2023 Legislative Session

What a session! 8,046 bills were introduced, and 1,246 bills passed. On Friday, September 1, 2023, 774 bills passed by the Texas Legislature during the regular session earlier this year go into effect.  The 88th Texas Legislature had considered dozens of bills affecting the treatment of animals in Texas, including several bills brought and supported by THLN. Let’s look at some of the bills that made it to the Governor’s desk for signature – and what impact those bills will have on Texas animals.


A Special Thank You to the Champions Who Fought for Humane Legislation this Session!


Passing animal welfare bills can be challenging, and every legislative session brings its share of the good, the bad, and the ugly. As an organization, we would have folded long ago if we couldn’t be grateful for the good while doubling down to overcome the bad. In that vein, we’d like to shine a spotlight on the Champions – and their hard-won victories for animals – that passed in the 88th Texas Legislature.

First, we salute Senator Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton, and Representative Brad Buckley, R-Salado, authors of SB 876, the Texas Licensed Breeders Law. Also known as the “puppy mill bill,” SB 876 shines a bright light on large-scale operations previously able to avoid inspections and licensing. True champions Senator Flores and Representative Buckley teamed up with legislators on both sides of the aisle to ensure this monumental legislation didn’t stall during the process.

Those legislators included longtime animal protection champions Senator Chuy Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Senator Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio; Senator Royce West, D-Dallas; and Representative Jared Patterson, R-Frisco. We take it as a sign of good things to come that Representative Terri Leo-Wilson, R-Galveston, and Representative Suleman Lalani, D-Sugar Land, both freshmen, didn’t hesitate to sign onto the “puppy mill bill” as soon as they could. Champions act!

A special note of gratitude to long-standing Animal Welfare Champion of the Texas Capitol, Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston. Longtime lege observers know that Senator Whitmire, the “Dean of the Texas Senate,” authored the original Texas Licensed Breeders Law in 2011 and was eager to close loopholes in the law. He also authored Texas' original Animal Cruelty Law (HB 2328 passed 2007) and the Canine Encounter Law, training law enforcement to safely engage with pet dogs (HB 593 passed 2015).

During the 2023 session, Senator Whitmire was the Senate sponsor for HB 598, brought by fellow humane legislators Representative Matt Shaheen, R-Plano. Finally, Texas now has a law that forbids people convicted of animal cruelty from having further access to companion animals.

Senator Whitmire also joined Representative Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio, and Representative Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, to pass HB 4164, protecting Texans with disabilities and their highly trained service animals from “fake service dogs.” He also co-sponsored HB 3660 to protect community cats and the fantastic volunteers that trap, neuter, and return them.

In all, Senator Whitmire has sponsored, authored, and supported over 30 of THLN’s priority bills, earning him a 100% humane scorecard dating back to 2009. Texans and their most cherished companions will benefit from his legacy of animal protection for generations to come.

Likewise, we graciously thank Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, for adding to her lengthy record of passing animal protection laws. Partnering with House Representatives Cody Vasut, R-Angleton, and Briscoe Cain, R-Houston, Senator Zaffirini brought HB 3660 - a bill that animal control organizations, Trap-Neuter-Return providers, shelters, and humane societies alike have widely praised.

It’s a Texas-sized understatement to say legislative staffers don’t always get their due recognition. We know that from the Chief of Staff to the Legislative Intern, the hours staffers put in are grueling, and the job is demanding. To these staffers, we thank you for your professionalism and dedication, and we appreciate you more than you know.

We would also like to recognize the following organizations for the significant contributions they made this session: Animal Investigation and Response (AIR), Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Texas (CLEAT), Houston PetSet, Mid-Cities Community Cats, Sheriffs' Association of Texas, SPCA of Texas, Texas Animal Control Association (TACA), Texas Pets Alive!, Texas Unites and Yaqui Animal Rescue. Teamwork makes the dream work!

But of course, it’s not all puppy kisses and sunshine at the Capitol. We can’t hide our disappointment that a great-for-the-animals bill failed (HB 870) while some not-so-good-for-the-animals bills passed (HB 2127 and HJR 126).

Representative Patterson is a rockstar for Texas animals, no doubt. He and his capable staff poured their all into HB 870, the Humane Pet Store bill. Had it passed, Texas pet stores would be required to source puppies and kittens from places prioritizing their health and safety. Opponents of HB 870 instead see Texas, with its animal-loving people and booming economy, as their last great hope to keep their outdated business model alive.

