OUR LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

 

For forty-five years the Texas Humane Legislation Network has promoted mainstream, common-sense legislation to prevent animal cruelty. We do this by researching those issues in-depth, working with stakeholders and elected officials to craft practical legislation, and educating Texans about animal law. At the conclusion of the 87th Regular Texas Legislative Session, we now turn to pending federal legislation, and consider new legislative priorities for the 2023 Texas Legislative session.

Pet Store Puppies Need YOU To Halt the Puppy Mill Pipeline into New Braunfels!

Calling all New Braunfels Supporters! Puppies need YOU to halt the puppy mill pipeline in New Braunfels by asking your City Council member to vote YES on the Humane Pet Store Ordinance.

A Humane Pet Store Ordinance will interrupt the puppy mill pipeline by requiring all dogs and cats sold in New Braunfels pet stores to be sourced from shelters and rescues. The Ordinance does not prohibit consumers from buying pets directly from breeders.

Currently, retail pet stores sell puppies sourced from out-of-state puppy mills where they are exposed to disease and mistreatment. After being packed into tight quarters and shipped hundreds upon hundreds of miles, the puppies often arrive dehydrated and sick from super viruses - like Campylobacter and Giardia. The Humane Pet Store Ordinance would protect New Braunfels families unknowingly purchasing these sick, defective puppies.

Why Does New Braunfels Need a Humane Pet Store Ordinance?

  • Good for the community: New Braunfels does not support cruelty. Allowing sales of commercially bred puppies shipped in from far-off puppy mills do not reflect New Braunfels values.  
  • Good for the animals: New Braunfels pet stores will humanely source puppies from shelters and rescues, giving homes to healthy, vaccinated pets.
  • Good for public health: the Humane Pet Store Ordinance will ensure puppy mill puppies infected with diseases like Campylobacter aren’t sold in pet stores.
  • Good for the consumer: New Braunfels will be free from unfair lending practices, unscrupulous balloon payments, and the heartache and high vet bills that come with purchasing sick puppies.


Call your City Council member today and ask them to vote YES on the Humane Pet Store Ordinance | Find Your New Braunfels City Council Member HERE


Thank YOU for supporting a 
Humane Pet Store Ordinance in New Braunfels!

 

Federal Legislative Priorities

 

The Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263)

THE ISSUE: Texas is a hot spot for the private possession, breeding, and trafficking of dangerous, big cats like tigers.

Unlike most other states, Texas does not have a statewide ban on the private ownership of big cats. It is perfectly legal to own big cats in communities across the state, and difficult to track their location. The public safety and animal cruelty issues flowing from the private possession of big cats are myriad.

For example, for three months – from February to May 2021 - law enforcement in San Antonio and Houston had to apprehend and relocate two tigers, a 13-week-old tiger cub, and a bobcat. Trafficking of big cats and big cat cubs across the Texas-Mexico border is so common that authorities routinely discover smuggled and abandoned animals. In April 2022, yet another tiger cub was confiscated by authorities in Laredo. Texas, and the rest of the country, need the force of federal law to disrupt this illegal trade.

Some private owners maintain adult big cats so they can continually produce cubs for “cub petting” photo opportunities with the public. What the public does not see is that once the cubs outgrow their usefulness to operators at 12 weeks of age, the baby animals may be sold to wildlife traffickers, destroyed, or dismembered for parts. Even when privately owned big cats are fortunate enough to be released to legitimate sanctuaries, they often suffer life-long bad health resulting from earlier neglect and malnutrition.

It’s important to understand the outsized role Texas plays in perpetuating problems stemming from private ownership.  Of the approximately 10,000-20,000 big cats currently in private ownership in the U.S., an estimated 3,000-5,000 are in Texas. Those numbers are best estimates because no one knows for certain how many big cats are in Texas.

