and is aiding Carbajal’s group, said she doesn’t believe improved regulations will prevent any person or animal from getting hurt. She is also against any arguments that city tourism would take a hit from horse-drawn carriage rides going away. 

    “Nobody is coming to Chicago or Dallas specifically to ride a horse carriage,” said Wiederkehr, executive director of the Partnership to Ban Horse Carriages Worldwide. “We have no desire to put people out of jobs. We just want to end a cruel and outdated activity.”

    She said she hopes if a ban happens the city would work with any impacted businesses to offer incentives to displaced workers or help them transition to other tourism- related jobs. Wiederkehr said she helped reach out to horse rescues and sanctuaries in Chicago to secure new homes for animals after officials in that city approved a ban in 2020. She said she didn’t know of any of the three companies that were operating in Chicago at the time deciding to give up their horses to those groups.

    “Only the owners of the horses have the ultimate say in what happens to them,” Wiederkehr said.

    During the December quality of life committee meeting, some expressed skepticism about keeping horse carriage rides. They said they wanted more clarity on what benefit the activity provides the city, if alternatives like electric carriages should be considered instead and what the city is doing to make sure operators approved to work in places like Highland Park aren’t also drifting onto Dallas streets.

    “I would say that I just think as a society, it may be time to just move beyond this,” said council member Gay Donnell Willis during the Dec. 5 meeting.

    Council member Paul Ridley said he was opposed to a ban, saying he believed it added to the character and atmosphere of areas the carriages operate in and expressing concerns about the future of the horses if the businesses were outlawed.

    “These horses have a purpose in life and that’s to work,” Ridley said during the meeting. “If we ban this operation, what’s going to happen to those horses? They’re probably going to be put down because they are expensive to maintain, and if they don’t generate income, there’s no motivation to keep them around.”

    High said he wasn’t sure how likely a Dallas ban would be, but hoped his business had a chance to make its case for why it should stay on city streets.

    “We bring a lot of benefits to this city like educating locals and nonlocals alike on Dallas’ history,” he said, “and all of that tradition goes away if you ban us.”


  • THLN is sad to learn of the passing of former board member and longtime animal advocate, Elaine Munch.

    Elaine began her career in aviation and then spent decades in marketing. Her lifelong passion for animals brought great change to the city of Dallas and beyond. She served on the boards of directors for Garland Humane Society, the Humane Society of Greater Dallas, DFW Humane Society, and Weimaraner Rescue. But she was an activist at heart: protesting circus cruelty, puppy mills, and hunting of baby harp seals; helping end the sale of animals from the Dallas shelter to laboratories; and working to pass local and statewide laws protecting animals in Texas.  

    In July of 2000, she and other advocates founded Metroplex Animal Coalition (MAC), an alliance of over 50 nonprofit animal welfare-organizations working to save as many dog and cat lives as possible. Elaine served as President of MAC from 2000-2013. During that time, they successfully lobbied for the first significant changes to ordinances in decades, including mandatory spay/neuter; a ban on tethering; improved dangerous dog ordinances; and pet limits. From 2000-2013, MAC provided 19,104 low-cost surgeries to Dallas residents in underserved areas, convinced then Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to officially declare February 27, 2001, as Spay Day, and became a founding partner in the Big Fix for Big D, a 3-year, 3 million dollar spay/neuter initiative. 

    She served on the City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission from 2002-2004, helping launch a successful campaign to obtain $11.5M for construction of a new 52,000 square foot, state-of-the-art animal shelter to replace the City’s outdated, deteriorating, and overwhelmed facility built in the 1950s.  

    On May 1, 2013, the Metroplex Animal Coalition, Dallas Animal Advocates, and Dallas Companion Animal Project (DCAP) entered a ground-breaking merger to continue the public advocacy and industry collaboration Elaine was committed to. The merger brought the strength and resources of all three organizations together, moving forward as one to continue fighting to address the animal-related issues that resulted in the needless deaths of so many animals in Dallas.  

    In the years that followed, Elaine was instrumental in creating DCAP's metroplex-wide pet resource listing and map, lost pet network, and a state-of-the-art online portal connecting corporate donors with animal welfare agencies. She helped secure community-focused grants for Pets For Life outreach and spay/neuter events and helped acquire funding for Dallas Animal Services' first volunteer and foster program.  

    In 2016, THLN was lucky enough to convince Elaine to join our board as she wasn’t really “retired…retired.”  Elaine used her marketing expertise and graciously spearheaded the first and only rebranding of THLN and its logo. It came at a pivotal time when many other animal groups began working at the Capitol. Elaine held close ties with her elected officials and convinced one of them to bring a controversial bill at a time that we knew wouldn’t pass, but it brought education and awareness to dogs in Texas research facilities. Elaine helped pass numerous laws, but including the Animal Cruelty Enhancements law in which she created a THLN Animal Cruelty Awareness campaign that is still used today.

    She was a loving wife, an avid gardener, a loyal friend, and a tireless voice for animals. Her big smile and vibrant personality will be missed by the many friends she made during a lifetime of activism. Our thoughts are with her husband, Mel.

    Elaine was proud of her work but never failed to recognize those around her. “I'm part of something much bigger than myself or one group alone. We haven't changed the world (yet), we are truly moving forward, and what's more important - we are trying. I sleep better at night because we are still trying...but what's most important is that we are trying on a different level than ever before. That's why it's worth it!”   


  • 2023 Animal Law Legislative Update - State Bar of Texas

    Originally Published in: State Bar of Texas
    Published on: December 2023
    Written By: Shelby Bobosky and Randy Turner

    Legislative Update


    ANIMAL LAW


    The 88th Texas Legislature made significant changes to existing laws and local ordinances that will change the trajectory of the animal law landscape for years to come.

    Dog and Cat Breeder Bill
    In 2011, Texas passed a law regulating large-scale cat and dog breeders titled the Dog or Cat Breeders Act, found in Chapter 802 of the Texas Occupations Code. While the 2011 law prevented animal cruelty at licensed facilities, loopholes allowed numerous large-scale breeders to avoid inspections and basic standards of care. SB 876 was passed this session, requiring breeders with five or more breeding females to be licensed. Previously, only breeders with 11 or more breeding females were regulated. According to a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, or TDLR, study, unlicensed breeding facilities are responsible for most cruelty and neglect complaints. SB 876, effective September 1, 2023, also removes the need to prove that a breeder sold 20 or more animals in a calendar year. This legislation will enable the Texas Licensed Breeders Law to oversee the industry as originally intended.

    Trap-Neuter-Return Bill
    In late 2022, confusion erupted over whether trap-neuter-return, or TNR, of unowned community cats should be considered “abandonment” under Section 42.092 et. seq. of the Texas Penal Code. TNR 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, and then tipping their ear as a sign they have been treated. TNR programs save thousands of Texas cats from euthanasia annually, and the prospect of prosecuting TNR providers for abandonment threatened to end successful programs across the state.

    HB 3660, effective June 10, 2023, 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 a defense to prosecution for returning TNR cats to their outdoor homes. As a result, the law now clearly distinguishes between abandoning an owned companion animal versus releasing a TNR cat. However, the unreasonable abandonment of an owned companion animal is still punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, jail time of up to a year, or both.

    Fake Service Animals
    In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of non-disabled people misrepresenting their pet dogs as service animals so their pets can accompany them in public spaces. Increased incidents of pet dogs distracting or attacking service animals have diminished the quality of life for disabled people who rely on service animals to navigate daily life. After negative encounters with imposters, some businesses have denied legitimate service animals access to their establishments, and significant numbers of service dog teams have begun avoiding public spaces for fear of being accosted by untrained pets.

