Jessica Hagmaier

  • Tigers are a big problem in Texas

    Originally Published in: The Dallas Morning News
    Published on:
    August 20, 2022
    Written By: Shelby Bobosky

    Tigers are not pets or props, but many Texans treat them as such. Just recently, Dallas police found and seized a tiger cub caged in an Oak Cliff backyard while serving a warrant. It’s not as uncommon as it may seem. Texas has one of the highest populations of big cats in the country with numerous instances where these animals have escaped and injured or even killed people in our state.

    In the first 90 days of 2021 alone, four privately owned big cats escaped their enclosures and roamed loose in Texas cities. During Hurricane Harvey, there were reports of wild animals wandering neighborhoods as their enclosures had been destroyed and local law enforcement didn’t have the tools to tranquilize and capture them humanely. First responders should not have to apprehend 300-pound predatory big cats. Those animals shouldn’t be kept as “household pets” in the first place.

    Big cats in community settings are an ongoing threat to pets and children. These animals cannot be domesticated, and the requirements for properly maintaining them are simply beyond the capabilities of the average person. Without proper laws in place, we will see more tragedies.

    The Texas Humane Legislation Network has advocated against the private ownership of wild animals, including big cats, since 2001 by helping to enact the Dangerous Wild Animal Act. The act has made a significant impact on public safety, but more can be done. Due to deficiencies in the current patchwork of municipal and state regulation, there is a pressing need to enact a federal law.

    The Big Cat Public Safety Act would amend current federal law to prohibit the acquisition, possession, sale, breeding and transporting of big cats in our state and across the country. Sanctuaries, accredited zoos, and research facilities would be exempt. Additionally, current owners of big cats would need to register their animals so first responders know where they are located and who owns them.

    Passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act would mean less risk to our first responders and safer communities for all of us. It would also end cruel cub petting operations and deny wildlife traffickers access to a pipeline of animals. Protecting these beautiful animals from cruelty is noble in and of itself while protecting Texans against the threat of backyard tigers is just plain common sense.

    The Big Cat Public Safety Act has passed the U.S. House and is on to the Senate. We are asking for support from Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn in recognizing this very real threat and working to mitigate it — for the safety and well-being of Texans as well as big cats.

    Shelby Bobosky is the executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

  • A Big Win For Big Cats; Tampa Animal Advocate Carole Baskin Celebrates

    Originally Published in: Patch
    Published on: 
    July 30, 2022
    Written By: D'Ann Lawrence White

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — After lobbying for years to pass legislation to protect big cats, internationally known animal activist and founder of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Carole Baskin, is celebrating Friday's 278-134 vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263).

    Baskin said it's only appropriate that this legislation be passed on July 29, International Tiger Day.

    The passage of the bill is one of the highlights of her 20-plus-year battle to shut down roadside zoos profiting from the misery of lions, tigers and other big cats.

    The bill would prohibit people like one-time zookeeper Joe Exotic, featured in the hit Netlix series, "Tiger King," from operating roadside zoos where patrons are allowed to pet tiger cubs for a fee. It would also prevent zoos like the now-out-of-business Dade City's Wild Things from forcing reluctant tiger cubs to swim with patrons for a fee.

    Additionally, the bill, championed by Rep. Michael Quigley, D-Illinois, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, would ban people from owning big cats as pets.

    While the two-season Netflix series attempted to discredit Baskin and fellow animal activists, it did manage to shed light on how cruelly and neglectfully tigers and other big cats are treated by roadside zookeepers who are more intent on turning a buck than ensuring the welfare of the animals in their care.

    Viewers were horrified to watch as Joe Exotic showed no qualms about beating and whipping tigers in his care while the cameras were rolling and making them live in small, barren cages in which they could barely turn around.

    During testimony before the House, animal experts described lions, tigers, panthers and other big cats that weren't fed properly, weren't allowed freedom to exercise or socialize, and received little or no veterinary care.

    Legislators heard about a tiger that was discovered tied up in a dirt-covered back yard with no food or water.

    They heard stories of how newborn cubs were ripped away from their mothers before they were weaned to pose for photos and petting opportunities with paying guests.

    They heard about tigers forced into semi-tractor trailer trucks with little ventilation and soaring outdoor temperatures for lengthy cross-country trips after being sold to other zoos or for personal pets.

    After filing suit against Dade City's Wild Things, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals received permission to inspect the privately owned zoo. However, before PETA inspectors could arrive, the owners, realizing they had more tigers than were permitted, sent more than a dozen of their tigers to Joe Exotic's GW Zoo in Oklahoma. During the trip, a pregnant tiger's cubs died.

    To make room for Wild Things' tigers, Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, removed 17 of his older tigers from their cages and shot them.

    Exotic, was eventually tried and sent to federal prison in Oklahoma for 21 years for not only shooting the 17 tigers but for trying to hire a hitman to kill Baskin.

