Jessica Hagmaier

  • 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...

    A:

    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
    PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 1, 2022
    WRITTEN BY: REBECCA HENNES

    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
    PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 1, 2022
    WRITTEN BY: HABTOM KELETA

    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. 

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  • 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 (cribs4canines.com)

    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 (petsclinic.org)

    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.

    Read the full article >>
    Download the full article >>




  • Proposed ordinance to regulate the sale of pets in New Braunfels postponed as advisory board conducts further research

    Originally Featured in Community Impact Newspaper
    By: Lauren Canterberry
    Published on December 19, 2021

    Members of the New Braunfels Animal Advisory Board discussed options for a potential recommendation to city council regarding amendments to the city’s current animal ordinances during a Dec. 16 meeting.

    The recommendation could regulate the commercial sale of pets within the city. The discussion stemmed from concerns raised by residents about animals sourced from commercial breeders and the future potential effects of not regulating the sale of animals.

    During the meeting, board members examined three options regarding where commercial animal establishments could source their animals.

    The first option would allow the sale of animals obtained from animal shelters, non-profit animal welfare groups, USDA exempted breeders or licensed breeders.

    The second option would only allow the sale of animals from animal shelters and non-profit animal welfare groups, while the third option would permit the sale of animals from shelters, non-profit groups and licensed breeders.

    Board members discussed the differences between USDA exempted breeders and breeder licenses provided by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation as they relate to the regulations breeders must follow and the health of the animals they sell.

    Stacy Sutton Kerby, director of government relations for the Texas Humane Legislation Network, was in attendance at the meeting and explained the differences between the licenses.

    The THLN is a statewide animal welfare lobby group that has been involved in local and state-level animal welfare ordinances since 1975.

    Any breeder that possesses five or more breeding females and transports animals across state lines must have a USDA license, Kerby said, while a breeder with 11 or more breeding females who sells at least 20 animals a year must obtain a TDLR license.

    In recent years, inspections of licensed facilities have declined, due in part to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and other factors, Kerby said.

    A June 2021 report from the USDA’s Office of Inspector General found that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is responsible for administering the Animal Welfare Act and enforcing requirements for breeders, experienced data reliability issues and did not have a documented process for responding to complaints against breeding facilities.

    The OIG recommended that APHIS address issues with its Animal Care Information System database, develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure a consistent response to complaints and provide inspectors with appropriate training, according to the report.

    “The sad thing that happened with TDLR, which happened to all of us in all of our lives, is that the [COVID-19] pandemic made it impossible for them to go into facilities,” Kerby said. “What happened was a huge lag time for people to renew licenses or or apply for a license and the whole process slowed down.”

    A staff report published by the Sunset Advisory Commission for the 87th Texas Legislature noted that the TDLR licensing program in Texas was difficult to enforce and the high thresholds of 11 breeding female animals enabled many breeders to avoid licensing and oversight.

    During the meeting in New Braunfels, board members decided to table their discussion in order to conduct further research regarding the licensing exemptions before recommending an ordinance amendment to city council.

    A similar ordinance was passed by the city of San Antonio in October 2020 that banned the retail sale of pets within city limits, according to city documents.

    Local pet stores are required to work with local shelters and certified rescue organizations instead of large commercial breeding facilities. Independent breeders who sell directly to the public are not affected by the ordinance.

    The New Braunfels advisory board is expected to meet in January to continue discussions and finalize a recommendation for the city.

    “There's always this tension between who's ahead or who's behind, is culture ahead or is government behind,” Kerby said. “Communities just take the step forward where it's only humane sourcing and it really gives animals in the shelters and in the rescues a much better chance of getting adopted and not being euthanized or lingering in the shelter.”

    Read the original article here >>


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

    Shelters across the state are overflowing with rescue animals in need of loving families.

    DALLAS, TX – The Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) is bringing public awareness to the plight of Texas shelter animals and encouraging prospective pet owners to adopt from Texas shelters and rescue groups as opposed to buying pets from online retailers or pet shops.