SOLUTION: H.R. 263 – The Big Cat Public Safety Act – prohibits the private possession of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species. The bill also prohibits public contact with those animals. Prohibiting public contact would improve public safety in real-time by preventing injuries and deaths from encounters with big cats. Prohibiting contact would also end cruel cub petting operations which rely on the constant breeding – and inbreeding – of captive big cats. In addition, the bill would require current owners to register their animals so that first responders know exactly where they are located. This is particularly important during natural disasters. Lastly, H.R. 263 represents a meaningful increase in penalties for violators. The current patchwork of state laws, county orders, and municipal ordinances does not carry penalties strong enough to deter traffickers. In short, current regulation is failing to protect public safety, first responders, and big cats. The problem requires a federal solution and the time to do it is NOW.

The Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act – ACE Act (H.R. 1016)

THE ISSUE: U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Justice Department, and National Sheriffs’ Association have long recognized the greatest predictor a person will commit interpersonal violence is a history of cruelty to animals. For this reason, in 2016 the FBI created a category for crimes against animals and began tracking those incidents similar to how they track other crimes.

Yet there is no coordinated federal effort to ensure enforcement of animal protection laws and track the best methods for interrupting the long-understood pattern of escalated violence.

SOLUTION: The Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act would add a section to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) dedicated to prosecuting offenders who commit crimes against animals. Doing so would make animal cruelty prosecutions a higher priority and bring greater efficiency and consistency to enforcement efforts.

We can all agree it’s good news over the last several years significant federal anti-cruelty laws have passed, including stiffer penalties for animal fighting and torture, and assistance to domestic violence victims with pets.

The not-so-good-news is that knowledge, implementation of, and enforcement of those laws are siloed within various federal departments and agencies. To ensure federal laws protecting animals – including laws protecting companion animals, wildlife, and animals used in entertainment - are adequately enforced, the federal government needs a team at the DOJ specifically trained to prosecute animal cruelty cases.

The Puppy Protection Act (H.R. 2840/S.1385)

THE ISSUE: The dogs used for breeding and the puppies they produce in USDA licensed facilities suffer unimaginable treatment under current law, including extreme confinement, lack of socialization, and inadequate veterinarian care.

It’s common practice for “breeding stock” used in these facilities to live their entire lives in stacked cages with wire flooring, no ventilation, and no protection from extreme temperatures. Because dogs are frequently crammed together in small, filthy enclosures, such facilities are rife with diseases, like parvovirus and Campylobacter. Heartache and high veterinarian bills ensue when families unknowingly purchase diseased puppies sourced from these facilities.

THE SOLUTION: The Puppy Protection Act would significantly improve standards of care for USDA-licensed dog breeders by increasing enclosure sizes, eliminating stacked cages, and requiring solid flooring. The Act also requires protection against extreme temperatures and prompt, professional veterinary care for sick and injured dogs. The quality of life for dogs in those facilities would improve significantly because the Act specifies twice a day feeding, exercise, and socialization.

H.R. 2840 also imposes breeding limits for female dogs and requires breeders to humanely rehome retired dogs (instead of auctioning or destroying them). This federal bill, which has widespread bipartisan support, is critical to protecting both dogs in USDA licensed facilities as well as consumers. As significant as these reforms may be, they are but part of a multi-pronged approach needed to fight puppy mill cruelty. Continue reading below to learn how Texas state law governing the treatment and sales of commercially bred dogs needs reform.

The Greyhound Protection Act (H.R.3335)

THE ISSUE: Greyhound racing is inhumane. Racing dogs endure lives of extreme confinement, risk injury or death with every race, and are frequently drugged with illegal substances. Because dogs are valued companion animals, and Americans care about their welfare, the American people have all but abandoned attending live dog races. The “sport” is already illegal in most states, and the few remaining racetracks in existence are only able to stay open by “simulcasting” races held in other countries.

Texas, it should be noted, is one of the few states where dog racing remains legal, and two racetracks remain operational. Under current regulation, those could feature live dog races. But they don’t. Instead, they profit by letting gamblers bet on dog races held overseas. In essence, dog racing outside our borders is propping cruelty long ago deemed cruel and illegal in the U.S. 

