Jessica Hagmaier

  • Chained and Cold: North Texas Animal Advocate Speaking Out About Dogs Left Outside

    Originally Featured on Spectrum News 1 - Click here to watch full interview

    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.


  • 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]


  • Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. Files THLN’s Top Legislative Priority in the Texas Senate

    ”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.


  • Texas must give law enforcement better ways to deal with dangerous chained dogs

    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.

    Alexandra Johnston is the director of investigations for Animal Investigations and Response and ambassador for the Texas Humane Legislation Network.

  • We Saved the Texas Licensed Breeder Program!

    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.


  • As cold temps hit, outdoor dogs will suffer and could become a danger to Texans

    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


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