These opponents openly thumbed their noses at local ordinances requiring humane sourcing of puppies and kittens and tried to protect puppy millers by defining them as “qualified breeders” via HB 3563. Qualified breeders are the same large-scale producers that ship puppies bred in bulk in far-off puppy mills. Granting them special status would have meant protecting operators who’ve defrauded customers by selling sick, defective puppies for decades. Thank you to everyone who testified, wrote letters, made phone calls, and sent emails to defeat this bad bill.

If ever there was a “glass half full, glass half empty” situation, it would be HB 2127. This super-preemption bill, referred to as the “death star” bill, erases Texas cities’ ability to pass future animal-related ordinances. While we are immensely grateful to everyone who helped preserve the 17 humane pet store ordinances from HB 2127, we will never stop fighting for Texan’s rights to protect animals from cruelty.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all the champions who weathered the ups and downs of the 2023 legislative session to make Texas more humane…now let’s prepare for 2025!

2023 Legislative Session Report:
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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The Good: 

Senate Bill 876 - The Texas Licensed Breeders Law 

Background: In the 2023 Legislative Session, THLN helped strengthen the Texas Dog or Cat Breeders Act.  While the 2011 law successfully prevented animal cruelty at licensed facilities, loopholes allowed numerous large-scale breeders to avoid inspections and meet basic standards of care, by 2023, it was clear: the Texas Licensed Breeders Law needed reform to regulate commercial breeders masquerading as hobbyists.

SB 876 requires breeders with five or more breeding females to be licensed. Previously, only breeders with eleven or more breeding females were regulated, which meant a large swath of the industry went sight unseen. According to a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) study, unlicensed breeding facilities are responsible for the majority of cruelty and neglect complaints.  SB 876 also removes the need to prove a breeder sold 20 or more animals in a calendar year. Many breeders conduct cash-only sales, which are untraceable. By removing the “proof of sales” requirement, SB 876 closes a significant loophole that allowed commercial breeders to evade accountability. This legislation will effectuate change for thousands of animals across the state and allow the Texas Licensed Breeders Law to oversee the industry as originally intended.

SB 876 was authored by Representative Brad Buckley and co-authored by Senator Pete Flores and Senator John Whitmire. SB 876 is effective September 1, 2023, and breeders with five or more breeding females must be licensed by January 1, 2024.

UPDATE:  Between now and January 1, 2024, THLN needs YOU to ensure the rules associated with these changes to the Texas Dog or Cat Breeders Act do not allow loopholes for breeders to avoid licensure.  STAY TUNED and continue looking for additional updates throughout the rule-making process!

View SB 876View the SB 876 Fact Sheet


Photo courtesy of Mid-Cities Community Cats, Bedford, TX

House Bill 3660 – T-N-R is not Abandonment  

Background: In late 2022, confusion erupted over whether Trap-Neuter-Return (T-N-R) of unowned community cats should be considered “abandonment” under the Texas animal cruelty law (Texas Penal Code §42.092 - Cruelty to Non-livestock Animals). T-N-R is widely regarded as a humane method of stabilizing the feral cat population by humanely trapping them, transporting them to veterinary clinics for sterilization and vaccination, then tipping their ear as a sign they have been treated. T-N-R programs save thousands of Texas cats from euthanasia annually, and the prospect of prosecuting T-N-R providers for abandonment threatened to end successful programs across the state.

HB 3660 updates Section 42.092(a) of the Texas Penal Code by defining a "Trap-Neuter-Return Program" as a means of nonlethal population control and adding a defense to prosecution for returning T-N-R cats to their outdoor homes. As a result, the law now clearly distinguishes between abandoning an owned companion animal versus releasing a T-N-R cat. Under the penal code, the unreasonable abandonment of an owned companion animal is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, jail time of up to a year, or both.

This much-needed legislation updates the penal code without weakening the penalty for actual abandonment and protects T-N-R providers from undue prosecution. HB 3660 was authored by Representative Cody Vasut and Senator Judith Zaffirini and goes into effect on September 1, 2023.

View HB 3660View the HB 3660 Fact Sheet


House Bill 4164 – The Fraudulent Service Dog Law

Background: In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of non-disabled people misrepresenting their pet dogs as service animals so their pets can accompany them in public spaces. Increased incidents of pet dogs distracting or attacking service animals have diminished the quality of life for disabled people who rely on service animals to navigate daily life. After negative encounters with imposters, some businesses have denied legitimate service animals access to their establishments, and significant numbers of service dog teams have begun avoiding public spaces for fear of being accosted by untrained pets.