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

    The sole purpose of a puppy mill is to mass produce puppies and sell them for monetary gain. There is no regard for the welfare of the breeding stock or the puppies that are produced. Puppies from puppy mills are often seriously ill, poorly socialized, and many times suffer from life-threatening congenital defects due to being poorly bred. National pet store chains that sell puppies take great pains to advertise that their puppies are from reputable breeders, but it has been proven time and time again that is not the case. Reputable breeders will never sell their puppies to a pet store.

    Meanwhile, many shelters and rescue groups are at capacity with dogs and cats and may not be able to accommodate more until their current animals find a home. 

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

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



  • Opinion: Why Dallas should ban pet stores from selling puppies and kittens

    Originally Featured in Dallas Morning News

    PUBLISHED DECEMBER 9, 2021

    The reality of how puppies and kittens are bred and transported to pet stores is troubling. Many of these pets are born at large commercial breeding facilities, known as puppy mills, and shipped to pet stores in cages that fill up with urine and feces during long journeys. Many pups and kittens arrive at their destinations sick or dead.

    Unfortunately, too many stores sell unhealthy pets, often at an unsustainable cost. That’s why we support a proposal submitted this week to a Dallas City Council committee that would prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens in Dallas pet stores. Such a ban would protect animals and pet store customers while encouraging adoption from animal shelters or the purchase of pets through responsible, small-scale breeders.

    The proposal is intended to spare residents the heartache of purchasing a pet that might be stricken with a severe or terminal disease. In a city with pet shelters overflowing with animals in need of adoption, pet stores should be able to partner with these organizations to provide low-cost options, or in some cases no-cost options, for those who can provide these animals with the love they deserve.

    The measure under consideration comes from Shelby Bobosky, executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. She said the humane pet store ordinance would be similar to laws enacted already in 400 communities across 31 states. Nine of them are in Texas.

    Read the full article here >>


  • Dallas to consider banning sales of puppies and kittens by pet stores

    Originally Featured in CultureMap Dallas

    WRITTEN BY: Teresa Gubbins
    PUBLISHED DECEMBER 8, 2021

    The city of Dallas has started a conversation about banning the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores, in an effort to discourage cruel breeding practices.

    On December 6, a proposal was presented to the Dallas City Council Committee on Quality of Life, Arts, & Culture. Called the Dallas Humane Pet Store Ordinance, it's drafted by the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN), an advocacy group that has been working to pass laws with more humane policies for animals.

    Joined by the Humane Society of the United States, THLN made a presentation to the committee to raise awareness and garner support for passage of the ordinance.

    "The Humane Pet Store Ordinance will prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores and stop hundreds of sick puppies from being brought into Texas from puppy mills across state lines," says Shelby Bobosky, THLN's executive director, in a statement. "It will protect consumers from ending up with unhealthy puppies and illusory practices that lock unknowing Texans into years-long, deceptive financial commitments and high interest rates on top of exorbitant vet bills."

    Those "deceptive financial commitments" are the vet bills people get stuck with when they buy a puppy from a puppy mill that comes afflicted with serious and expensive health issues such as parvovirus, distemper, kennel cough, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections.

    "Over the years, our THLN hotline has regularly received complaints of Dallas retail stores selling sick or unhealthy puppies," Bobosky says. "We now have an opportunity to end a cruel practice that hurts puppies and unsuspecting Texans simply trying to get a new pet."

    The ordinance would also support the dozens of Dallas-based humane pet stores who do not sell puppies but instead partner with local shelters and rescue groups on adoption events. These are the organizations that help find homes for animals that might otherwise be euthanized, since Dallas and Texas continue to have a surplus of animals.

    Reputable pet stores — including PetSmart, Pet Supplies Plus, Petco, Odyssey, The Upper Paw, Pet Supermarket, and Uptown Pup — do not sell puppies or kittens.

    The chain that's notorious for selling animals is Petland, which has been the target of protests for more than a decade over their practice of selling animals from puppy mills and the subject of repeated investigations including one in August 2019 by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who charged the Petland store in Frisco with mistreating its animals.

    An HSUS investigator took photos and video while working in the store's back room, and found that pets were mistreated, sick, and overcrowded. The investigator kept a diary documenting puppies that had bloody diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, coughing, or were visibly underweight.