    Although Joe Exotic claimed to have given away all the animals in his zoo to his partner, Jeff Lowe, before heading to prison, the court awarded Baskin the deed to his GW Zoo property. Baskin, her husband, Howard, and fellow animal advocates visited the property and uncovered mass graves containing animal bones on the property that was documented in the Discovery Channel program, "Carole Baskin's Cage Fight,"

    Earlier this month, Baskin spoke to hundreds of animal advocates at a conference hosted by the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C., urging them to contact their Congressmen to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. More than 100 animal advocates joined the Humane Society Legislative Fund to lobby Congress the following week.

    Click here to listen to The Animal Wellness podcast with Baskin.

    "The big cat breeding and cub-petting industry creates a cycle of never-ending misery for the animals involved," said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Human Society of the United States.

    "In an effort to control the true wild nature of these poor captive animals, breeders and exhibitors mistreat the cubs from the day they are born," she said. "One paying customer after another handles the cubs, day in and day out, until they grow too big and dangerous. Then they have nowhere to go. Sometimes they are sold to roadside zoos, where they pace the confines of their cages, or they end up in basements or back yards as 'pets.' Others simply disappear."

    While the Netflix series focused on the flamboyant, country-singing Joe Exotic with his bleach blonde mullet haircut and extravagant tiger print costumes, Block said, "There are countless Joe Exotics out there. 'Tiger King' showed just a glimpse of why we need a swift end to the big cat breeding and cub-petting industry in the U.S. As long as cub-petting remains legal, nothing will prevent the next generation of profiteering con artists from casting vulnerable big cats to an uncertain fate."

    Sheriff Matt Lutz of the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office said it's not just an animal cruelty problem, it's a public safety issue. He told the House how his office was forced to shoot and kill dozens of exotic animals after their owner freed them from enclosures in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2011.

    "I've experienced the worst-case scenario first-hand, and it is a gut-wrenching experience to think about tigers, lions and other big cats on the prowl in such close proximity to our homes and our schools," said Lutz. "The tragedy in Zanesville highlighted the serious threat posed to our communities when private individuals are allowed to keep big cats in their back yards. Law enforcement does not receive training about how to handle these dangerous incidents, yet are the ones called to respond when disaster strikes."

    Since 1992, there have been at least 100 dangerous and cruel incidents involving big cats kept as pets or in private menageries.

    • In 2005, a tiger roamed loose for days before being shot and killed in Simi Valley, California.
    • In 2008, a leopard approached a woman in her yard in Neosho, Missouri.
    • In 2009, a 330-pound tiger was discovered in a back yard in Ingram, Texas.
    • In 2013, a 400-pound pet lion escaped in Fairfield Beach, Ohio.
    • In 2019, an escaped pet cougar was found lounging in a driveway in Parkland, Florida.
    • And in 2021, a juvenile tiger wandered through a Houston neighborhood.

    Click here for a complete list of big cat incidents presented to the House.

    "Ultimately, this legislation is about public safety," Quigley said. "Any American can imagine the danger that exotic cats can pose. These are predators, not pets. Law enforcement has long advocated for legislation that will keep dangerous wild animals out of their communities and reduce the risk to first responders and the animals themselves."

    He noted that law enforcement groups across the country, including the National Sheriffs' Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the the National Animal Care and Control Association, supported the Big Cat Public Safety Act to protect both animals and people.

    "For too long, lax laws have allowed private citizens to own big cats," he said. "The animals subject to these grotesque conditions deserve better. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will swiftly take up this legislation, so we can make a difference for communities across the country and save these animals from a life of confinement and restriction."

    The companion bill, Senate Bill 1210, has nearly 50 co-sponsors.

    "It is an enormous expense to care for these animals and reckless behavior foists a massive long-term financial liability on animal sanctuaries," said Baskin. "None of these private big cat owners holds onto the animals for very long, and that means they get turned over to groups like Big Cat Rescue that have to take in these traumatized, often very unhealthy animals."

    "Breeders who pump out countless big cats for cub-petting are worse than puppy millers, placing unfunded mandates on animal rescues who have to clean up their mess and care for these majestic creatures once they've grown too big to exploit," said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, who has spent years fighting for this legislation only to be disappointed when it hasn't passed. "We applaud House leadership for bringing this important measure that will help keep families in suburbia safe from abused big cats to a vote before the August recess."

    He said the bill was introduced long before "Tiger King." However, it took a "salacious reality television series" to finally put the abuse of big cats on America's radar.

    The Big Cat Public Safety Act builds on the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, passed unanimously in 2003, that sought to ban the trade in big cats as pets.

  • Halting the puppy mill pipeline in New Braunfels

    Originally Published in: New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
    Published on: 
    July 22, 2022

    In August, the New Braunfels Animal Advisory Board will be voting on adopting a Humane Pet Store Ordinance for our beloved city. Such an ordinance would ensure all puppies and kittens purchased at New Braunfels pet stores would be humanely sourced from our local shelter and rescue groups. The Board should vote yes to send the proposed ordinance to the full New Braunfels City Council — and the council should pass and implement the ordinance.

    As a community we cannot support importing puppies from puppy mills, especially when our shelter, like so many across Texas, is overflowing, forcing adoptable, healthy dogs to be transported to other states or even worse, euthanized due to lack of space.

    Read Full Article Here.