HB 4164 amends Section 121.006 of the Human Resources Code by clarifying the language describing a service animal and strengthening the penalties for misrepresenting an animal as a service animal when they are not specially trained to help a person with a disability. As a result of HB 4164, the fine for asserting an untrained pet is a service animal will increase from $300 to $1000, and the offender may be required to perform 30 hours of community service for organizations serving persons with disabilities. HB 4164 was authored by Representative Philip Cortez and sponsored by Senator John Whitmire. HB 4164 takes effect September 1, 2023.

View HB 4164View the HB 4164 Fact Sheet


House Bill 598 – Post-Conviction Possession Ban

Background: As of May 2023, thirty-nine states have laws commonly called “possession bans” to prohibit persons convicted of animal cruelty from owning companion animals for a fixed period of time. The most common length of time a person is prohibited from possessing animals after conviction is five years. Some states go so far as to limit the ability of offenders to work with or ever own a companion animal again. In 2021, the Texas legislature passed an animal possession ban, but it was limited in scope compared to other states. The ban only covered the animals harmed in the offense and any other animals possessed by the offender at the time of the abuse. Additionally, the Texas ban only applied in cases where the offender was under community supervision (i.e., probation or jail). Once their sentence was served, there was no prohibition on offenders acquiring more animals.

HB 598 Amends Chapter 42 of the Texas Penal Code by adding Section 42.107, which makes it a crime for a person previously convicted of animal cruelty to possess a non-livestock animal (i.e., companion animals such as a cat or a dog) for a period of five years after conviction. HB 598 also enhances the penalty for repeat violations under Section 42.107 from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class B. Decades of research show that violence inflicted on animals is the single greatest predictor that the offender will hurt people. HB 598 closes a significant gap in Texas law to prevent future violence by disrupting an offender’s access to animals for a significant, but not open-ended, period of time. The legislation was authored by Representative Matt Shaheen and sponsored by Senator John Whitmire and takes effect September 1, 2023.

View HB 598View the HB 598 Fact Sheet


House Bill 2063 - Informed Consent on Overnight Boarding

In response to the tragic 2021 Ponderosa boarding kennel fire in Georgetown, Texas, HB 2063 required kennel facility operators (those who are providing boarding services for breeding, sheltering, training, hunting, “or similar purposes” for more than three dogs for compensation) to provide written notice to dog and cat owners if their pet will be left unattended and without a fire sprinkler system. 

The legislation was authored by Representative James Talarico and sponsored by Senator Charles Schwertner and takes effect September 1, 2023.

View HB 2063

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The Bad: 

Photo courtesy of Animal Investigation and Response

House Bill 2127 – The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act

HB 2127 preempts Texas’ municipalities from regulating activity under several sections of Texas code unless that authority is expressly granted under another statute. The following is limited to the impact HB 2127 may have on ordinances involving certain animals affected by the law.

HB 2127 amends Chapter 229 of the Texas Local Government Code by prohibiting municipalities from adopting or enforcing regulations concerning “the breeding, care, treatment, or sale of animals or animal products, including a veterinary practice, or the business’s transactions if the person operating that business holds a license for the business that is issued by the federal government or a state.” THLN was instrumental in ensuring protection relating to previous ordinances passed, including humane pet store ordinances.  While HB 2127 bars local government from passing future ordinances of this type, pet store ordinances adopted before April 1, 2023, remain enforceable until a statewide law regulating pet store sales is passed.  

UPDATE:  It is uncertain to what extent HB 2127 will impair local authorities’ ability to protect consumers who purchase animals.  Lawsuits have been filed in Houston and San Antonio to repeal HB 2127 and one court recently granted the Motion for Summary Judgement by the cities.  THLN would not advise municipalities to remove any sections currently in their respective ordinances.  Depending on the outcome of these lawsuits, a future City Council must again pass the ordinance if the lawsuits prevail or the legislature makes changes in 2025.  HB2127 does not require a municipality to repeal any ordinances; they only prohibit the enforcement of certain requirements.  STAY TUNED for more updates on the constitutionality of HB 2127.

 If you have any questions relating to HB 2127, please email [email protected]

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The Ugly: 


Anonymous picture of a cow in a backyard taken after HB 1750 passed in 2023.

House Joint Resolution 126 - Constitutional Right-to-Farm 

House Joint Resolution 126, dubbed the “Right-to-Farm Amendment”, proposes amending the Texas Constitution to enshrine a right to engage in commercial agricultural activities on private property inside city limits. Under HJR 126, this includes raising livestock and poultry, harvesting timber, and managing wildlife. The proposition will be on the November 7, 2023, Texas ballot. Suppose a majority of voters approve the proposition to amend the Texas Constitution. In that case, cities cannot regain control over agricultural operations in their jurisdictions by amending or repealing state law. Instead, they will face the task of repealing a Constitutional Amendment.