    The investigation was sufficiently damning that the Frisco City Council begrudgingly approved new rules regulating the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores. Passed in January 2020, the ordinance is an embarrassing bandaid by the Frisco City Council which addresses areas such as sanitation, veterinary treatment, care, feeding, housing, and record-keeping, but still does not ban sales.

    Petland stores in the DFW area have also repeatedly experienced "robberies" of expensive puppies in which surveillance videos show that the suspects seem to know the layout of the store.

    In November 2020, San Antonio voted to prohibit the sale of puppy mill animals. Stores can now sell cats and dogs only from shelters, animal rescue groups, or animal control agencies.

    More than 370 localities and three states have already legislated similar bans, including five other municipalities in Texas: Austin, Fort Worth, The Colony, El Paso, and Waco.

    The Texas House approved a similar bill in April but it did not make it through the Senate, thereby blowing the opportunity to take this humane policy state-wide.

    Lauren Loney, Texas State Director for the Humane Society of the United States says in a statement that her organization applauds Council member Adam Bazaldua and Mayor Pro Tem Chad West for their support of the ordinance and looks forward to working with the full city council to ensure its passage.

    "The values of Dallas cannot be reflected by continuing to allow the sale of puppies from cruel puppy mills to unsuspecting local consumers," Loney says.


  • OPINION: Dog-tethering law is finally signed by Gov. Abbott

    Originally Featured The Beaumont Enterprise

    PHOTO BY: RYAN WELCH
    PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 1, 2021

    It took a lot longer than it should have, but a long-overdue bill to humanely limit the ways in which dogs can be tethered outside in Texas has finally been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. We’d like to say it’s just in time for the cold winter weather coming to our state, but thanks to Abbott’s strange reluctance, the bill won’t take effect until Jan. 18. That’s well into the cold weather for many parts of Texas.

    A similar version of this bill was passed in the regular session that ended in May after years of effort and compromises by its supporters and sponsor, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. It passed by solid bipartisan margins in the House and Senate. Abbott’s office gave no indication as the bill was taking shape that it had any problems with the legislation.

    But then Abbott abruptly vetoed it, apparently giving in to the faction of voters who regard any restriction on them in any way — such as wearing a mask or getting a vaccine to protect them from a deadly disease — as a sneaky violation of their personal rights.

    What these people do with their own lives in one thing, but no one has the “right” to mistreat pets or livestock. This bill — Senate Bill 5, known as the “Safe Outdoor Dogs” Act — finally address some longstanding problems with dogs that are tethered.

    It bans the use of heavy chains, weights or improperly fitted collars. It requires animals housed outside to have adequate shelter that keeps them safe from inclement weather and allows them to sit, stand and move around comfortably. The dog must also be able to avoid standing water and exposure to excessive animal waste.

     


  • New Texas Law Will Make It Illegal to Chain Up Dogs Outside Beginning in 2022

    Originally Featured in People Magazine

    BY ABIGAIL ADAMS
    PUBLISHED OCTOBER 29, 2021

    Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill on Monday after vetoing a similar version of the bill in June, which sparked public pushback

    It will soon be illegal for Texas dog owners to chain up their pets outside. 

    On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbot signed the bill — passed during the state legislature’s third special session of the year — after vetoing a previous version this summer. 

    Under the new law, which goes into effect on Jan. 18, 2022, owners will be barred from tying up their dogs outside with chains or weighed-down restraints. The length of an outdoor restraint must be 10 feet long or five times the dog’s length from nose to tail. 

    Owners will not be allowed to leave a dog outside and unattended while restrained unless the owner gives the dog access to “adequate” shelter, shade from direct sunlight, drinkable water, and proper protection from “inclement weather.” 

    The new law also eliminates a rule that currently prevents law enforcement from intervening in a situation regarding a dog in illegal conditions for 24 hours. 

    Violators of the law will face a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. Repeat offenders could face a Class B misdemeanor. 

    Abbott previously vetoed a similar version of the bill in June over the bill’s “micro-managing” language regarding items such as “the tailoring of the dog’s collar, the time the dog spends in the bed of a truck, and the ratio of tether-to-dog length.” 

    Jamey Cantrell, president of the Texas Animal Control Association, told The Texas Tribune in an article published earlier this month that public pushback likely led Abbott to sign the revised bill.