    HB 4164, effective September 1, 2023, amends Section 121.006 of the Human Resources Code by clarifying the language describing a service animal and strengthening the penalties for misrepresenting an animal as a service animal when they are not specially trained to help a person with a disability. As a result of HB 4164, the fine for asserting an untrained pet is a service animal increases from $300 to $1,000, and the offender may be required to perform 30 hours of community service for organizations serving persons with disabilities.

    Preemption of City Animal Ordinances
    HB 2127, effective September 1, 2023, preempts Texas’ municipalities from regulating activity under several sections of the Texas code unless that authority is expressly granted under another statute. HB 2127 amends Chapter 229 of the Local Government Code by prohibiting municipalities from adopting or enforcing regulations concerning “the breeding, care, treatment, or sale of animals or animal products, including a veterinary practice, or the business’s transactions if the person operating that business holds a license for the business that is issued by the federal government or a state.” While HB 2127 bars local government from passing future ordinances of this type, pet store ordinances adopted before April 1, 2023, remain enforceable until a statewide law regulating pet store sales is passed.

    Animal Abusers Prohibited From Owning Pets
    As of May 2023, 39 states have laws commonly called “possession bans” to prohibit persons convicted of animal cruelty from owning companion animals for a fixed period of time. The most common length of time a person is prohibited from possessing animals after conviction is five years. Some states go so far as to limit the ability of offenders to work with or ever own a companion animal again. HB 598 amends Chapter 42 of the Texas Penal Code by adding Section 42.107, which makes it a crime for a person previously convicted of animal cruelty to possess a non-livestock animal (i.e., companion animals such as a cat or a dog) for a period of five years after conviction. HB 598 also enhances the penalty for repeat violations under Section 42.107 from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class B. HB 598, effective September 1, 2023, disrupts an offender’s access to animals for a significant period of time.

    Right-to-Farm Laws
    HJR 126, dubbed the “Right-to-Farm Amendment,” amends the Texas Constitution to enshrine a right to engage in commercial agricultural activities on private property inside city limits. HJR 126 includes raising livestock and poultry, harvesting timber, and managing wildlife, and this proposition will be on the November 7, 2023, Texas ballot. If a majority of voters approve the proposition to amend the Texas Constitution, cities will not be able to regain control over agricultural operations in their jurisdictions by amending or repealing state laws.

    Even if the amendment falls short of the necessary votes to amend the Texas Constitution by adding a “right-to-farm,” the Legislature codified a “right-to-farm in the city” by passing HB 1750. Historically, Texas cities with populations of 5,000 or more could regulate agricultural operations in city limits, such as livestock and poultry operations, so long as those regulations did not contradict state law. If a city annexed territory with preexisting agricultural operations, the city could regulate those operations after demonstrating that the regulation was necessary to protect the public.

    HB 1750, effective September 1, 2023, amends the Texas Agriculture Code so that the requirement for cities to prove local regulation is necessary to protect the public is no longer limited to the newly annexed territory. Instead, agricultural operations cannot be regulated locally unless the city health department issues a report showing the operation poses a dire hazard to people in the immediate vicinity and the city council passes a resolution authorizing the regulation. HB 1750 preempts cities’ ability to proactively prevent harm by requiring municipalities to show harm after the fact.

    Regarding ordinances regulating the care of animals, HB 1750 preempts cities from passing or enforcing regulations that prohibit “generally accepted agricultural practices” for animals in agricultural operations. Instead, HB 1750 directs the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to detail which practices are generally accepted in a forthcoming manual. Two provisions in HB 1750 are specific to companion animals. First, HB 1750 adds veterinary clinics to the list of businesses protected by the “right-to-farm” because they service agricultural operations. Second, HB 1750 prohibits cities from enforcing local tethering ordinances for dogs guarding livestock. HB 1750 does not invalidate SB 5, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act passed in 2021. Like all other dogs tethered outdoors in Texas, livestock guard dogs must be provided adequate shelter and drinkable water and cannot be tethered by chains.

    HB 2308 works with HB 1750 by limiting the circumstances under which agricultural operations can be sued. In particular, HB 2308, effective September 1, 2023, amends the Texas Agriculture Code so that parties bringing nuisance lawsuits against agricultural operations must show clear and convincing evidence of harm. If they lose in court, the party that brought the lawsuit must pay the operation’s attorneys’ fees and court costs. Additionally, a party must file the nuisance lawsuit within one year of the operation’s start date. Thus, agricultural operations in cities operating for more than a year cannot be sued for nuisances such as odor and runoff from animal waste or toxic chemicals.

     

    Read the full article here. 


  • THLN Asks Texans to Adopt, Not Shop This Holiday Season

    Shelters across the state are overflowing with puppies and kittens in need of loving families.

     

    DALLAS, TX – The Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) is bringing public awareness to the overcapacity crisis in animal shelters across the state and encouraging prospective pet owners to adopt from Texas shelters and rescue groups as opposed to buying pets from online retailers or pet shops.

    “One of the most important reasons Texans should adopt this holiday season is to ensure they are not inadvertently supporting and endorsing commercial breeding facilities, better known as puppy mills, that supply pet stores and sell pets online,” said Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of THLN. “Out-of-state puppy mills are breeding operations that house hundreds of dogs in deplorable living conditions without proper food, water, veterinary care, or human interaction.”

    The sole purpose of a puppy mill is to mass-produce puppies and sell them for monetary gain. There is no regard for the welfare of the breeding stock or the puppies that are produced. Puppies from puppy mills are often seriously ill, poorly socialized, and many times suffer from life-threatening congenital defects due to being poorly bred. 

    “By adopting a pet from your local shelter or rescue, you will free up space for another homeless animal to have the opportunity to find a forever home and relieve the pressure on shelters and rescues. Plus, shelter animals are already evaluated, vaccinated, treated for parasites, tested for life-threatening diseases, and micro-chipped,” concluded Bobosky. 

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

     

     


  • THLN featured in Progress Times

    Originally Published in: Progress Times
    Published on: 
    November 07, 2023
    Written By: Maria Ruiz

    Texas Humane Legislative Network to propose animal advocacy chapter in RGV

     

    Monday, the Texas Humane Legislative Network (THLN) will meet with local animal organizations at the McAllen Library to propose a chapter for animal welfare advocacy in the Rio Grande Valley. With administrations across Texas, THLN works to bring awareness to statewide and nationwide animal issues.

    Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, said that THLN promotes legislation and advocacy for the humane treatment of animals.

    “We are the only Texas organization focusing on addressing animal welfare laws in the state,” said Bobosky, a Dallas native. “We are a 501(c)4, but we also have a 501(c)3 organization called the Texas Humane Network. The mission of the 501(c)3 is to promote the humane treatment of animals through education and training…the (c)4 passes the laws, and the (c)3 educates on the laws.”

    Primarily volunteer-based, the organization has chapters in Austin, Tyler, El Paso, Houston, and Wichita Falls with dedicated supporters. According to Bobosky, local chapters “get political for animals.”

    “Not only can they serve as a voice at the Texas Capitol, but they also can be the voice of thousands of animal welfare policies at a local level,” Bobosky said.

    The THLN Executive Director said the organization is exploring and bringing a chapter to the Valley but says it is up to the citizens if it takes root.

    Earlier this year, there was a humane lobby in Austin at the state capitol, where Bobosky and the THLN team saw an influx of animal rights activists from the Valley.

    “I was incredibly impressed that so many animal lovers, advocates, and rescuers all came up from RGV to be a part of this lobby day,” said Bobosky. “That is where the idea copulated.”

    The meeting discusses the logistics of a chapter and informs the public on recently passed animal laws and how they affect the community.

    “The point is to educate on the new laws and really serve as a Q&A for questions related to animal laws,” Bobosky said.

    Issues, such as puppies sold at pet stores, will be a roundtable topic at the meeting. The discussion of this topic comes a week after animal advocates protested against the Paws Paradise pet store in McAllen on October 28, 2023.