  • Letter: Cruelty to animals may be sign of future violence

    Originally Published in: Times Record News
    Published on: 
    July 22, 2022
    Written By: Jan Herzog, Local Chapter President, Texas Humane Legislation Network

    Today an old friend and classmate was telling me and some other friends about her serial killer cousin who was executed in 1999. He’s featured in several true-crime series. Check out Southern Gothic: They Call Me Animal.  (**Trigger warning: torture of animals.) They grew up together. She was recalling how he would bury cats in the ground up to their heads and then run over their heads with a lawn mower, and hang cats from mesquite trees and throw knives at them, then leave them hanging till they died. I haven’t watched it all yet, but she remarked that the Southern Gothic episode left out his childhood, so it may not include these grisly precursors to his murder of humans. However my friend remembers them clearly. He was also a bully to his cousins, not surprisingly. I guess nobody reported these disturbing acts all those years ago.

    The young men who recently committed mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, NY, both had a propensity for cruelty to animals, specifically cats, according to a June 29 article in Time. As these individuals often do, they had posted disturbing content online bragging about their deeds well before their shooting rampages, but again, I guess nobody reported it or took it seriously, even in this day and age. Maybe they just didn’t know where to report it, or maybe didn’t realize animal cruelty is a crime. Texans, including law enforcement, don’t always associate acts of cruelty against animals with acts of cruelty against people, even though the link between cruelty to animals in childhood and later acts of violence toward humans has been known, studied, and documented for many years.

    Texas Humane Legislation Network led an effort which resulted in strengthening our state’s animal cruelty law in 2017, making it one of the nation’s most effective animal cruelty laws. The law can only be effective, however, if animal cruelty witnessed online or anywhere is reported to appropriate officials AND if those officials are knowledgeable about the law and are willing to take action.

    Abuse of any animal is a serious crime in itself, and should be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately -- even if it never led to violence toward humans. But the fact that we know it DOES should be common knowledge for law enforcement officials. Unfortunately, there is now zero law enforcement training in dealing with cases of animal cruelty. We need to educate all law enforcement, animal control, and elected officials, as well as citizens, about the link between violence directed toward animals and toward humans.  Taking these cases seriously can save lives—both animal and in some cases, human as well.

    Jan Herzog, Local Chapter President, Texas Humane Legislation Network, Wichita Falls

  • Uvalde Leader News - Letter to the Editor

    Originally Published in: Uvalde Leader-News
    Published on: 
    July 20, 2022

    Warning Signs

    As we continue mourning the victims in Uvalde, a national and state conversation is underway about how to prevent such tragedies. There is a behavior that violent criminals frequently exhibit before they commit extreme acts against people: animal cruelty. If we report acts of animal cruelty and enforce animal cruelty laws, we could potentially identify those likely to commit even more violent and extreme crimes.

    The Uvalde shooter committed several acts of animal cruelty before he savagely gunned down 21 innocent lives. Months before the mass shooting, he publicly posted live videos of his torture of kittens and cats across social media platforms and boasted that he and his friends tortured animals “all the time.” Nobody reported it. In fact, people rarely report acts of animal cruelty, and they only become known after mass shootings or other violent crimes. In many cases, people aren’t aware of animal cruelty laws or where or how to report these heinous acts.

    In 2017, the Texas Humane Legislation Network led a successful effort to strengthen our state’s animal cruelty law, considered one of the most effective animal cruelty laws in the United States. But a law can’t be effective if animal cruelty witnessed online isn’t reported in real life. To date, Texans and law enforcement don’t always associate acts of cruelty against animals with acts of cruelty against people – yet both data and experience support the link between the two. We need to change that. 

    The warning signs these troubled individuals send to schoolmates, family members, and others in their social networks continue to go unreported. These gunmen have no problem incriminating themselves by broadcasting their felonious acts of cruelty against animals on social media.

    What can we do right now? We can educate. When law enforcement officials graduate from their respective academies in Texas, they have zero animal cruelty training. Let’s educate law enforcement, animal control officers, elected officials, and citizens on the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence.

    Shelby L. Bobosky
    Executive Director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network

  • Humane Pet Store Ordinances


    A humane retail pet store ordinance requires pet stores that sell dogs and cats to acquire those animals from humane sources – namely shelters and rescues. This takes puppy mill cruelty out of the equation and assures the purchaser their new pet is in good health.


    Austin, College Station, Dallas, El Paso, Euless, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Sherman, and Waco currently have Humane Retail Pet Store Ordinances. In the summer of 2022, New Braunfels and San Marcos began the process of updating their city ordinances to require humane sourcing of dogs and cats sold in retail stores. To see the Texas humane retail pet store ordinances that have already passed, go here.


    Humane retail pet store ordinances protect both pets and people. Puppies sold in retail pet stores are overwhelmingly sourced from large-scale commercial breeding facilities out of state. These facilities, which are notorious for putting profits over the health and welfare of the dogs they breed and sell, are commonly referred to as “puppy mills.” Their business model is to produce as many puppies as possible for shipment across the country.