    “If there was no outcry … it would still be something that we’d be planning on working on next legislative session,” Cantrell explained at the time. “But collectively, the Texans that did come through and make their voices heard, they’re the ones who are really responsible for where we’re at right now.” 

    Shelby Bobosky, executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, told the Tribune that last winter’s devastating winter storm displayed the need for “some basic standards in place for dogs who permanently live outside.” 

    State senator and author of the bill Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, recently told the paper that the changes to the previous bill were “minor” and that he hoped the newly-signed law would “give a lot of dogs a new way of life” in the state. 

    There are some exceptions to this rule, such as public camping or recreational areas. Canines and their owners participating in hunting, shepherding livestock, and cultivating agricultural products are also exempt. Dogs may be left unattended in an open-air truck bed circumstantially as well. 

    Some temporary restraints will be permitted circumstantially, too, though the law does not outline how.


  • LAWS for PAWS Symposium

    Friday, October 29, 2021
    COST: FREE
    5 total hours of CE

    Learn about the LINK and why passing legislation at the federal and state levels can help us detect violence towards children, domestic partners, and our elderly populations.

    All sessions have been submitted for continuing education credit through The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement (AAWA), and The State Bar of Texas!

    Shelby Bobosky, Esq., Executive Director, Texas Humane Legislation Network
    Stacy Sutton Kerby, Director of Government Relations, Texas Humane Legislation Network

    Learn More  Register for Free Now


  • Safe Outdoor Dog Act Passes Texas House & Senate

    THLN's work on the Safe Outdoors Dog Act has been featured in the Summer edition of Texas Dog Monthly. 

    Read the full article here.


  • GUEST COLUMN: Abbott’s reasons for vetoing dog legislation were clear

    Originally Featured in The Lufkin Daily News

    BY SHELBY BOBOSKY
    PUBLISHED JULY 22, 2021

    Recently, the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance published an opinion piece taking aim at broad issues within animal welfare and, more specifically, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act (SB 474), which passed the House and Senate this session but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

    Unfortunately, the latter was largely mischaracterized as was the Texas Humane Legislation Network, the only mainstream organization that follows no national agenda, just what’s good for Texas and its animals.

    THLN has more than 27,000 members throughout Texas and proudly represents their voices, and the voices of thousands more animal lovers and advocates, lobbying for common sense legislation in the Texas Capitol as we were founded by Texans to exclusively focus on the unique challenges facing animals in our state.

    Let’s focus on the facts surrounding SB 474.

    First, the bill would have established basic standards of shelter and care for dogs left outdoors and provided much-needed clarification to existing law to promote the safety of animals and the people around them. It does not change the nature of the current law — it simply makes it enforceable.

    All the elements Abbott and RPOA have cited as “micromanagement” were carefully negotiated compromises that addressed concerns from lawmakers of both parties to strike the right balance for our diverse state. The bill received wide bipartisan support in both chambers and had more than 90 co-authors sign onto it in the House, including Lufkin Rep. Trent Ashby.

    When RPOA tries to classify a bill with this much bipartisan support as “extremist,” we would take it with a grain of salt.

    To further avoid infringing upon the rights of dog owners, THLN worked closely with lawmakers across the aisle to include key exemptions in the bill, including for dogs restrained in public places like parks and campgrounds, those used for farming, field trials and hunting tasks, dogs restrained on a trolley system, and those temporarily unattended in an open-air truck bed. In fact, the “unintentional consequences” RPOA lists for underserved and rural dog owners are actually covered by SB 474’s exemptions.

    Finally, SB 474 would not “over-criminalize” unlawful restraint. The criminal offense language remains the same as the law that is currently in place. We worked with Texas law enforcement organizations and animal control officers to ensure it would not have unintended consequences for everyday Texans and earned their support of SB 474.

    For years RPOA has hidden their opposition behind a thinly veiled attempt to paint animal welfare organizations and issues as extremist. While they publish red meat pieces that focus on narrative and not fact, we have spent years crafting a bill that is right for Texans and improves the lives of Texas animals.

    While we are disappointed in the veto decision and in a piece like this from RPOA, we will never stop fighting for animals and hope we can overcome the Governor’s objections in the future.