    “In 2025, we plan to help support a bill that we feel will end cruel puppy mill practices in other states and truly slow down and, or, stop the puppy mill pipeline in Texas,” Bobosky passionately stated. “Many retail pet stores that are selling puppies in Texas force those puppies and kittens from out-of-state puppy mills.”

    THLN recommends adopting or rescuing shelter animals or finding a responsible breeder if one is looking for a specific breed of cat or dog.

    If cities adopt animal advocacy chapters, elected officials may provide proper funding to local shelters with overpopulation and handle issues such as animal cruelty  through increased education and awareness.

    “We serve as a guide, but if the local elected officials want to hear from their constituents, then THLN employs in other areas. So, we think that RGV is right for a chapter, and we hope to facilitate one.”

    Read the Full Article Here. 


  • 2022: Big Cat Public Safety Act

     

    The Big Cat Public Safety Act was enacted December 20, 2022, to end the private ownership of big cats as pets and prohibit exhibitors from allowing public contact with big cats, including cubs.

    It placed new restrictions on the commerce, breeding, possession, and use of certain big cat species. In order to continue to legally possess privately owned big cats, the Act required individuals or entities to register any big cat(s) that were in their possession before the date of enactment with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), unless another exception of the Act applies. This registration had to occur no later than June 18, 2023, which was 180 days after the date of enactment.  Now that registration is closed, click here to find the document that gives guidance for enforcement of the BCPSA.

    Learn More About Guidance of Enforcement


  • Roadside Sales of Live Animals 

    Roadside sales of dogs and cats occur on the side of the road and parking lots. These sales rely on “impulse buying" without regard to the follow-through care animals need. Sellers offer no guidelines about needed care or problems with some breeds. Additionally, because the sellers “are here today, gone tomorrow,” there is no recourse available for dissatisfied customers while being able to skirt specific tax laws.

    At least five states (California, Nevada, Virginia, Illinois, and Nebraska) have state laws that regulate roadside sale of animals in some way. Some laws enact comprehensive restrictions, while others are limited to specific animals or impose only procedural requirements.

    Dubbed as the Puppy Mill on Wheels, this criminal has been selling puppies all over Houston and Harris County, but he is hard to catch and makes a quick getaway once authorities are notified.

    Due to the lack of government oversight, many animals sold on the side of the road or in parking lots experience poor living conditions and receive inadequate care. Unlicensed and irresponsible breeders typically conduct roadside sales. Dogs and cats are often kept outside without water in hot temperatures, confined in small cages, and stored like warehouse items. Unregulated breeding and unsanitary practices in transporting, displaying, and selling these animals result in high, unmet needs for veterinary care. As a result, these animals can be rife with disease while spreading zoonotic diseases. 

    THLN opposes the roadside sale of animals because of their reported inhumane treatment of animals. Common complaints include animals being kept in cramped spaces, lacking water and food even in hot climates, and animals too young to be weaned and sold apart from their mothers. Many dogs and cats are not vaccinated and suffer from fleas, mange, worms, and other diseases. Many animals are soon turned over to shelters because owners have a change of heart or cannot care for a sick animal, which increases costs to the local government.

    The increasing popularity of roadside sales of dogs and cats also creates various safety issues. Pedestrian traffic on the roadside, as well as the frequent stops of vehicular traffic, can be very dangerous. These vendors can create traffic and other safety issues while encroaching on rights-of-way.

    Some states prohibit the sale of animals on streets, highways, and boardwalks. See, e.g., CAL. PENAL CODE § 597.4 (West). In other words, they prohibit the sale of animals in public spaces. 


    Laws About Roadside Sales of Live Animals in Texas

    Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio ban roadside sales of dogs and cats.

    However, sellers go to the counties next to these cities; therefore, a statewide ban is necessary. Many of these are not from Texas but from surrounding states due to the lax requirements on dogs and cats being transferred into the state to sell the animals.

    Puppies being sold in a parking lot in Montgomery County, Texas, where is it legal to sell puppies.

    In 2007, THLN worked on SB 254, which helped tighten up regulations governing roadside sales of live animals.

    Before 2007, commissioners' courts in counties with a population of 2.2 million or more were authorized to regulate the sale of animals on a public highway or road, in the right-of-way of a public street or roadway, or a parking lot in the unincorporated area of the county. Through THLN's efforts, the size of the county to which this law applies was reduced from 2.2 to 1.3 million or more, which gives smaller counties like Bexar and Tarrant the authority to regulate these activities.

    Learn more about this Victory

    Brenda Roberts, left, and Russell Clements of Porter, Texas, set up shop on FM 1960 (Montgomery County, Texas, where roadside sales are not banned).

    Unfortunately, in 2011 a significant roadside sales ban was vetoed.

    HB 1768 allowed counties with a population greater than 450,000 to adopt ordinances to regulate the sale of animals (other than livestock). However, if the county’s population exceeds 3.3 million, then the county may regulate the roadside sale of all animals. The authors of the bill were Rep. Sergio Munoz and Senator Chuy Hinojosa. The bill, unfortunately, was vetoed by Governor Perry.

    Dubbed as the Puppy Mill on Wheels, this criminal has been selling puppies all over Houston and Harris County, but he is hard to catch and makes a quick getaway once authorities are notified.

    Since 2011’s veto, three other attempts at roadside sales bills were filed but did not pass: HB 2094 by Rep. Munoz, Jr. in 2015, HB 2309 by Rep. Metcalf in 2017, and HB 1107 by Rep. Reynolds in 2019.

    Currently, a statewide roadside sales ban is necessary because of the passage of HB 2127 in 2023. HB 2127 amends Chapter 229 of the Texas Local Government Code by prohibiting municipalities from adopting or enforcing regulations concerning “the breeding, care, treatment, or sale of animals or animal products, including a veterinary practice, or the business’s transactions if the person operating that business holds a license for the business that is issued by the federal government or a state.” While HB 2127 bars local government from passing future ordinances of this type, roadside sales ordinances adopted before April 1, 2023, remain enforceable until a statewide law regulating the ban of roadside sales is passed.  

     

    What can you do to stop the sale of animals in parking lots and along the road? 

    • Safely take pictures that are date stamped to include license plates, animals, and the price of animals being sold. Do not attempt to address the person[s] on your own.
    • Notify the police, code compliance, or animal services if they are within the vicinity (especially if they are in a dangerous location to attract attention).
    • Notify the businesses where the animals are being sold.
      • Notify the store managers;
      • Ask if their security can ask the vendor to be removed.


     


  • THLN featured in Hill Country Community Journal

    Originally Published in: Hill Country Community Journal
    Published on: 
    September 30, 2023
    Written By:Rosa Lavender

     

    Kerrville Pets Alive hosted a workshop last week to educate the community on several new laws passed in the most recent session of the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Abbott related to more humane treatment of animals. The new laws went into effect Sept. 1.

    Approximately 60 people were in attendance, including law enforcement (deputy constables in the animal services department), several elected officials, and the students in the pre-veterinary program at Schreiner University.

    The workshop presenter was Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of the Texas Humane  Legislation Network whose mission is to promote the humane treatment of animals through legislation and advocacy.

    “I made clear to Shelby that our workshop was to be educational and not a political event,” said Karen Guerriero, president of Kerrville Pets Alive.

    Bobosky defined for those in attendance some of the Texas laws dealing with animal cruelty, hoarding of animals and whether leaving a dog in a hot car was illegal under Texas law. She also provided information about people who are animal abusers who later become violent with humans.

    Under current Texas law abandoning an animal is not considered animal cruelty, nor is hoarding considered animal cruelty, according to Bobosky. Each of these issues becomes a civil issue and the case usually goes to a justice of the peace or municipal court judge to determine action to be taken.

    If an animal that is confined inside a hot car is in immediate danger, a peace officer can remove it from a car, but a concerned citizen does not have the authority to do it. The person who calls law enforcement to the scene under Section 42.092 of the Texas Government Code will have to prove “cruelty.”