    Studies show that puppies from these facilities are highly vulnerable to disease and defects before shipment and are compromised even more during transport. Puppies often arrive at their final destination dehydrated and sick. In addition to the grief of purchasing a sick pet, purchasers are often saddled with extremely high vet bills from caring for their sick puppy. A humane retail pet store ordinance will protect families from unwittingly purchasing puppies subjected to puppy mill cruelty.

    Lastly, consumers consistently complain of being duped into signing predatory lending agreements which include exorbitantly high-interest rates and balloon payments. In some cases, the contract includes an option to "repo" the pet if a consumer misses a payment. And the payments must be made even if the pet dies or is euthanized due to illness or defects. There is no puppy lemon law in Texas, so these consumers rarely seek legal recourse. When they do, the cost of bringing a civil suit far outweighs any possible damages they might collect if they manage to prevail in court. Humane retail pet store ordinances protect consumers from this type of fraudulent business practice.


    During the 2021 Texas Legislative session, a humane retail pet sales bill – House Bill 1818 - came close to passing. Legislators overwhelmingly supported the bill to stop the sale of sick, defective puppies to Texas consumers. The bill failed, but the problem persists. Texas needs a statewide humane retail pet sales law to halt the puppy mill pipeline into Texas.


    Texas has hundreds of purebred rescue groups – you can find any type of dog you are looking for from toy dog breeds to working and show dogs. Of course, our motto is “adopt don’t shop”. But for folks who have their heart set on purchasing a particular type of dog from a commercial breeder, remember that a reputable breeder would never allow their puppies to be sold in pet stores. Ask to “meet the parents” by visiting the place where the breeding dogs are housed, and the puppies will live until they are ready to move in with you. After all, this is a new family member you’re adding to your household – you will want to be sure the puppy you’re going to fall in love with is coming from a healthy, cruelty-free environment and that your money isn’t supporting the puppy mill cruelty.


    Sign up for our Action Alerts here and email [email protected] to find out how you can help!

    Want to learn more? See our Claims vs Facts here.

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    THLN has worked for decades to educate the public and lawmakers that certain types of animal abusers must be prohibited from possessing animals to prevent further cruelty. For example, people convicted of animal hoarding suffer delusions they are caring for the animals in their possession. In reality, hoarders continually collect animals while depriving them of basic needs like food and water. Animal hoarding is a severe mental illness with a nearly 100% recidivism rate, and the only way to prevent hoarders from engaging in further cruelty is to prohibit their access to animals.

    As another example, intentional violence toward animals is a reliable predictor the abuser will escalate to hurting humans. Decades of data show a strong correlation between animal abuse, family violence, and other forms of community violence. The National Sheriffs' Association identifies animal cruelty as "a gateway crime" because it is the number one predictor the abuser will graduate to committing assault, domestic violence, and homicide. In addition to predicting future behavior, engaging in animal cruelty is also a strong indication that the perpetrator is suffering from a mental health disorder or is the victim of abuse.

    A victory for Texas animals and communities: In 2021, THLN helped pass SB 48 / HB 91, known as "the Animal Possession Ban." The new law codifies judges' authority to prevent people convicted of animal cruelty from having further contact with animals. Additionally, a judge may order psychological counseling for o­ffenders. The Animal Possession Ban interrupts abuse so that animals, people, and the communities they live in are safer.

    To download the THLN Fact Sheet for the Animal Possession Ban, go here.


    THLN supported HB 2326 – the Release of Non-Native Snakes Law of 2021. Before this law, non-native snakes were brought to Texas by reptile enthusiasts and exotic pet retailers. When some owners released non-native snakes from captivity, those snakes posed a grave danger to Texas native wildlife and ecosystems. The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is a prime example of the destruction that a non-native species can cause. In Florida, Burmese pythons, formerly kept as pets and then released from captivity, now breed in the wild and number over 10,000. They threaten public safety, harm tourism, and are driving some mammal and bird species to extinction.

    HB 2326 protects Texas wildlife by prohibiting the release of Burmese pythons. Violators face a Class C misdemeanor, which can escalate to Class B for a subsequent conviction. The law went into effect on September 1, 2021.

    To download the THLN Fact Sheet for the Release of Non-Native Snakes in Texas Law, go here.


    In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed SB 197, exempting animal rescue organizations from paying sales tax on adoption fees. Previously, only nonprofit animal welfare organizations operating out of physical facilities qualifi­ed for the sales tax exemption. Because this was confusing and unfair, THLN advocated updating the tax code so that home-based rescue and foster organizations did not have to bear this undue tax burden.

    To be clear: rescue organizations don't sell animals for profi­t, and adoption fees comprise only a small part of their operating budgets. The majority of a rescue’s income comes from fundraising, and a legitimate rescue organization is in no way comparable to a pet retailer. Breeders and retailers that sell pets bred for profit typically sell those animals for hundreds or thousands of dollars. By contrast, volunteers who foster for rescues typically cover costs like pet food and supplies out of pocket. The Adoption Fee Sales Tax Exemption law points to the stark difference between “sales” and “adoptions” by eliminating the sales tax on activities that weren't commercial activities to begin with.

