Be polite and professional:
- Identify yourself and leave your contact information.
- If you are a constituent or represent an organization, be sure to say so.
- Bring multiple copies of materials for the legislator and staff to review.
Be a credible resource:
- Study the issue so you can confidently state the facts.
- Use a local angle to explain how a bill will impact the legislator’s district.
- Notify the legislator of any pending deadlines for making a decision.
Be respectful of the legislator’s time:
- Always show up on time for appointments and meetings.
- Be as brief as possible while including specifics. Keep letters to one page.
- Practice what you’ll say before meeting legislators, and always thank them for their time.
Be a friendly, familiar face:
- Stay connected with legislators year-round, not just during the legislative session. Get to know the staff, especially the staffer who handles animal welfare issues.
- Thank legislators for animal-friendly votes and invite them to celebrations, workshops, and other events.
- Realize that everyone thinks his or her issue is the most important one being considered.
- Prioritize issues. Decide from the start if an issue is worth risking a relationship with a legislator.
- Frame animal issues as nonpartisan, common-sense issues.
- Don’t be rude or threatening in any way. Rudeness will not help your cause.
- Don’t press for an answer on your first visit.
- Don’t assume legislators are crooked. With rare exceptions, they are honest, intelligent folks.
- Don’t distort the facts. Present your position honestly.
- Don’t guess at answers to legislator’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll find the information and get back to them as soon as possible.
- Don’t break a promise. If you tell a legislator, you will get back to them, follow through.
- Don’t assume the legislator or staff has read or remembers something you sent.
- Don’t be offended if they forget who you are, even if it is just five minutes after your visit.
- Don’t send form letters.
- Don’t begin by saying, “As a citizen and taxpayer....”
- Don’t say, “I hope this gets by your secretary....”
- Don’t write to members of the House when the vote is in the Senate, and vice versa.
- Don’t complain or gossip about your legislator or their staff to others, especially on social media.
- Don’t blame legislators for all the things that go wrong in government.
Don’t become enemies when you disagree. Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally!
Jessica Hagmaier published Commentary: Abbott's veto keeps dogs suffering in Latest News 2021-07-05 16:45:03 -0500
Originally Featured in San Antonio Express-News
Photo Credit: Billy Calzada / San Antonio Express-News
Texas dogs, and the people who love them, deserve more than lawmakers who make decisions that prioritize political posturing over animal cruelty prevention. Since 2015, dozens of stakeholder associations and countless Texans have been working to pass a bill clarifying the existing outdoor restraint statute, which is so vague that it is completely unenforceable.
The Texas Legislature meets every other year, and each session for the last six years, animal advocates, law enforcement officers and supporters have traveled to Austin to testify at hearings, write letters to their elected officials and sign petitions in support of a bill most recently known as Senate Bill 474, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act.
Opponents of bills like the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act include dog fighters and unscrupulous breeders who have long claimed Texas has sufficient animal cruelty laws. But under current law, animal cruelty can only be prosecuted after the fact. Clarifying the existing outdoor restraint statute would allow action to be taken before a chained dog — suffering without shelter or water — dies or suffers abject cruelty.
Texas has the full gamut of extreme weather from freezing winds in the northern Panhandle to sweltering heat across the Rio Grande Valley.
In 2021, during February’s extreme winter storm, the Texas Humane Legislation Network was inundated with hundreds of calls per day from sheriffs, police chiefs and advocates trying to save dogs left to freeze outdoors without shelter. Many of those dogs ultimately suffered terrible fates because the current broken statute prevented intervention.
The outlook was brighter during the 87th Texas Legislature after finally getting this bill passed. Years of work and negotiations with legislators who had questions or concerns resulted in a carefully crafted bill that was acceptable to those representing many diverse interests across the state. And most importantly, SB 474 would effectively protect Texas dogs.