    Animal cruelty can also lead to more serious crimes later in life.

    “In the 2022 Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, the perpetrator previously committed animal abuse and displayed videos of the cruelty to users on social media platforms. He allegedly boasted about how he and his friends ‘did it all the time.’ There was a graphic video showing him sitting in a car holding a clear bag with two dead cats inside. He’s grinning and shows no remorse while he’s holding the dead cats,” Bobosky said.

    Bobosky provided a report on the laws passed by the Texas Legislature earlier this year that dealt with animal issues. Three of the four laws went into effect on Sept. 1, but the fourth ws declared unconstitutional by a Texas court.

    Senate Bill 876/House Bill 2238, known as the “Puppy Mill Law,” addresses breeding facilities around the state. Texas has about 150 licensed large-scale dog and cat breeders and an estimated 400 non-licensed facilities. The Puppy Mill Law reduces the number of breeding females and does away with law on the number of puppies that can be sold in a year. The new law says a breeder can have no more than five breeding females and does away with the sales limit totally. The law provides a grace period for breeders until Jan. 1, 2024, to allow them time to come into compliance with the new law.

    HB 598 Provides for a five-year ban on ownership of a cat or dog after a person has been convicted of animal cruelty. It closes a significant gap in Texas law to prevent future violence by disrupting the offender’s access to animals for a significant, but not open-ended, period of time.

    Senate Bill 4164, known as the “Service Dog Bill” addresses an issue that has developed in recent years after as sharp increase in the number of non-disabled people represent their pet dogs as service animals so their pets can accompany them in public spaces. The incidents of pet dogs distracting and attacking service animals have diminished the quality of life for disabled people who rely on service animals to navigate daily life. The Service Dog Bill increases the penalty for falsely representing pets as trained service animals and increases the fine for doing so from $300 to $1,000. The offender may also be required to perform 30 hours of community service for an organization serving persons with disabilities.

    The last bill passed by the Texas Legislature, HB3360/SB1682, was ruled as unconstitutional. The bill provided an exception to the animal cruelty laws for persons who trap feral cats, to transport them to a veterinarian clinic for spay/neuter and vaccinations, which includes tipping the ear of the cat as a sign they have been treated.

    According to Bobosky, professionals involved with animal cruelty investigations or assisting victims of family violence understand these actions are often linked and the various agencies and organizations are working with the same families.

    Guerriero pointed out that the workshop supported what many advocacy groups already knew, how difficult it is to prove animal cruelty in Texas.

    “The laws are the problem. It’s very difficult to go down that path because it begins to fizzle,” Guerriero said.

    216th District Attorney Lucy Wilke, who attended the event, agreed that the laws need to be clarified by the state and agreed that it was hard to prosecute cases in court. Wilke said lack of information and people recanting their story were major obstacles in prosecuting animal cruelty cases, and that most animal cruelty cases are misdemeanor offenses.

    Three rescue groups were also present for the presentation, including Warrior’s Heart from Bandera that works with animals to become service dogs for veterans. Freeman Fritts Animal Shelter and the Big Fix project also had people at the workshop.

    Guerriero described the video that Bobosky showed about animal cruelty cases and the history of school shooting that had a link back to animal abuse in the past. The incidence of dumping animals is also a major issue locally for animal control officers and local rescue organizations.

    “Our goal in hosting this event is to bring all the entities in the community together who deal with all levels of abuse, elderly, spousal, family, child and animal abuse. We want to bring everyone to the table to discuss and share the information of how abuse is often linked together with other incidents,” Guerriero added.

    The National Link Coalition which keeps statistics on animal cruelty cases linked to other more serious violence provide the data that the median age that animal cruelty in early childhood begins at age 6  1/2, and animal cruelty acts by children are an indicator that the child is a risk to themselves or to others.

    The Texas Human Legislation Network is the only organization of its type in the state of Texas and has been the “mainstream voice for animals in Texas” since 1975. One of the group’s biggest accomplishments was to pass legislation in 1997 that created an “animal friendly” fund for the state through the sale of specialty license plates that has raised millions in funding to be used to help municipalities with the overpopulation crisis by covering low cost spay/neuter surgeries.


  •  

    2023 Federal Legislative Priorities:

     

    Important animal welfare conversations are happening across the United States. On this page, you can read more about our current animal-focused Federal Legislative Priorities.

    Be sure to sign up for email notifications so you can take action when the time comes. 

    Sign up for Action Alerts

    H.R. 2742 - Fight Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Animal Trafficking (FIGHT)
    H.R. 1624 - The Puppy Protection Act
    H.R. 1788 - Goldie's Act
    H.R. 3475 - Save America's Forgotten Equines Act (SAFE)
    H.R. 3709 - Microchip Funding
    H.R. 3957 - Providing of Unhoused People with Pets Act (PUPP)

     

    Fight Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Animal Trafficking (FIGHT)

    Act H.R. 2742, known as the Fight Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Animal Trafficking (FIGHT) Act is a high priority for THLN. This bipartisan bill aims to crack down on illegal cockfighting and dogfighting by banning simulcasting of fights, stopping the shipment of animals to fighting operations, allowing citizens to sue animal fighters, and enhancing law enforcement’s ability to seize valuable assets.

    ISSUE:

    Although rooster and dog fighting are illegal in all US states and territories, the advent of simulcasting has allowed the global animal-fighting industry to flourish. Cockfighting thrives in Southeast Asia, as well as in Mexico. Currently, it is not illegal for US spectators to watch or place bets on live and recorded animal fights staged abroad.

    In addition to profits from gambling on simulcast fights, cockfighting enthusiasts profit from breeding and shipping animals, particularly roosters, across the globe. Neighboring state Oklahoma, considered the cockfighting capital of the US, shipped over 5,100 roosters to Guam between 2019 and 2022.

    Despite the fact cockfighting is a felony punishable by jail time in Texas, the practice persists right here in the Lone Star State. Between 2020 and 2022, authorities arrested cockfighters in seventeen Texas counties stretching across fourteen of Texas’ thirty-eight US Congressional districts. While several hundred birds were seized, Texas law enforcement officials lament that prosecuting cockfighters for animal cruelty isn’t enough to stop the organized crime rings from flouting the law.

    Apart from their vicious treatment of roosters and dogs, animal fighters are notorious for engaging in a wide array of illicit activities, including human trafficking, money laundering and illegal arms sales. Still, enforcement of animal fighting laws is lax in some states. Shockingly, in recent years, legislators in other states have attempted to lower the penalties for animal fighting or decriminalize it altogether.

    Above and beyond the barbarity of forcing animals to fight to their death, animal fighting presents serious public health risks. Diseases such as avian flu spread easily from cockfighting operations to chickens grown for food. An epidemic of Newcastle disease in California from 2002-2003 was spread by cockfighting roosters immune to the fatal virus, and a massive outbreak in 2018-2020 caused the deaths of 16 million birds and $1 billion in containment costs. Similarly, H5N1 bird flu emerged in Asia in the early 2000s and spread via cockfighting. Human health could be seriously impacted if H5N1 were to mutate into a strain transmissible from human to human.

    SOLUTION:

    H.R. 2742, known as the FIGHT Act, will crack down on cockfighting and dogfighting. The Act will:

    · Ban simulcasting and gambling on animal fights.

    · Prohibit the shipment of mature roosters through U.S. mail.

    · Create a civil lawsuit provision allowing citizens to sue illegal animal fighters.

    · Allow authorities to seize real property for animal fighting crimes.

     

    The Puppy Protection Act of 2023

    THLN strongly supports H.R. 1624 known as the Puppy Protection Act of 2023. This bipartisan bill will update the standards of care commercial dog breeders licensed by the USDA must meet to better protect the health and wellbeing of animals in their facilities.