THE SOLUTION: H.R. 3335 - the U.S. Greyhound Protection Act – makes it a federal crime to engage in commercial dog racing activities. In particular, the bill would amend U.S. law governing wire transfers of money connected with dog racing ending U.S. track operators’ ability to profit from overseas cruelty. The bill also prohibits the transport and use of live animals – like rabbits – to “lure” racing dogs. Though the industry claims to take a dim view of using live “bait” animals to lure dogs around the track, video evidence shows trainers still using this barbaric training method with greyhound dogs. Thus, the Greyhound Protection Act would prevent protect not just greyhound dogs - but other animals like rabbits - used in organized dog racing.

The Safeguard American Food Exports - SAFE Act of 2021 (H.R. 3355

THE ISSUE: Each year more than 100,000 American horses are shipped in cruel conditions to Canada and Mexico where they are brutally slaughtered for human consumption.

While it is illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption in the U.S., it is legal to ship them to other countries for that purpose. Aside from the barbaric cruelty inflicted on horses during slaughter, two other significant issues exist under current regulation. First, before being sold to buyers who transport horses to slaughter, commonly known as “kill buyers,” horses are routinely given drugs dangerous to humans throughout their lifetime. Eating horse meat contaminated by those substances poses a serious public health risk. Second, cross-country shipment of horses causes extreme suffering when the horses are loaded in cattle trucks and forced to travel for days without food, water, or rest. They suffer dehydration, injuries, and even death before crossing the border.

THE SOLUTION: The Safeguard American Food Exports Act – known as the SAFE Act H.R. 3355 - would prohibit the shipment and export of horses (or other equines) for slaughter. The SAFE Act would protect tens of thousands of horses, including working horses, companion horses, and most especially, “spent” racehorses, from the barbarism of transport and dismemberment abroad.

The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2021 (H.R.921)

The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2021 was introduced to the 117th US Congress in February 2021, and passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on June 10, 2021. The purpose of the HTSA is to protect both horses and motorists by prohibiting the interstate transport of horses in double-decker trailers. In 2007, when a double-decker trailer carrying 59 Belgian draft horses overturned in Wadsworth, Illinois, 19 of the horses died. The HTSA would also bring consistency to federal law governing horse transport. In 2011, the use of double-decker trailers to transport equines to slaughter was banned, citing concerns that such vehicles could prove "extremely top-heavy and prone to tipping." Thus, the HTSA would close the loophole that currently allows horses not bound for slaughter to be unsafely packed into double-decker trailers.

 

Texas Legislative Priorities

 

Improving the Texas Licensed Breeders Program

THE ISSUE: The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) created the Licensed Breeders Program (LBP) in 2011 to ensure large-scale commercial dog and cat breeding facilities meet basic standards of care. While the LBP has been successful at preventing animal cruelty through inspections and enforcement, it needs improvement to better oversee the industry it was designed to regulate.

SOLUTION: The Texas Legislature needs to strengthen the LBP and revise the criteria which trigger the licensing requirement. Currently, only breeders with 11 or more breeding females who sell twenty puppies or kittens in a calendar year must be licensed. The two-factor criteria used by LBP has an extremely high threshold and prevents TDLR from regulating the majority of large-scale commercial breeders in Texas.  Further, proving the sale of at least 20 animals in a calendar year is nearly impossible. Pet sales are often cash transactions, and TDLR inspectors reported consistently encountering breeders who side-step record-keeping requirements. THLN's position is that lowering the number of breeding females from 11 to 5 and removing the sales requirement will:

  1. allow LBP to do a better job overseeing the industry it was intended to regulate,
  2. bring LBP into line with thresholds used by the majority of other states and the USDA. 

These reforms will in turn allow TDLR to do a better job protecting the animals in breeding facilities.