The bill passed the Senate and House, shepherded by sponsors state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Nicole Collier, chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. It had the support of Republicans and Democrats, as well as lawmakers from rural, urban and suburban districts. After more than six years of advocacy, outside dogs would have the basic protections they deserved.
After all of that, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed the bill. All the elements he cited as “micromanagement” were actually already part of the current statute or carefully negotiated compromises that addressed concerns from lawmakers in both parties to strike the right balance for our state.
The governor was right about this: Texans do love their dogs. That’s why thousands of them supported the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act. And it is why front-line animal rescuers, prosecutors and law enforcement officers spoke out repeatedly about the need for this bill: to allow them to take action to save dogs before the dog dies a preventable death — before the situation becomes an animal cruelty case instead of an animal rescue.
Ultimately, Abbott will have to be a part of the solution, and it is our hope he will reconsider his position when a future version of this bill is on his desk.
Steve Hurst serves as board president of the Texas Humane Legislation Network.
If you're interested in receiving updates about the bills THLN are lobbying, you can sign-up for their Action Alerts at thln.org/join.
Passionate fundraiser, Christina Muller, has created and published a vegan cookbook with 100% of proceeds benefitting THLN. This collection of delicious recipes makes a great gift. Purchase your copy today!
Julie Arendt makes durable, stretchy, washable dog toys from upcycled t-shirts. For every dog toy purchased, she will donate $1 to Texas Humane Legislation Network. To buy a dog toy, click on the button below:
- Choose the desired size and quantities.
- On the checkout page, add https://www.thln.org in the notes section.
- Purchase dog toy(s) through her Etsy Store here.
Need to book a hotel for vacation? Winspire has some fantastic hotel deals at up to 50% of retail value, and they will donate 10% of the value of your booking back to us. Visit www.Winspireme.com/Giveback to check out their deals and make a reservation. P lease be sure to mention 'Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN)' when booking so we receive the 10% donation. If you shop at Safeway, Albertsons, Randalls or Tom Thumb, they will donate 1% of your grocery bill back to the Texas Humane Legislation Network. You will need to use their reward card in order to do this, but the rest is simple! To set it up, simply go to the Customer Service Desk in your local grocery store and ask to register for their Good Neighbor Program, making sure to specify Texas Humane Legislation Network as the recipient. Every time you swipe your Rewards card at check-out, 1% of your total bill will be donated to us!
Do your regular online shopping through igive.com and they will send us a percentage of the value of your order (avg. 3%). Choose from over 2,100 online retailers such as PetCo, The Animal Rescue Site Store, Macys, Walgreens, etc. Just go to igive.com and register as a user, or log in if already a user, and then select Texas Humane Legislation Network as your charity!
An excellent way for you to support Texas Humane Legislation Network's mission is to leave us a bequest in your will, living trust, or with a codicil. One significant benefit of making a gift by bequest is that it allows you to continue to use the property you will leave to charity during your life. Another benefit is that you can leave a lasting legacy to advocate for animal welfare legislation for years to come.
A donor-advised fund is a giving program that provides you favorable tax benefits while supporting our mission. Ask your financial advisor to designate a gift to Texas Humane Legislation Network. And please let us know when you do, so we can say thank you! If you have questions or to notify THLN of your DAF gift, please contact us at [email protected]
By speaking up for all Texas animals, you are helping us create legislation that protects animals from chains, inadequate shelter, puppy mills and other heart wrenching situations. Won't you be the voice for all the animals? Help us continue to legislate to change their fate by making a one-time gift now or fight year round for them by making a monthly contribution.
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Jessica Hagmaier published Webinar Update on New Laws and Service & Emotional Support Animals in FREE Webinars 2021-03-03 11:44:26 -0600
Animal Law Expert and Animal Lawyer Randy Turner gives an update on changes to laws and service animals and emotional support animals.
Under Texas law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring their service animals to all public accommodations, such as government buildings, hotels, restaurants, stadiums, and stores. These laws also require those who operate transportation services to allow service animals. But recent trends show confusion with emotional support animals and the varying definitions.