    A victory for Texas rescue pets: Going forward, shelters and home-based rescues alike can use their tax savings to save more Texas pets. The Adoption Fee Sales Tax Exemption law took effect on October 1, 2021.

    To download the THLN Fact Sheet for the Adoption Fee Sales Tax Exemption Law, go here.


    Specially trained dogs, known as facility dogs, assist vulnerable victims in courtrooms and legal proceedings across the country. Before 2021, however, Texas did not have a law explicitly allowing these highly trained canines to assist victims testifying in Texas state courthouses.

    THLN was proud to promote and testify in support of HB 1071 – dubbed the "Texas Courthouse Dogs Law" by the legislator who authored the bill. Research shows that dogs lower cortisol and raise the level of oxytocin in our systems. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone; oxytocin is the "feel good" hormone that gives us a sense of calm and safety. As a result, victims comforted by a facility dog have higher memory recall rates and are less likely to be re-traumatized when describing how they were abused. This, in turn, results in stronger indictments and higher conviction rates. The Texas Courthouse Dogs Law helps to bring abusers to justice.

    What distinguishes a qualified facility dog from a qualified therapy dog? Both types are included in the law, so it's helpful to understand what distinguishes the two. A qualified facility dog undergoes at least one year of training by a certified training organization. The dog can work full-time in specialized environments like courts and children's shelters. Most qualified facility dogs live with their handler, and the pair are considered "co-workers." By contrast, a qualified therapy dog is typically a pet dog that has completed a training program allowing the dog and owner to participate in animal-assisted interventions. While therapy dogs do indeed provide comfort to people in a variety of settings, they are not employees in the same sense as facility dogs. It is recommended that therapy dogs work two hours or less per day. The law went into effect on September 1, 2021. For more information on where to find a qualified facility dog in Texas, please email us at [email protected]

    To download the THLN Fact Sheet for the Dogs in Texas Courthouses Law, go here.


    In 2021, THLN helped pass HB 604, which requires animal control agencies and animal welfare organizations to scan the pets they handle for microchips. If the animal is chipped, the registered owner is contacted so they can reclaim their pet as soon as possible. The purpose of the law is to keep families together, save taxpayers money and avoid the stress both pets and their people feel when separated. Research shows that scanning a lost pet as soon as possible in the location where they were found – known as "return in the field" – increases the chances they will be reunited with their family. Return in the field saves tax dollars by avoiding the costs associated with shelter intake. The Mandatory Microchip Scanning law is a win-win for pets and their families. Agencies and organizations in need of a microchip scanner may be eligible for a free scanner through a grant program. For more information, please email us at [email protected].

    To download the THLN Fact Sheet for the Mandatory Scanning Law, go here.

  • SPCA of Texas Honors Texas Humane Legislation Network with 2022 Mary Spencer Award

    Originally Published on:
    Published on: 
    June 15, 2022

    (DALLAS, TX); June 15, 2022 – The SPCA of Texas announces that the recipient of the 2022 Mary Spencer Award is Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN). THLN is the only Texas-based organization focused on addressing unjust state animal welfare laws and, importantly, the organization works to stop animal cruelty and abuse before it starts.

    This award, named for animal advocate extraordinaire Mary Spencer, honors individuals and organizations that have made a significant difference in the lives of animals in North Texas. THLN’s indefatigable work on the state and local levels protects animals from cruelty and abuse. Recently, THLN has shepherded to victory two critical items: the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act on the state level, governing the restraint of outdoor dogs, and the Dallas Humane Pet Store Ordinance bans the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores and prevents cruel breeding practices.

    Read the full article here.

  • Can a city government be held responsible for the wrongful euthanasia of an animal?

    A chihuahua was wrongfully euthanatized by the Animal Care Services in Bexar County...


    Dogs are considered “property” under Texas case law. Section 101.021 of the Texas Tort Claims Act provides that cities are only liable for “property damage” if it is caused by “operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment.” Otherwise, the city is immune. Individual city employees are also immune. Cases to reference: Franka v. Velasquez, 332 S.W.3d 367 (Tex. 2011) & Strickland v. Medlen.


  • Pet Talk: The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act: A 7-Year Journey to Protect Texas Dogs

    Published in the March Edition of Pet Talk. Check out the full article on page 22 here.

  • Houston pet owners: It's illegal to leave your pet outside in freezing temps

    Originally Featured in The Houston Chronicle

    With wintry weather headed for Houston this week, area shelters and cruelty task force partners will be on the lookout for animals left out in the freezing temperatures.

    Houston pet owners could face criminal charges for leaving their animals out in the cold. According to Texas law, it is illegal for owners to leave a dog outside in extreme weather conditions, including temperatures below 32 degrees.

    The passing of the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, which went into effect last month, reinforces this requirement that animals not be left to fend for themselves in inclement weather. The bill establishes a basic standard of care for outdoor animals and aims to prevent dogs from suffering and ultimately dying on the end of heavy chain tethers in extreme weather conditions.

    Houston is expected to see below-freezing temperatures by Wednesday, with ice accumulation and possible sleet or snow. The freeze comes near the anniversary of the 2021 winter freeze, during which thousands of Texas were left without power or running water for days on end, and hundreds died. Gov. Greg Abbott has promised that the Texas power grid will stay intact for the upcoming freeze although warned planned blackouts could be possible.