    ISSUE:

    USDA standards of care under the current version of the Animal Welfare Act are so low they are referred to as “survival only” standards. For decades, standards of care at USDA facilities have lagged far behind standards imposed by state regulatory agencies. But not all states require a state license to breed and ship puppies.

    USDA facilities are the operations that breed puppies for sale via the internet or to customers “sight unseen”. They have been the producer of choice for retail pet stores primarily because they always have a large “inventory” of popular breeds.

    These producers, known in the industry as dealers, are able to have a constant supply of puppies by cutting corners at every turn, including confining dogs in cramped, wire cages, skipping vaccinations and overbreeding females. Some USDA licensees insist on performing surgical procedures themselves, like delivering puppies via cesarian-section. Animals in these facilities are routinely denied vet care, exercise, and socialization. Spent females are discarded or destroyed when they are no longer productive.

    SOLUTION:

    H.R. 1624, known as the Puppy Protection Act of 2023, would bolster protection for dogs in commercial breeding facilities by improving by:

    · Improving housing standards, including requiring solid flooring, more space and temperature control.

    · Requiring 30 minutes of socialization and exercise per day.

    · Limiting how often females can be bred and requiring breeders to partner with shelters and rescues to rehome retired breeding dogs.

    THLN was successful at improving the Texas Licensed Breeders Program (TLBP) which regulates dog and cat breeders who hold a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) issued license by passing SB 876 in the 2023 Texas Legislative Session. However, TDLR does not have authority over the out-of-state USDA licensed producers who ship puppies to Texas to supply retail pet stores. Considering Texas is home to several retail pet stores that source from USDA suppliers, the Puppy Protection Act is vital to protecting both animals and consumers from sight unseen, out-of-state puppy mills.

     

    Goldie’s Act

    While the Puppy Protection Act of 2023 aims to improve standards of care for puppies and breeding dogs in USDA-licensed facilities, H.R. 1788, known as Goldie’s Act, would close loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act that allow USDA licensees to escape consequences for cruel treatment of animals in their care.

    ISSUE:

    Named after a Golden Retriever who suffered extreme neglect and died at a USDA-licensed in 2021, Goldie's Act will require the USDA to conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections, provide lifesaving intervention for suffering animals, issue penalties for violations, and communicate with local law enforcement to within 24 hours of citing licensees for cruelty.

    Retail pet stores like to advertise that the puppies they sell come from USDA-licensed breeders because it gives the public the impression the puppies are sourced from clean, safe facilities. Regrettably, this is not so. USDA license holders have benefitted from regulation loopholes and lax enforcement for decades, but especially since 2017 when the USDA rewrote the inspection manual left inspector positions unfilled after inspectors left the agency. Thereafter, the number of reported violations declined significantly.

    Before 2017, USDA inspectors recorded close to 2,000 violations yearly. In 2018, the number of violations cited on inspection reports fell to 280, and in 2020, the number declined to just over 150. Inspections plummeted further with the onset of the COVID pandemic and the majority of inspections conducted went virtual. The USDA inspections conducted at the facility where Goldie died were useless. The facility had racked up more than 200 violations over multiple inspections for cramming dogs in tiny cages, leaving dogs in cages filled with waste, and allowing dogs to die from disease and injury instead of seeking veterinary treatment.

    In June 2021, the Office of Inspector General, the agency that audits federal programs issued a report showing USDA lacks transparency, does not follow up on complaints, and does not take enforcement actions against licensees. The report stated USDA's recordkeeping system is so deficient and unreliable the agency could not make informed management decisions or identify how many inspections had been completed. Nor did it have a complete list of all active licensees and inspections for the three-year period covered in the report.

    Goldie’s suffering is just one example of an ongoing pattern of the USDA turning a blind eye to animal abuse. In 2022, the USDA recorded over 800 violations at USDA-licensed facilities. Incredibly, no animals were confiscated from breeders, no licenses were suspended, and no fines or penalties were imposed.

    SOLUTION:

    THLN strongly supports H.R. 1788 - known as Goldies Act – to require the USDA to interrupt animal suffering and punish problematic breeders. Specifically, Goldie’s Act would require the USDA to:

    · Conduct annual inspections of licensee and grant access to all licensee facilities, requiring detailed descriptions of any observed violations.

    · Confiscate animals who are suffering.

    · Monetarily penalize licensees who violate the AWA.

    · Share inspection information and reports with state, local, and municipal animal control or law enforcement within 24 hours of the inspection.

     

    The Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act of 2023

    ISSUE:

    For several years now, the federal government has de facto prohibited horse slaughter for human consumption in the US by refusing to fund USDA inspections of horse slaughter plants. But the problem of transporting American horses over our borders for slaughter remains. In 2022, the USDA reported more than 16,300 horses were shipped to Mexico to be slaughtered; more than 5,100 horses went to slaughter in Canada.

    Horses are considered companions, not food, by Americans, and most have no idea thousands of American horses are killed for food each year. The journey usually starts at an auction where horses are bought at bottom dollar by “kill buyers” for transport. These transports cause extreme suffering because the horses are loaded in cattle trucks

    and forced to travel for days without food, water, or rest. They suffer dehydration, injuries, and even death before reaching their final destination.

    Dismembering horses for consumption isn’t just cruel, it’s a public health risk. Unlike animals specifically raised to be eaten, the vast majority of US horses have been treated with a multitude of pain killers, dewormers, and even illegal performance-enhancing drugs known to be dangerous to humans.

    SOLUTION:

    H.R. 3475, known as the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act:

    · Prohibits shipping, transporting, delivering, receiving, possessing, buying, selling, or donating horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption.

    · Codifies that slaughtering horses for human consumption is illegal in all fifty states. Currently, horse slaughter plants are shuttered because USDA inspections have not been funded for years, but strictly speaking, horse slaughter for human consumption is not illegal under federal law.

    · Protects the human food supply by halting the flow of horses tainted with toxic substances to slaughter plants abroad.

     

    House Resolution 3709 - Microchip Funding

    THLN supports H.R. 3709 which will direct the USDA to enter into cooperative agreements with animal shelters and humane societies to fund microchipping of shelter dogs and cats. The legislation was filed in late May of 2023 and was referred to the House Agriculture Committee. Not many details about the legislation are available yet. But the benefits of microchipping pets are well known. Consider the following statistics from an American Veterinary Medical Association study published in the AVMA Journal:

    · One in three pets will become lost at some point during their lifetime.

    · Microchipping pets increases their chances they’ll be reunited with their families by orders of magnitude. Approximately 22% of lost dogs that enter shelters are reunited with their families. That rate of return jumps up to 52% for microchipped dogs, a 238% percent increase.

    · Less than 2% of lost cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their families, but the rate of return for microchipped cats is more than 38% which is a 2,000% increase.

     

     

    House Resolution 3957 - The Providing of Unhoused People with Pets Act (PUPP)

    By providing better accommodations for people experiencing homelessness who have pets, the PUPP Act will help remove a common barrier to shelter and services for vulnerable veterans, individuals, and families who gain strength from their companion animals.

    Pets play a pivotal role in the lives of their human caregivers, regardless of their income level or housing situation. Pets have public health benefits at nearly every stage of life, including lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, reduced stress levels, decreased anxiety and depression, strengthened immune systems, and increased physical activity. Animals can be especially important companions for people experiencing housing instability.

    Studies have shown that people experiencing homelessness report that their pets provide a sense of responsibility and are a reason to live, reduce substance use, and seek healthcare. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted over 582,000 Americans experiencing homelessness, including sheltered and unsheltered individuals. An estimated 12% of people experiencing homelessness have pets.