Stopping the Puppy Mill to Pet Store Pipeline

THE ISSUE: Current Texas state law does not adequately protect consumers, puppies or kittens from pet stores selling commercially bred animals with undisclosed health defects. Purchasing a sick or defective pet burdens the buyer with veterinary costs and in some cases, the animals are so compromised they die or have to be euthanized. In recent years, the THLN hotline has received 500+ complaints from consumers who have purchased sick/defective puppies. The Texas Veterinary Medical Association and Attorney General have also received hundreds upon hundreds of complaints from Texans who purchased compromised animals from pet stores.

In addition to selling sick and defective animals, the industry engages in predatory lending practices that have been compared to payday loans: exorbitantly high interest rates, balloon payments, and "repo-ing" the pet if a buyer misses a payment. Because Texas currently does not have a “puppy lemon law” buyers do not have options for a refund, exchange, or reimbursement of vet bills should they purchase a sick/defective animal. Their only recourse is to sue. Most often this path is not taken because it is not economical to pay attorney’s fees in anticipation of receiving little to no damages through litigation.

Pet stores that sell commercially bred puppies rely almost entirely on puppies sourced from large-scale breeding facilities in the midwest. Those puppies are highly vulnerable to disease, and cross-contamination is exacerbated when puppies are drawn from several facilities and packed tightly into “puppy distributor” vans and shipped hundreds of miles to Texas. Puppies who may have been healthy before shipment often arrive sick, weak, and dehydrated. Texans buying puppies from these sources unwittingly expose themselves to illnesses such as giardia and antibiotic-resistant campylobacter, a bacterial infection that can be deadly. An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently linked more than 100 human cases of campylobacter infections to puppies in retail pet stores. Against this backdrop, Texas ranks No. 2 in the country for euthanizing pets. Nearly 97,000 pets were euthanized in Texas in 2019. While tax-payer-supported animal shelters and nonprofit organizations struggle heroically to shelter, vaccinate, sterilize, and rehome as many pets as possible, out-of-state puppy millers profit through retail sales of their defective “product”.

SOLUTION: The Texas Legislature needs to require retail pet stores to source the cats and dogs they sell from animal control agencies, shelters, and rescue groups. Several Texas cities have already switched to this humane model, including Austin, El Paso, The Colony, Euless, San Antonio, and Waco. Their experience sourcing pets from shelters and rescues avoids the consumer protection and health issues detailed above and increases opportunities for homeless pets to be matched with new families. It is the obvious current policy governing the sales of commercially bred pets in Texas is insufficient to protect consumers from the bad business practices relied upon by retail pet stores. It is equally obvious there is significant interest in the issue as demonstrated by legislation filed in the 87th Texas Legislative Session (see HB 1818). 

SOLUTION: The Texas Legislature needs to require sellers to provide a bill of sale for each animal sold by a breeder. 

Requiring TDLR Licensed Breeders to provide a bill of sale is another way to better protect pets and the people buying them. LBP license holders are not currently required to provide a bill of sale to buyers. As mentioned above, TDLR reported that numerous commercial breeders simply sidestep record keeping. Failure to keep records of sales not only allows bad actors to evade inspections and ignore standards of care – but it also means they can avoid paying sales tax on the dogs and cats they sell. Bear in mind that commercial breeders sell the animals they breed for many hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. When breeders sell animals at those prices and don’t report their sales, a significant amount of tax revenue goes uncollected because there is no paper trail. A bill of sale from the breeder for each sale or exchange of a dog or cat will bolster TDLR’s ability to regulate breeders who currently qualify for licensing but evade regulation, and improve the state comptroller’s ability to collect sales tax on sales of commercially bred pets.  Lastly, the bill of sale will help hold breeders accountable to the public. When pet sales are not recorded, buyers who purchase sick or defective animals have no way to prove where they obtained the animal. A bill of sale that lists the name of the breeder and buyer, a description of the animal sold, and the amount paid will help protect buyers from unscrupulous breeders selling compromised animals.

Though each reform described above would be a significant win, combined these measures would mean a sea change for animal welfare in Texas.