    Many dogs died during last year's freeze, something that officials like Harris County Constable Precinct 5 Corporal Kayla Fesperman are trying to prevent. The precinct is a founding partner of the Harris County Animal Cruelty Taskforce and has already been busy responding to calls and checking on animals.

    Fesperman said the taskforce has already seen up to 100 calls within the last two days from residents who are worried about animals being left in the cold. When the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act went into effect in late January -- which coincided with a different, less serious cold front -- the taskforce saw calls jump by nearly 400 over a six-day period, she said.

    "We have had people walking neighborhoods and reporting every house that they see (with an outdoor, chained animal)," Fesperman said. " We are slowly and surely getting through all of those while also getting through the uptick this week. It's been a double whammy, for sure."

    Fesperman said most of the outdoor pet owners she's spoken with so far have come into compliance and are just in need of education. For those who prefer to keep their animals outside and do not want them in their homes, she recommends compromising and placing them inside a bathroom or a laundry room, or if absolutely necessary, in a warmed garage or an outside enclosure that is kept warm with blankets and a heater of some sort.

    Houston residents who spot unattended animals may report it to the taskforce by calling 832-927-PAWS or the Houston SPCA at 713-869-7722. calls within the last two days from residents who are worried about animals being left in the cold. 

    Image Courtesy of Houston SPCA

  • City of Lufkin votes for anti-tethering ordinance beginning March 1

    Originally Featured in CBS 19

    Those who violate the ordinance are in danger of a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

    LUFKIN, Texas — On Tuesday, the Lufkin City Council unanimously voted to outlaw dog tethering by ordinance beginning March 1.

    Although canine tethering is not allowed in the city limits, there is one exception in the ordinance. Tethering dogs on leashes is allowed in the company of the owner or caretaker. However, those who violate the ordinance are in danger of a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

    Residents who live outside the city limits are not affected by the new ordinance.

    In January, our very own CBS19 reporter Colleen Campbell reported on the state's tethering law which went into effect on Jan. 18. However, exceptions in the state law make it very tough to uphold.

    Interim City Manager Kevin Gee explained, “In the state law, there are so many possibly ambiguous conditions that we decided to write our own ordinance. It is in everyone’s best interest to eliminate tethering.”

    Anyone in East Texas can report tethering to the city of Lufkin's non-emergency number at (936) 633-0356.

  • The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act


    A New Law with a Fatal Flaw

    Governor Rick Perry signed HB 1411, the “Unlawful Restraint of Dog” bill, requiring dog owners to restrain dogs with collars “constructed of nylon, leather, or similar material, specifically designed to be used for a dog” and tethers long enough to allow the dog to move about. The law didn’t affect municipalities that already had equivalent or stronger tethering ordinances. It applied only to unincorporated parts of counties not covered by city ordinances. In a state as big as Texas, that meant millions of dogs would be affected.

    Moreover, the new law didn’t require dogs have drinkable water or access to shade and protective shelter, nor did it outlaw the use of chains. Worse yet, the Unlawful Restraint of Dog law had a fatal flaw: it required officers to give dog owners a 24-hour warning before taking any action.


    2015 - Witnesses from the House hearing
    L-R, Randy Turner, Alex Johnston, Ethel Strother, former Representative Kenneth Sheets and Troy Wilmon

    2021 - Witnesses from the House hearing Shannon Sims, Stacy Sutton Kerby, Art Munoz and Jamey Cantrell.



    THLN Brings Stakeholders Together to Fix the Broken Law

    After the law went into effect, THLN began receiving reports from animal control and law enforcement officers about the defects in the law. THLN brought these stakeholders together, veterinarians and animal welfare experts, to fix the broken law.

    In 2015, THLN took the efforts of those stakeholders to the Texas Legislature in the form of the “Humane Tethering” bill, HB 2562. The bill aimed to fix the 2007 law and included a definition for adequate shelter, required drinkable water, struck the use of chains and removed the 24-hour warning period. Though HB 2562 had bipartisan support and 42 co-sponsors, it died in the Texas House due to a legislative maneuver to prevent bills from getting a vote. Dogs not protected by municipal tethering ordinances would have to wait two more years before the Texas state law could be fixed.


    THLN Returns With the Adequate Shelter and Restraint bill
    Undeterred, THLN returned to the Texas Capitol in 2017 with the "Adequate Shelter & Restraint" bill, HB 1156/SB 1090. At this point, ten years had passed since the original Unlawful Restraint of Dogs law was passed, and support for reforming the law had grown. While HB 1156/SB 1090 passed the Senate with a vote of 29 to 2, it died in the House due to a politically-motivated tactic known as a point of order. A point of order asserts House rules are being broken. In this case, opponents claimed the bill’s caption was misleading for not including the word “criminal.

    Why did the bill’s caption not include the word “criminal”? Wouldn’t criminal penalties apply to violators? Yes. The “Unlawful Restraint of Dog” law already has penalties that could lead to jail time, and HB 1156 bill did not add or alter those penalties. While the move was disingenuous, it was enough to kill the bill. Once again, Texas dogs would pay the price with their lives while waiting for the next legislative session.