     

    Currently, most emergency shelters do not accept pets – forcing individuals experiencing homelessness to choose between access to shelter and essential services or keeping their beloved pets. In most cases, individuals will refuse assistance and shelter if it comes with the condition of giving up a beloved pet. This scenario harms individuals’ well-being and contributes to the cycle of chronic homelessness. The PUPP Act offers a solution by creating a grant program – operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in consultation with HUD – to provide funds to eligible entities, enabling emergency shelters to make the necessary changes to accommodate unhoused individuals with pets, including providing basic veterinary services. The program is modeled on the highly successful California Pet Assistance and Support Program.

    Over two grant cycles, the state of California has allocated $15 million in small grants to nonprofit shelter operators to retrofit their facilities to accommodate pets. Both cycles were oversubscribed two to one, demonstrating the great interest and need for such accommodations. Feedback from grantees demonstrated that the investments allow the facilities to not just provide the necessary retrofitting, but also to provide support to both the owners and pets to ensure the long-term success of each in permanent housing. The California model demonstrates that a relatively modest amount of investment can make a big difference in the lives of those experiencing emergency housing needs, and ultimately save lives.

    If you have any questions about these laws, please email [email protected].

     


  • THLN featured by San Antonio Express News about the new Animal Laws passed in 2023

    Originally Published in: San Antonio Express-News
    Published on: 
    September 14, 2023
    Written By: Cathy M Rosenthal

     

    Three new animal welfare bills passed in this year’s state legislative session and are now laws in Texas as of Sept. 1.

    Decades of research have shown a connection in people between cruelty to animals and later violence toward humans. House Bill 598 makes it a crime for a person convicted of animal cruelty to possess or live with an animal for up to five years from conviction, and it enhances the punishment for repeat offenders. It’s a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine, and a Class B misdemeanor for repeat offenders with up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

    While the punishments could be more stringent for these crimes, said Shelby Bobosky, executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, “It is a first step toward interrupting the cycle of abuse at its earliest stages and making Texas safer for our communities.”

    Senate Bill 876 answers some prayers for those fighting to close loopholes in commercial dog- and cat-breeding operations.

    It previously defined a breeder as someone who owns 11 or more adult unspayed female dogs or cats. The new law now requires someone who owns five unspayed female dogs and cats, and who “is engaged in the business of breeding those animals for direct or indirect sales” to have a license to operate under the Occupations Code of Texas.

    If you have been trying to pass off your animal as a service animal, it’s not only a crime, but the fines for it have tripled in Texas.

    HB 4164 redefines a service animal as one specially trained to assist a person with a disability. If your pet has not received this specialty training and you knowingly or intentionally represent your pet as an assistance animal, you can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and 30 hours of community service at organizations serving people with
    disabilities.

    While not among the big three for animals, HB 4069 requires financial transparency for pet owners seeking emergency care for their pets.

    Prior to treatment, veterinary clinics now must disclose treatment prices for a sick or injured pet before services are rendered. In other words, you won’t be surprised by the emergency room bill at the end of the visit.

     

    Read the full article >


  • THLN featured on KHOU-11 regarding Service Dog Laws in Texas

    Originally Published in: KHOU 11
    Published on: 
    September 4, 2023
    Written By: Michelle Homer, Janelle Bludau

     

    HOUSTON — One of the nearly 800 new Texas laws now in effect is getting a lot of attention from pet owners.

    House Bill 4164 increases the penalty for people misrepresenting their dogs as service animals when they are not specially trained. Fines for violating the law have increased from $300 to $1,000 and 30 hours of community service.

    Advocates say they fought for the change to protect people with disabilities and their service animals.

    “In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of non-disabled people that represent their pets as service animals," explained Shelby Bobosky with the Texas Humane Legislation Network. “It’s really evident when you bring an untrained or misbehaved dog into a restaurant and you can see them jumping on a table, barking -- that is definitely not a service animal.”

    While some public establishments do allow non-service animals, including emotional support dogs, they're not required to under the law.

    “Maybe those people that have bought those fake vests and fake certificates will think twice about taking advantage of it," Bobosky said.

    A lot of Texas pet owners are confused by the difference between a service animal, an emotional support animal and a therapy or comfort animal so we broke down the key differences.

    What is a service animal?


    Under Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. 

    Examples of service dogs:

    • Providing physical support and assistance for people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility disabilities. 
    • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation.
    • Alerting a person with hearing loss to a sound.
    • Detecting an oncoming seizure and assisting an individual during the seizure.
    • Reminding a person to take medication.
    • Helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
    • Helping people with PTSD by applying pressure to alleviate anxiety, nudging to interrupt flashbacks or licking their hand to alert them to an oncoming panic attack.


    People who rely on service animals as defined by the ADA are protected from discrimination under federal and state laws.

    • No common carrier, airplane, railroad train, motor bus, streetcar, boat, or other public conveyance or mode of transportation operating in the state may refuse as a passenger a person with a disability because of the disability, nor may a person with a disability be required to pay an additional fare because of their use of a service animal, wheelchair, crutches, or other device used to assist them in travel.
    • No person with a disability may be denied admittance to any public facility in the state because of their disability. No person with a disability may be denied the use of a white cane, assistance animal, wheelchair, crutches, or other device of assistance.
    • A person with a total or partial disability who has or obtains a service animal is entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations, and may not be required to pay extra compensation or make a deposit for the animal but is liable for damages done to the premises by the animal except for reasonable wear and tear.
    • A service animal in training must not be denied admittance to any public facility when accompanied by an approved trainer.
    • A person may not assault, harass, interfere with, kill, or injure in any way, or attempt to assault, harass, interfere with, kill, or injure in any way, an assistance animal.
    • A person is not entitled to make demands or inquiries about the qualifications or certifications of a service animal for purposes of admittance to a public facility except to determine the basic type of assistance provided by the service animal to a person with a disability.
    • If a person's disability is not readily apparent, for purposes of admittance to a public facility with a service animal, a staff member or manager of the facility may inquire about:
      • whether the service animal is required because the person has a disability; and what type of work or task the service animal is trained to perform.


    Do you have to provide proof in public places that your pet is a service animal?


    Enforcing the new Texas law could be tricky for a few reasons. 

    The ADA doesn't require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag or specific harness. Under the ADA, a public accommodation or facility is not allowed to ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal.  They are also not allowed to demand a demonstration of the tasks the service animal can perform. The ADA also limits other questions that can be asked. When a person who claims to have a service animal enters a public place, the person cannot be asked about the nature or extent of his or her disability. Only two questions can be asked:

    1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
    2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?


    If the answer to question 1 is yes and the tasks listed for question 2 are directly related to the person’s disability, then the animal is a service animal.

     

    Read the full article >


  • THLN featured in Texas Tribune regarding 2023 Possession Ban Law

    Originally Published in: The Texas Tribune
    Published on: 
    September 8, 2023
    Written By: Ali Juell

     

    New Texas law bars animal cruelty offenders from owning animals for five years

    Read the full article >


  • THLN featured in The Kerrville Daily Times

    Originally Published in: The Kerrville Daily Times
    Published on: 
    September 13, 2023
    Written By: Nancy Foster

    Three animal-related bills passed the 88th Texas Legislature Session this year and are now in place as of Sept. 1. In an effort to educate the public on what these bills mean as well as what is left to be done two Hill Country organizations will come together to present the facts.

    Kerrville Pets Alive! will host a presentation from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at the Hill Country Youth Event Center, led by Shelby Bobosky, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Humane Legislation Network.

     

    Read the full article >



  • THLN’s Priority Agenda for the 2025 Texas Legislative Session

     

    In 2025, THLN plans to support a bill that will help put an end to cruel puppy mill practices and protect both pets and consumers by requiring that only healthy animals sourced from shelters and rescues be sold in retail pet stores. Currently, many retail pet stores source their puppies and kittens from unscrupulous, out-of-state puppy mills.