    If you’d like to join our efforts to make a positive impact for Texas animals, please visit us at thln.org.

    Shelby Bobosky is the executive director of the Texas Humane Legislative Network, a Texas animal law expert and adjunct law professor who teaches animal law and wildlife law at Southern Methodist University.


  • GUEST COLUMN: Abbott’s reasons for vetoing dog legislation were clear

    Originally Featured in The Lufkin Daily News

    BY MARY BETH DUERLER
    PUBLISHED JULY 20, 2021

    The “Doggone Shame” article was dead wrong — claiming the only opposition to SB 474 was from “dog fighters and unscrupulous breeders who are making campaign donations under the table.”

    Be assured that our organization is none of the above and it’s ridiculous to insinuate that Gov. Greg Abbott was “taking campaign donations under the table” for his veto. His reasons are quite clear and show that he is well aware of the radical “Animal Rights Agenda” to end all use, breeding, sales and ownership of animals for any reason, including pet ownership. A meatless and petless society. No interaction with animals, no Texas rodeo, circus, zoo, etc.

    The loss of the governor’s beloved 13-year-old Border Collie “Oreo” was surely painful and we were delighted when he adopted a Golden Retriever puppy named “Pancake” to become a member of his family. Since the “Animal Rights” Movement is opposed to purposeful breeding animals for any reason, these purebred dogs would never have been born. The #AbbottHatesDogs is really a low blow.

    Abbott’s reasons for his veto were clear: “Texans love their dogs, so it is no surprise that our statutes already protect them by outlawing true animal cruelty. Yet SB 474 would compel every dog owner, on pain of criminal penalties, to monitor things like the tailoring of the dog’s collar, the time the dog spends in the bed of a truck, and the ratio of tether-to-dog length, as measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. Texas is no place for this kind of micro-managing and over­criminalization.”

    SB 474 is redundant as tethered dogs are already regulated locally by all major Texas cities and statewide by Texas Penal Code 42.092 Cruelty to Nonlivestock Animals which defines “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter:” as including food, water, care or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.

    There has been a “Tethering Law” on the books for many years; deemed “unenforceable” by all municipalities immediately upon passage. Guess who wrote it? Texas Humane Legislation Network. Their bills are always multiple pages of gibberish “micro-managing and over-criminalization of animal use” as Abbott pointed out. SB 474’s Criminal Justice Impact Statement says “This bill creates a criminal offense, and increases the punishment for an existing criminal offense.” All of these extremist bills originate in California and migrate to other states.

    Under the guise of animal welfare, SB 474 regulates “Outdoor and Unattended” Dogs and will have many unintentional consequences for rural and low-income dog owners. Advanced dog obedience training and participating in competitions could require leaving a dog tethered unattended for an indeterminate time, and is required by many disciplines — service dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, military dogs, medical assistance dogs, and rescue dogs.

    Former HSUS president Wayne Pacelle has clearly articulated: “One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals — creations of human selective breeding.” See https://tinyurl.com/544bredt for more quotes.

    Every legislative session we meet and oppose these extremist groups in Austin: Humane Society of United States, their Texas partner “Texas Humane Legislation Network,” PETA, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), ASPCA, and numerous small spin-off vegan groups. ALDF has attempted to establish “personhood” for animals in our courts for 30 years — giving animals legal rights equal to humans — and equates pet ownership by humans to “slavery.” Rhode Island passed a state law declaring pet “owners” to only be “pet guardians,” taking away the ability to love and protect our pets from all harm. Pets are legally our property, but it’s a constant battle.

    Ingrid Newkirk: (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) says: “For one thing we would no longer allow breeding. People could not create different breeds. If people had companion animals in their homes, these animals would have to be refugees from the animal shelter and the streets ... But as the surplus of cats and dogs declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out and we would return to a more symbiotic relationship — enjoyment at a distance.”

    “Transforming America” is not only about cow farts. It’s our pets. THLN says they will be back next session for their fifth attempt to get this onerous bill passed and will never give up. Nor will Responsible Pet Owners Alliance. Please join us.

    Mary Beth Duerler is the executive director of the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, an animal welfare organization formed to promote and preserve the human/animal bond and our historic working relationship with animals.