    2017 - Witnesses from the House hearing, former Rep. Sarah Davis, Chief Jeff Honea, Deputy Alex Johnston, Jamey Cantrell, Laura Donahue, Art Munoz, and Shelby Bobosky

    2019 - Various Witnesses from the House hearing



    A Growing Coalition and an Extremist Lawmaker
    THLN continued to conduct outreach with stakeholders on how best to fix the broken law between legislative sessions. By 2019, that coalition to fix the 2007 law included the Texas Sheriffs’ Association, the Texas Animal Control Association, the Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Texas, the Texas Municipal Police Association, and the Dallas Police Association. They were joined by hundreds of Texas municipal agencies, shelters, rescuers, and animal care professionals.

    The bill was re-filed in 2019 as SB 295/HB 940 and again sailed through the Senate with a vote of 27 to 3. It then died by way of another point of order in the House. The legislator responsible claimed the exceptions listed that allowed tethering while hunting, ranching, or even while “stepping into a Starbucks” weren’t highlighted enough in the Bill Analysis, which is the memo summarizing the bill. No wording would have satisfied the lawmaker who insisted that ensuring dogs had basic protections was “government overreach”.

    With more people than ever fired up in support of the bill, THLN focused interim efforts on continuing to build a coalition of support, while also helping to enact local ordinances around humane tethering to give dogs the help they needed without delay.


    Safe Outdoor Dogs Passes Both Chambers, Again Stopped by a Single Elected Official
    By the 87th Texas Legislative session, one thing was certain: THLN would leave no stone unturned to pass this vital legislation, now dubbed the “Safe Outdoor Dogs Act.” Support for reforming the broken 2007 law had also grown exponentially: statewide organizations in support now included the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, the Texas Young Republicans, the Texas Municipal League, and Houston Crime Stoppers. Outreach to freshman legislators had been fruitful in explaining that the “Safe Outdoor Dogs Act”(filed as SB 474 / HB 873) wasn’t new law but instead would simply fix the current broken law. Returning legislators already knew the bill had been killed for ideological reasons and were determined to get the bill over the finish line. One lawmaker even declared, “I don’t want to get any more photos of dead dogs in my district”.

    One hundred Texas lawmakers co-sponsored SB 474 not only because it was a solid fix to a broken law, but also because it was one of those rare islands of neutrality and consensus in an otherwise divided legislature. The hard work of lawmakers over four consecutive legislative sessions produced a bill that passed the House 83-32 and the Senate 28-3 with wide bipartisan support. The THLN team was ecstatic when, on May 29, 2021, two days before the end of the session, the bill was sent to the Governor for signature.

    However, at 11 PM on Friday, June 18, 2021, Governor Abbott vetoed the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act. Prior to this move, the THLN team was in constant contact with the Governor’s office, and never once were told he had concerns. The Governor’s veto proclamation of SB 474 ultimately meant that the bill would fail to pass for a fourth time, at the expense of dogs across Texas.


    We will never give up on the dogs that live outside permanently. We can't do this without your support. Please consider making a donation to our efforts so we will be prepared and ready for the 2023 legislative session. 


  • On October 25, 2021, after the most contentious Texas legislative session in memory, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act was signed into law. THLN never wavered during the six-year quest to pass this legislation, even when it was targeted by an extremist lawmaker and unexpectedly vetoed.

    Texas dogs and the communities where they reside deserve a common-sense, balanced policy governing the restraint of dogs outdoors. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, which goes into effect January 18, 2022, achieves that 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.

    Arguably the most significant change wrought by the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act is removing the 24-hour warning period that allowed bad actors to flout the law. Officers can take immediate action for tethered dogs in distress from now on.

    Exceptions to the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act
    The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act does not prevent owners from tethering dogs. The law requires that unattended dogs are tethered in a way that keeps them and the people around them safe, and there are several exceptions to the law. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act does not apply to dogs who are:

    • Attached to a cable-tie out or trolley system.
    • Camping or using other public recreational areas.
    • Herding livestock or assisting with farming tasks.
    • Hunting or participating in field trials.
    • In an open-air truck bed while the owner completes a temporary task.

    Restraining Dogs Without Using Chains
    The American Veterinary Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control agree that chaining dogs is an inappropriate method of restraint. Not only do chains tangle, rust, and break, but they often cause pain and injury.

    Conversely, cable tie-outs and trolley systems are designed to restrain dogs, so they are lightweight, strong, and flexible. On average, they cost between $15-$30 and are easy to find in stores and online. Below are links to highly rated cable tie-outs and trolley systems:

    1. Tumbo Trolley Dog Containment System
    2. Expawlorer Dog Tie Out Cable
    3. Boss Pet Prestige Skyline Trolly
    4. BV Pet Heavy Extra-Large Tie Out Cable
    5. Petest Trolley Runner Cable
    6. XiaZ Dog Runner Tie Out Cable

    Watch this short video to see examples of cable tie-outs recommended by a company that rates affordable pet products. Always install cable tie-outs and trolley systems according to the manufacturer's instructions.