    Out-of-state puppy mills store puppies in poor conditions, take them away from their moms too soon, and truck them hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to be sold in retail pet stores and there’s a reason why only one of the top 25 retailers still sells dogs from these conditions. This year alone, Dallas, Houston, and New Braunfels passed humane pet store ordinances, demonstrating the need and support for a statewide law. While 17 cities across Texas have passed retail pet store ordinances, millions of Texans are still vulnerable to the deceptive business practices used to sell puppies sourced from inhumane puppy mills. All Texans deserve to be protected from buying sick, defective puppies.

    During the 2023 legislative session, the bill received huge bipartisan support but ultimately couldn’t get past the finish line before the session ended.

    Be sure to sign up for action alerts for the upcoming session! 

    Sign up for Action Alerts

    THIS LAW WILL STOP THE PUPPY MILL PIPELINE TO TEXAS.

    What is The Puppy Mill Pipeline to Texas?

    The Puppy Mill Pipeline to Texas.

    Puppy mill breeders in other states rely on Texas retail pet stores to present a clean, spotless store with a happy puppy. Customers don’t think about where puppies are born, where the breeding dogs are kept, or how they are treated. We prop up this puppy pipeline by allowing puppy mill puppies to be sold in Texas.

    Here is what happens: a puppy broker (a middleman who obtains puppies in bulk from commercial breeders and is responsible for transporting the puppies to the retail store) buys puppies and re-sells the puppies to retailers. A cargo van picks up the puppies (holding up to 150), drives thousands of miles to Texas from Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, and elsewhere, and goes to one store and the next until all the puppies are dropped off.

    Despite these puppy brokers trucking puppies over long distances to their final retail destinations, there is no limit to the number of continuous hours puppies may be trucked or how many puppies may be packed into one cargo van. A puppy only needs to be offered food and water once every 12 hours, and the driver is not required to have any animal care experience. Young puppies with underdeveloped immune systems spending hours or days in a dirty (urine and feces-soaked), confined cargo truck can significantly stress their immune systems, resulting in disease transmission or worse. Former pet store employees disclose that retail pet store owners don’t want their profits used up on vet bills, so these puppies don’t get better. They are sold to the unassuming public, and this is why so many people go home with a puppy that might have parvo, distemper, giardia, campylobacter, and so on. Unsuspecting Texans buy these puppies, become attached, and are soon faced with crushing vet bills and the potential death of their new pet.

    If the puppies aren’t sick, they can quickly develop behavioral issues. The puppies are sitting in glass boxes at nine, ten, and eleven weeks old, not being socialized.

    Predatory Financing

    Unfair lending practices, unscrupulous balloon payments, or immediate vet bills from a sick puppy.

    The story is always the same. A consumer unwittingly purchases a seriously ill dog through a loan with an interest rate as high as 189%. The consumer is put in a room where they sit with a puppy, and it’s love at first sight. Then, the price is disclosed, and adding taxes, a supply kit and other add-ons can cost thousands of dollars. The consumer puts down a small deposit, and, with the help of the staff, the consumer signs an agreement financing the rest of the purchase through a loan or possibly two. It’s never disclosed that interest rates can balloon if they do not pay off the loan within ninety days. The documents placed before the consumer are irrelevant to them, as the focus is on the puppy. In addition, they do not know the puppy has serious health problems that would lead to multiple costly veterinary trips that would impact their ability to pay off the loan.

    Here are some examples:

    — A New Jersey consumer who bought a cocker spaniel was charged 152% interest, five times the legal limit of 30% in New Jersey.

    — A Georgia consumer complained that the pet store didn’t tell her EasyPay’s finance charges amounted to an interest rate of 180%. “My puppy was supposed to cost $2,500 (and) now costs almost $7,000.”

    — A Florida consumer said he was left with damaged credit after buying a puppy that immediately fell ill and eventually died. “I only borrowed $2,200 … I owe $5,500 on my credit report due to interest,” the consumer complained.

    And when the puppy dies, the collection companies continue to call.

    In 2019 and 2021, a bill was introduced in Congress to provide a permanent, national solution to the “rent-a-bank” issue by establishing a 36% interest rate cap that would apply to all lenders. But that proposal has faced stiff opposition from the finance industry and has yet to be approved by Congress.

    Jurisdictions that have passed a Humane Pet Store Bill.

    Seven states have stopped the sale of puppies in pet stores, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Maine, Vermont, California, and Maryland. Currently, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are in the process of passing these laws.

    The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2006, was the first ordinance that stopped the sale of puppies in pet stores. Currently, 471 cities have passed these ordinances, including the following stores from Texas: Austin, College Station, Dallas, El Paso, Euless, Fort Worth, Houston, New Braunfels, San Antonio, Sherman, and Waco. THLN and our grassroots nation were instrumental in many of these victories.

    Dallas

    On May 11, 2022, the city of Dallas passed the Humane Pet Store Ordinance unanimously. Out of 33 pet stores, only one – Dallas Petland - was out of compliance with this potential ordinance and selling puppies. In 2020, this pet store imported 1,348 dogs from out-of-state puppy millers (Source: Bailing Out Benji). Once the ordinance passed, the city of Dallas was sued, and the lawsuit stated that the law was unconstitutional. Not one pet store has won a case trying to invalidate a Humane pet store ordinance. All 22 local, state, and federal lawsuits have failed. As in this example, the lawsuit was tossed out, and Dallas Petland closed its doors soon after.

    Houston

    THLN and local advocates passed a Humane Pet Store law on January 18, 2022, and Houston gave the pet stores one year to comply. During that time, Houston Petland targeted this ordinance to reverse the ban on selling puppies in pet stores by either being grandfathered in or regulated, but ultimately failed. As of January 18, 2023, puppies may no longer be sold in Houston Pet stores (but they are available for adoption through animal shelters and rescues (i.e., humanely sourced). Houston pet stores that do not comply are subject to a fine of $500 per puppy per day. Six stores either moved or became compliant, but one refused to follow the law. On August 3, 2023, Petland Bellaire failed to appear in court, and a warrant was issued. Stay tuned for updates on the Houston Petland case! 

    The work that THLN and other grassroots activists have done at the local level is a tremendous momentum builder for Texas to be the eighth state to pass this law.

    *          *          *

     

    History of the Humane Pet Store Bill

    2021

    During the 87th Legislative Session, Rep. Jared Patterson filed HB 1818, which would create a civil penalty for pet stores selling animals from puppy mills. The bill passed out of the Texas House Committee on Business & Industry during its first session. It received substantial bipartisan support in the Senate, but ultimately, HB 1818 did not meet the final deadline to be passed into law before the end of the 87th Legislative Session.

    2023

    On December 2, 2022, Rep. Patterson filed HB 870, which, like its 2021 predecessor HB 1818, required that only healthy dogs and cats sourced from shelters and rescues be sold in retail pet stores. The law brings consistency across Texas’ largest counties – those with a population of 200,000 or more – primarily suburban and urban areas.

    TEXAS AG INVESTIGATION

    On April 27, 2023, the Texas Attorney General issued a Civil Investigative Demand related to possible violations by Petland, Inc. and its franchises of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Act. This follows other investigations by attorney generals in other states like Florida. According to the Florida complaint, the pet stores falsely claim the puppies for sale are already, or could be, registered with the American Kennel Club and make misrepresentations that puppies come from USDA breeders. This is a step in the right direction for Texas!

    “I’m proud to file HB 870 once again to provide the necessary restrictions to protect pets and their owners.” -Representative Jared Patterson.

    HB 870 had a hearing in the Texas House Committee on Business & Industry on April 24, 2023. The pet store lobbyists and breeders flooded the hearing room, which was a battle. Ultimately, the bill did not get to the floor for a House vote and died in the House Calendars Committee.

    View the SB 870 Fact Sheet

    *          *          *

    WE NEED YOU!

    The bottom line is that these puppies are only being used for profit. Please contact us at [email protected] if you want to get more involved in passing this bill and making Texas the eighth state to end the sale of puppy mill puppies in Texas pet stores and help us shut down the puppy mill pipeline!