When you RSVP, you will automatically land on a page with the webinar.WHENJune 01, 2027 at 6pm
Jessica Hagmaier published Chained and Cold: North Texas Animal Advocate Speaking Out About Dogs Left Outside in Latest News 2021-02-26 00:22:59 -0600
TEXAS – Across the state, reports of dogs and other animals dying after being left outside in this week's extreme weather are rising.
In Houston, one man was arrested this week after leaving eight dogs outside in freezing temperatures. Those not facing formal charges are being blasted on social media by neighbors for leaving their animals neglected and unsheltered as temperatures stay below freezing.
For animal activist Shelby Bobosky, the pictures being posted on Facebook of dogs suffering outside in the snow are a grim reminder that work needs to be done.
She’s the executive director of Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) – the only Texas-based nonprofit organization focused on addressing unjust state animal welfare laws. Bobosky says she and her small staff are working to stop animal cruelty and abuse before it starts.
The organization recently celebrated helping save the state’s Licensed Breeder Program after what Bobosky calls an “intense grassroots and lobby outreach” to maintain the program which ensures puppy mills won’t be able to legally operate across Texas.
This week she and her staff of three employees have received an influx of people in communities across the state notifying THLN of animals being neglected in the snow.
“Our hotline has basically been shut down by the hundreds of calls,” she said. “I currently have 80 voicemails and hundreds of texts because people are so concerned about these dogs that have no shelter right now, especially the first couple days.”
Also busy with calls this week is Dallas Animal Services. General manager Jordan Craig says her staff’s workload has more than doubled over the last week. They're getting a large amount of high-priority, weather-related calls.
“We’ve seen a 900% increase of weather calls,” said Craig.
Many of those calls have reported animals in critical conditions. She says her staff has been getting to as many calls as possible with icy road conditions slowing down their operations.
“It just kind of hits you mentally,” said Bobosky with tear-filled eyes. “We need to use all these pictures we’re seeing and share them with our legislators and say this is what's happened in your district, you really need to support this bill.”
That bill she’s talking about is the Safe Outdoor Dogs Bill. she hopes if passed it would make the state a more humane, especially when freezing temperatures threaten lives.
“The current statewide tethering law is unenforceable and not a single ticket has been issued under it since it passed in 2007,” she said. “The Safe Outdoor Dogs Bill will effectuate change for thousands of animals, especially those that we have seen over the last couple of days. These dogs that live outside.”
Bobosky hopes when people see dogs suffering outside in these freezing temperatures they’ll speak up and advocate for the voiceless.
“Your pets are your family, and people care,” she said. “When they see that visual of a dog outside on a chain, with no shelter and it's eight degrees – they're going to make calls and they're going to do something.”
Craig encourages those who see pets outside without access to adequate shelter or fresh (not frozen) water when the actual or perceived temperature is below 32 degrees to call 3-1-1 to report it or make a service request online through the OurDallas app.
Bobosky says animal neglect isn’t always a case of intentional malice, but rather a lack of understanding that dogs and other animals like humans can’t survive being outside during these colder temperatures. She says If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.
THLN’s currently focusing on supporting those who call about freezing dogs by providing the resources they need to help law enforcement officers take action before it's too late for unsheltered dogs.
“If you see a dog outside without shelter for extended periods of time, please document everything and report to your local law enforcement and animal control,” said Bobosky.
She says when the immediate danger has passed, THLN will resume its efforts to pass #HB873 and #SB474 during this legislative session, “Because those bills, which require adequate shelter for outdoor dogs, will save lives during the next period of extreme weather.”
If you're interested in receiving updates about the bills THLN are lobbying, you can sign-up for their Action Alerts at thln.org/join.