    Read FAQs

    When the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act goes into effect on January 18, 2022, we all want our friends and neighbors who have dogs tethered outdoors to be prepared for this change.

    The following list of resources is available to qualified applicants. Bear in mind each organization has its own application process and service area.

    Local nonprofits and civic groups:

    BASTROP & TRAVIS COUNTIES: Dejando Huella ATX – donates dog houses & specializes in outreach to Spanish-speaking dog owners. | Contact: [email protected]

    CORPUS CHRISTI: People Assisting Animal Control organizes pet wellness & educational events, distributing cable tie-outs. | Contact: [email protected]

    DALLAS/FORT WORTH: SPCA of Texas’ Russell H. Perry Pet Resource Center provides temporary support to pet owners in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex who are experiencing financial hardship and are at risk of having to surrender their pets. | Contact: [email protected]

    MCLENNAN COUNTY: Cribs For Canines provides dog houses to under-resourced dog owners. | Contact: Cribs for Canines (

    MIDLAND: Fix West Texas donates dog houses and other pet supplies to under-resourced dog owners. | Contact: [email protected]

    NORTH TEXAS: The Love Pit is a Dallas-based nonprofit that improves the quality of life for pit bull-type dogs through rescue, education, and outreach in the DFW area. | Contact: [email protected]

    PLEASANTON: Atascosa Animal Allies donates dog houses within the city limits of Pleasanton, Texas to those who qualify. They also operate a TNR program for feral cats and host monthly subsidized spay/neuter clinics for under-resourced pet owners in Atascosa County. | Contact: [email protected]

    TRAVIS COUNTY: The City of Austin Fencing Assistance Program donates fence material to under-resourced dog owners in Travis County. The city also donates dog houses to qualified residents. | Contact: [email protected]

    TYLER: The SPCA of East Texas donates doghouses and other pet supplies to under-resourced dog owners. | Contact: [email protected]

    VICTORIA: South Texas Tales – donates dog houses and other resources to under-resourced dog owners. | Contact: [email protected]

    WICHITA FALLS: Chain Off Wichita Falls – donates fencing materials and labor for under-resourced dog owners. | Contact: [email protected]

    WILLIAMSON COUNTY: Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter – serving Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, Hutto, and rural Williamson County. Donates dog houses and other items to under-resourced dog owners. | Contact: [email protected]

    Chain Off | P.E.T.S. Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic (

    National Organizations:

    The Home Depot | Community Impact Grants Grants are available to nonprofit groups working to help local citizens.

    Fences for Fido Provides support and mentorship to groups dedicated to getting dogs off chains | Contact: [email protected]

    THLN wants to help those in underserved communities, and we need your help! We encourage everyone who wants to see the successful implementation of the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act to engage at the local level. Consider doing the following in your community to help outdoor dogs:

    • Partner with your local shelter or rescue group to fundraise for dog houses and cable tie-outs.
    • Co-host a neighborhood event with your local shelter/rescue to distribute free cable tie-outs. If the event is part of a spay/neuter or vaccine clinic or pet food distribution event, dog owners are sure to attend.
    • Attend dog-friendly public events and distribute Safe Outdoor Dogs Act Fact Sheets.
    • Share Safe Outdoor Dogs Act information on all your social media platforms.
    • Add cable tie-outs and dog houses to your shelter or rescue group "Wish List."
    • Ask local retailers like Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware, and Tractor Supply to donate dog houses, fencing materials, or cable tie-outs.
    • Many high schoolers and college students need community service hours – why not involve them in a dog house building project? Whether it is the Eagle Scouts, ROTC, National Honor Society, church youth groups, or high school shop classes – these groups are all looking to make a positive community impact.
    • Help your local shelter or rescue create a "Donate a Dog House" program.

    Click here for free DIY Doghouse blueprints.

    Are you already working in your community to help under-resourced dog owners? Do you have other ideas for assisting folks in complying with the new law? We'd love to hear it!

    Contact Us Now

    Show Us Your Success Stories
    The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act starts a brand-new chapter for Texas dogs. And nothing is better for showing the impact of this law than your stories of helping those in need. Send us your photos, videos, and firsthand accounts of helping those in your community…we can't wait to see your success!



  • New Texas dog law closing tether law loopholes goes into effect in January

    Originally Published in: San Antonio Express-News
    Published on: December 30, 2021
    Written By: Cathy M. Rosenthal

    The Safe Outdoor Dog Act goes into effect on Jan. 18. It closes the loophole that required animal control officers and law enforcement to wait 24 hours before helping a tethered dog in distress, outlines proper protection from the elements, requires dogs to have access to drinkable water and prohibits the use of chain restraints.

    In 2015, the Texas Humane Legislative Network (THLN) began its effort to update Texas'Health and Safety Code to ensure humane treatment for dogs tethered and left unattended outdoors. The previous law failed to outline proper humane care for these dogs, failed to ban chains that can injure dogs, and required a 24-hour waiting period before law enforcement and animal control officers could help a dog in distress. Law enforcement and animal control officers wanted this law updated.

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