     


  • Three New Animal Welfare Laws Go Into Effect September 1, 2023

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Three New Animal Welfare Laws Take Effect Today 

    AUSTIN, Texas – Today, September 1, 2023, three new animal welfare bills have become Texas law. During the 2023 legislative session, the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) advocated for all three bills: SB 876HB 4164, and HB 598

    “With passage of three monumental bills, Texas is taking a giant step forward to making our state more humane for thousands of animals and the families they belong to,” said Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of THLN. “We could not be more thankful to the dedicated lawmakers who authored these bills, the thousands of advocates who supported these bills, and legislators in both chambers who voted for them.”

    The three laws are as follows: 
    -
    SB 876 by Senators Flores and Whitmire and Representative Buckley reforms and strengthens the Texas Licensed Breeders Program and will prevent animal cruelty from happening in large-scale breeding facilities before it begins.

    -HB 4164 by Representative Cortez and Senator Whitmire defines a service animal as one specially trained to assist a person with a disability. The law also increases the fine for masquerading an untrained pet as a service animal from $300 to $1000, and fraudsters might face 30 hours of community service for organizations serving persons with disabilities.

    -HB 598 by Representative Shaheen and Senate Sponsor Whitmire prevents previous perpetrators of animal cruelty from possessing a companion animal and establishes an enhanced offense for repeat offenders to prevent future violence.

    “While there is always more to achieve in the realm of animal welfare, Texans should be proud of this progress and look forward to what’s to come in the next few years,” concluded Bobosky. “As always, THLN remains a voice for Texas animals, as well as a resource to help Texans understand and abide by these new laws.” 

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


  • New law will prevent people with animal cruelty convictions from owning pets

    Originally Published by: KTRE
    Published on: 
    August 17, 2023
    Written By: Tyre White

    Read the article and watch the news clip > 

    NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - A new law will make it illegal for people with animal cruelty convictions to have a pet or live in a house with a pet for at least five years.

    Offenses include dogfighting, cockfighting, attacking an assistance animal, or cruelty to a non-livestock animal. Executive director of the non-profit animal shelter SPCA, Ron Hornsby, said this law will change how they screen adopters.

    “We’ll be asking in our applications, have you ever been convicted of animal cruelty or an offense relating to it, and hopefully, we can reduce those individuals who may want to adopt through us.”

    The first violation of this law will result in a class C misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine. A repeated offense will be a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.

    Hornsby believes the law can keep animals out of the wrong hands.

    “So you have a lot more work to do to try and weed out undesirables so we can ensure we still get the right homes for those animals.”

    Despite the extra work, Hornsby said animal protection laws in Texas are heading in the right direction.

    I do think it is a good right step, moving forward, for the safety and protection of animals, absolutely without a question, and hopefully, we get a few more like that as well.”

    HB 598 will go into effect on September 1.


  • 2019: Proposition 10

    Until 2000, it was legal and common practice to euthanize military working dogs, known as MWDs, at the end of their useful service. Historically viewed as “surplus equipment,” they weren’t seen as having value beyond the military purpose for which they were trained. But in 2000, Congress enacted “Robby’s Law" which began an adoption program for military dogs at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where almost all military dogs are trained. But as late as 2019, Texas law enforcement dogs and horses were considered surplus property and a county could only “auction, donate or destroy” the property when it stopped being useful. Before the legislative session, the law made it difficult to retire a dog when their handler left or retired, and the animals were required to be sold to comply with state law. THLN supported legislation (unanimously approved by the House and Senate) creating the proposed amendment asking voters to authorize the adoption of retired law enforcement dogs and horses by their handler when they leave or retire.

    In 2019, the voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 10, a constitutional amendment, and now handlers can adopt retired law enforcement animals. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington carried SJR 32 in the House and Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, carried SB 2100 in the Senate.

     


  • Austin American-Statesman features THLN and the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act

    Originally Published in: Austin American-Statesman
    Published on: 
    July 26, 2023
    Written By: Amethyst Martinez

    As Texans across the state are battling with 100-plus degree days, many might not consider those that are highly susceptible to heat injuries: pets, and specifically dogs.

    Check out some of these tips to protect your dog from the dangerous heat:

    What laws protect dogs during these conditions?

    The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, passed in 2021, protects them by:

    • Defining adequate shelter to shield dogs from extreme temperatures and standing water.
    • Ensuring that dogs can turn around, lie down and stand in shelters.
    • Defining appropriate restraints for dogs (i.e., not choking the dog or impeding its normal breathing or swallowing, not allowing for escape and not causing pain or injury to the dog).
    • Requiring access to drinkable water.
    • Ending a 24-hour warning period for pet owners, allowing officials to take immediate action for dogs in distress.

    [...]

    How can you help a dog in distress due to high temperatures?

    According to Shelby Bobosky, executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, the organization has been "inundated with calls, emails and texts from concerned Texans about the laws in these brutally hot conditions and what they can do to help."

    Here are some tips if you're looking to help a dog in need:

    • Heat advisory warnings in your area? If you spot a dog outside without shelter or water, a local animal control center can do a welfare check.
    • Animals spotted in hot cars require immediate action. THLN recommends that you assess the situation, notify authorities, spread awareness and continue to monitor the dog.

    Read the full article >

     


  • Dallas Morning News Features THLN and the Gas Chamber Bill in 2013

    Originally Published in: The Dallas Morning News
    Published on: 
    April 7, 2013
    Written By: dallasnews Administrator

    AUSTIN — Shelter dogs wouldn’t die in gas chambers, more sharks could keep their fins, and pets would be protected from stalkers and domestic violence under proposals by Texas lawmakers aiming to protect creatures great and small.

    Many of the bills, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, have been well received in the House and Senate, with no lawmakers registering their opposition and plenty of time to make their way to the governor’s desk.

     [...]

    “The Legislature did everything we wanted them to do last session,” said Skip Trimble, co-chairman of the legislative committee for the Texas Humane Legislation Network in Dallas. “Our job now is to educate the licensing agency that makes the rules.”

    A proposal by Seguin Republican Rep. John Kuempel appeared to target breeders, generating fireworks among those who futilely fought the puppy mill bill two years ago.

    [...]

    Gas chambers

    One bill that appears to be moving quickly is a ban on carbon monoxide gas chambers at animal shelters. National studies have shown they cause animals to suffer, as not all die from the poison.

    The Senate passed the ban with no opposition, and a House committee approved it unanimously as well. It awaits scheduling for a vote by the full House.

    Dallas Republican Rep. Jason Villalba, one of the co-sponsors, said that while he comes from “a long line of animal lovers,” his decision to sign on to the bill came from a pint-sized lobbyist who won him over on a visit to Austin.

    Addison Higgins, 9, of Dallas, grew up with her dog, Jake. But when Jake was 13, he got sick and had to be euthanized.

    Addison understood that he was given a shot that “helped him not to be scared” during the process, said her mother, Amy Higgins.

    So when Addison and her mom met with Villalba, she told him about how it’s the only humane option for euthanizing homeless pets, too.

    “I don’t think it’s fair, because dogs and cats get really scared and all,” Addison said. “They get scared because they’re in tight spaces, and many animals get put in at the same time. There’s two ways you can do it. There’s a shot and then there’s the gassing, but we don’t want to do the gassing anymore.”

    Said Villalba, noting he has two daughters: “She melted my heart.”

    Addison’s mom was law school roommates with Trimble’s co-chair, Shelby Bobosky, and learned from her about the effort to ban the chambers.

    Her daughter thought the legislation was a good idea, so instead of simply calling her lawmaker’s office, the pair met with him in person.

    “It was a wonderful experience for Addison,” she said. “It was really important to me to introduce her to the political process early. She loves animals, and it’s something that she saw she could do something about.

    Read the full article >