Ballot Language: "The constitutional amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management.” 

Brief Explanation: Proposition 1 would establish the right of every Texans to participate in generally accepted farm, ranch, timber production, horticulture, or wildlife management practices on real property they owned or leased.

Recommendation: OPPOSE

Keep reading to understand more about how the “Right-to-Farm” limits cities’ local control over the treatment of animals in agricultural operations, what constitutes an agricultural operation, and legal action that can be taken against operations posing a nuisance. The discussion of HB 1750 and HB 2308 below details what the “Right-to-Farm” now means in state law per the passage of HB 1750 and HB 2308.

View HJR 126


House Bill 1750 – Right-to-Farm in Municipalities  

Even if voters do not agree to amend the Texas Constitution by adding a “Right-to-Farm,” the Legislature effectively codified a “Right-to-Farm in the City” by passing House Bill 1750 in 2023. 

Historically, Texas cities with populations of 5,000 or more could regulate agricultural operations in city limits, such as livestock and poultry operations, so long as those regulations did not contradict state law. If a city annexed territory with preexisting agricultural operations, the city could regulate those operations after demonstrating that the regulation was necessary to protect the public.

HB 1750 amended the Texas Agriculture Code so that the requirement for cities to prove local regulation is necessary to protect the public is no longer limited to the newly annexed territory. Instead, agricultural operations cannot be regulated locally unless (1) the city health department issues a report showing the operation poses a dire hazard to people in the immediate vicinity; and (2) the city council passes a resolution authorizing the regulation. Thus, HB 1750 preempts cities’ ability to proactively prevent harm by requiring cities to show harm after the fact.

Regarding ordinances regulating the care of animals, HB 1750 preempts cities from passing or enforcing regulations that prohibit “generally accepted agricultural practices” for animals in agricultural operations. Yet, HB 1750 does not define that term. Instead, HB 1750 directs the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to detail which practices are generally accepted in a forthcoming manual. Two provisions in HB 1750 are specific to companion animals. First, HB 1750 adds veterinary clinics to the businesses protected by the “Right-to-Farm” list because they service agricultural operations. 

Second, HB 1750 prohibits cities from enforcing local tethering ordinances for dogs guarding livestock.  To be clear, HB 1750 does not invalidate SB 5 - the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act passed in 2021. The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act amended state law (not local ordinances) and is still enforceable. Just like all other dogs tethered outdoors in Texas, livestock guard dogs must be provided adequate shelter and drinkable water and cannot be tethered by chains. HB 1750 is effective September 1, 2023. 

UPDATE 4/1/2024: Texas House Bill 1750, Section 251.007, stipulates the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, an agriculture and natural resources education agency, was tasked to develop a manual identifying generally accepted agricultural practices and indicating which of those practices do not pose a threat to public health, including a threat to public health posed by a danger listed in Section 251.0055(a)(1). Click HERE to view this manual. This manual has been prepared according to the generally accepted agricultural practices that would guide landowners, farmers, ranchers, managers, and workers on agricultural operations. It was written and peer reviewed by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists and faculty with advanced academic expertise. This manual contains generally accepted agricultural practices as of January 1, 2024. It will be reviewed and updated as necessary.

View HB 1750


House Bill 2308 - Right-to-Farm Despite Agricultural Nuisances

HB 2308 works with HB 1750 to shield agricultural operations from city regulation by limiting the circumstances under which they can be sued. In particular, HB 2308 amended the Texas Agriculture Code so that parties bringing nuisance lawsuits against agricultural operations must show clear and convincing evidence of harm. If they lose in court, the party that brought the lawsuit must pay the operation’s attorneys’ fees and court costs. Additionally, a party must file the nuisance lawsuit within one year of the operation’s start date. Thus, agricultural operations in cities operating for more than a year cannot be sued for nuisances such as odor and runoff from animal waste or toxic chemicals. Aside from undermining thousands of local ordinances passed by Texas’ 1,200 cities to protect the health and safety of people and animals in their communities, many city officials believe HB 2308 will lower residents’ property values. This, in turn, could impact city revenues and further hinder cities’ ability to prevent harm. HB 2308 goes into effect on September 1, 2023.

View HB 2308


If you have any questions about these laws, please email [email protected].