Jessica Hagmaier published As Temperatures Drop, THLN Underscores the Passage of Safe Outdoor Dogs Legislation to Prevent Unnecessary Cruelty and Death in Latest News 2021-02-11 19:01:14 -0600
As Temperatures Drop, THLN Underscores the Passage of Safe Outdoor Dogs Legislation to Prevent Unnecessary Cruelty and Death
Just this week, a dog was found frozen to death near Lubbock
Austin, Texas – On February 10, Floydada Animal Services reported that a dog was found frozen to death near Lubbock from being left outside in freezing temperatures. As the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) works to pass Safe Outdoor Dogs legislation and establish a better standard of care for dogs left outdoors, the organization urges Texans to immediately report to local authorities all dogs without shelter on these bitter-cold nights.
"Our hotline has been swamped with calls as the temperatures have dropped," said Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of THLN. "We have received many reports of freezing and dying dogs throughout the state and especially in West Texas."
SB 474 by Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. and HB 873 by Representative Nicole Collier include key elements to protect dogs from extreme outdoor temperatures that could have prevented that unnecessary death and prevent more in the coming days. The legislation would establish basic standards of outdoor shelter and care, and provide much-needed clarification to existing law for the safety of animals and their surrounding communities.
"As seen in this week's tragedy, it is not enough to provide temporary fixes like free dog houses. We must change the law to require adequate shelter," said Bobosky. "The Safe Outdoor Dogs legislation ensures animals are not subject to extreme conditions, without infringing upon the freedom of Texas dog owners."
Along with preventing exposure to extreme temperature, the legislation also ensures dogs have access to drinking water and can move around without being trapped in standing water or mud. The legislation strikes the 24-hour waiting period in the current statute so that law enforcement can address critical situations immediately, instead of only after tragedy has struck.
To learn more or to schedule an interview about safe outdoor dog legislation, contact Cara Gustafson at 561-797-8267 or [email protected].
Jessica Hagmaier published Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. Files THLN’s Top Legislative Priority in the Texas Senate in Latest News 2021-01-29 17:54:19 -0600
”Safe Outdoor Dogs” legislation will improve public safety and ensure dogs have basic standards while restrained outside.
Austin, Texas – Today, Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. filed SB 474, Texas Humane Legislation Network’s (THLN) top priority legislative item in the Texas Senate, to ensure dogs are properly restrained outdoors and to prevent them from becoming a public safety hazard for unsuspecting people. Representative Nicole Collier is the House author of the companion bill, HB 873. The legislation would establish basic standards of outdoor shelter and care and provide much-needed clarification to the existing law to better promote the safety of surrounding communities.
Dogs that are inhumanely restrained become desperate and aggressive, causing them to lash out at people, especially unsuspecting children who do not understand the signs of an animal in extreme distress. Over the past couple of years, Texas has seen dozens of attacks by dogs inhumanely restrained outdoors, with some even being fatal.
“THLN has and always will advocate for commonsense animal welfare legislation. However, SB 474 is truly about public safety,” said Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of THLN. “We must ensure dogs kept outside are safe – safe for them and safe for us.”
SB 474 key clarifications include protecting dogs from extreme outdoor temperatures and preventing the use of overly heavy, cruel chain restraints. The bill also ensures dogs have access to drinking water and can move around without being trapped in standing water or mud. Finally, the bill strikes the 24-hour waiting period to allow law enforcement to address critical situations immediately, instead of only after tragedy has struck.
"Today I am proud to file SB 474. As we know, poor living conditions of animals outside are a safety risk not only for the animals but for the communities in which they live," said bill author Senator Lucio Jr. "I am looking forward to working with Representative Collier and my colleagues to better establish this basic standard of care to protect the lives of our outdoor dogs and the health and safety of our communities."
“We are grateful for Senator Lucio Jr. for filing this bill and are confident that the legislation will pass in 2021 to better protect Texas dogs outdoors and Texas communities,” concluded Bobosky.
Jessica Hagmaier published Texas must give law enforcement better ways to deal with dangerous chained dogs in Latest News 2021-01-28 09:31:06 -0600
Originally published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
By Alexandra Johnston
We all know someone who has been bitten by a dog. Such incidents affect hundreds, if not thousands of Texans each year, but it is a largely untold story in our communities that dogs restrained outside by their owners are actually more dangerous than roaming packs of dogs.
How we restrain and shelter dogs outside can actually cause them to become more aggressive and more likely to lash out at an unsuspecting person. A dog unlawfully and inhumanely kept on a chain for hours, days or even years without adequate access to shade or shelter from extreme Texas weather is unable to retreat from perceived or real threats. They can develop severe behavior problems and act out aggressively toward other animals, humans and especially children when approached.
Although state policymakers have established basic standards for dogs outside, it is clear that the law is not working as intended to protect Texas communities.
As a former member of law enforcement who dealt specifically with animal cases, I often saw dogs in distress, restrained by unbelievably heavy chains that sometimes outweighed the animal. But we could not intervene because current law mandates a warning period to allow the owner to fix the situation without penalty. If we came back the next day and saw the same situation, we had to issue another warning.
To my knowledge, no one in Texas has ever been cited for the unlawful and inhumane restraint of a dog outside because of this ridiculous warning clause, which is unlike anything else in Texas law. If these animals are going to live among us, we must clarify this law to keep our loved ones, neighborhoods, and animals safe.
In recent years, our state has seen many attacks by dogs restrained in this manner, with a consistent record of severe injury or even death. In 2018, a 4-year-old boy was playing in his backyard in Bexar County and was mauled by his family’s chained dog. Although a family member in the home quickly saw the attack happening, the boy had already died.
This year in Victoria, a 7-year-old boy was playing in his backyard and approached a neighbor’s chained dog. The dog attacked and bit the boy’s face, causing injuries that were not life-threatening but required surgery.
This is happening in every corner of Texas, but we can prevent it if law enforcement is able to intervene when appropriate. This is a community safety issue.
Law enforcement’s duty is to uphold public safety. Our role is built on the concept of de-escalating situations to best protect residents and their property. However, the current law designed to address the safe keeping of dogs among us is unnecessarily keeping us from performing that duty.
Instead of empowering law enforcement to remove animals from dangerous situations or cite owners for poor standards of care, officers must wait until after an attack or tragedy has occurred to take action. Waiting until tragedy, death, or destruction has occurred is wholly unacceptable.
The remedy is simple. First, legislators must clearly define lawful and humane restraint and basic shelter standards outside so owners can easily comply. Second, and most important, any change must remove the never-ending cycle of warnings to allow law enforcement to address dangerous situations when necessary to prevent human tragedy.
Understandably, some Texans worry that such legislation could affect how they care for their dogs. However, this legislation is not meant to stop dogs from being kept outside at all or curb the personal liberties of Texas animal owners. It will simply ensure that dogs being kept outside are treated in a manner that does not create a danger to the unsuspecting public around them.
We are not asking legislators to create a new law. We simply ask that they fix one they’ve already acknowledged as necessary. Texas dogs deserve a fair standard of care, and most importantly, Texas families deserve to be safe in their communities.
Jessica Hagmaier published We Saved the Texas Licensed Breeder Program! in Victories 2021-01-20 20:25:28 -0600
We have good news to share as we head into the 2021 Texas Legislative Session. While the Session convened just yesterday, we have spent the interim period since the last Session working to ensure that the Texas Sunset Commission did not vote to abolish the Texas Licensed Breeders Program.
As the Sunset review process began, THLN hoped to maintain the Texas Licensed Breeders Program and strengthen it. We strongly advocated for such changes. However, the Commission's initial recommendation called for the termination of the entire Program - a move that would have set back animal advocacy efforts by more than a decade. Therefore, we focused our efforts on keeping the Program.
The Good News: after intense grassroots and lobby outreach, the Commission has voted to MAINTAIN the Texas Licensed Breeders Program and continue to stop puppy mills from operating across Texas.
We are thankful the Sunset Commission Members recognized the Licensed Breeders Program's importance and its role in preventing animal cruelty. Now that the Program will continue, we can turn our efforts to other critical humane measures instead of rebuilding a vital program from scratch.
The animals of Texas benefitted from the efforts of thousands of THLN supporters who sent letters or called their legislators, submitted public comments, submitted letters to their local editors, posted on social media, or shared information with friends and family. Because of dedicated supporters like you, THLN successfully raised awareness of the Licensed Breeders Program's foundational importance.
Thank you again for your hard work and support! We also want to extend a special thank you to one of our partners, Houston PetSet, who helped us save the Program!
We invite you to join us as we turn our collective energy towards the passage of another important measure: the Safe Outdoor Dogs bill. Learn more about our priority legislation for the 2021 legislative session here.
Jessica Hagmaier published As cold temps hit, outdoor dogs will suffer and could become a danger to Texans in Latest News 2021-01-20 13:28:10 -0600
December 9, 2020
Originally published in the North Texas e-News
By Jamey Cantrell, President of Texas Animal Control Association (TACA)As Texans, when we think about animals being left outdoors and suffering in extreme weather, we usually think of shadeless backyards in scorching summers. But with the temperature already dropping across North Texas, freezing conditions are equally dangerous to our four-legged friends and the communities in which they live.
Currently, Texas state law attempts to define the standards of shelter for animals that are left outdoors. However, the law is not working as intended, which means that countless animals suffer in extreme conditions. Dogs left outside in such situations become aggressive and agitated, desperate for shelter and relief from the elements. They will often lash out at anyone who comes near, and especially at unsuspecting children who don’t understand the dire circumstances. In fact, chained dogs have proven to be more dangerous to people than packs of free-roaming dogs, with three fatal attacks occurring across Texas in 2018 alone.
What’s worse, law enforcement cannot intervene in this kind of cruelty due to the current law requiring a mandatory warning before taking action. This warning stays in effect for twenty-four hours and is required each time, even for the same dog outside on the same chain day after day. In short, the situation is never actually resolved until a tragedy has struck either a community member or the animal itself.
The Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) has been working since 2015 to clarify the current law and ensure Texas keeps outdoor dogs safe – safe for them and safe for us. During the upcoming legislative session beginning in January, THLN is more dedicated than ever to passing “safe outdoor dogs” legislation. Senator Eddie Lucio is again authoring the bill in the Senate, while Representative Nicole Collier is authoring the bill in the House, with bill numbers forthcoming.
The bill will focus on accomplishing two main goals: first, to establish basic standards of shelter and restraint for dogs left outside so that owners can easily comply; and second, to remove the never-ending cycle of warning periods to allow law enforcement to intervene in a bad situation before tragedy strikes.
The bill is not meant to prevent dog owners from restraining their dogs outside, nor is it meant to unreasonably burden owners by dictating how they must keep their animals. It is intended to ensure that a dog has the proper care and shelter to prevent it from becoming a danger to society while mitigating the unnecessary suffering of a living animal.
THLN is confident in the prospect of passing this legislation during the upcoming session with the continued support of Texas residents and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. During the 2019 legislative session, THLN garnered bipartisan support for the bill and was poised to pass this commonsense reform into law. However, in the eleventh hour, a single legislator killed the bill in a procedural maneuver on the House floor.
Nearly two years later, we finally have another chance to pass safe outdoor dogs legislation during the 2021 legislative session. Whether it's animals suffering outside in the hot Texas summers or the cold North Texas winters, it’s time for Texas to get this legislation done and protect residents and dogs from the dire consequences of inhumane outdoor restraint. To help pass safe outdoor dogs legislation, encourage your representatives to support the bill. Get started by visiting thln.org.
Jamey Cantrell is the President of the Texas Animal Control Association and has worked in every aspect of the sheltering profession in various Texas cities for over 25 years