Roadside Sales of Live Animals 

Roadside sales of dogs and cats occur on the side of the road and parking lots. These sales rely on “impulse buying" without regard to the follow-through care animals need. Sellers offer no guidelines about needed care or problems with some breeds. Additionally, because the sellers “are here today, gone tomorrow,” there is no recourse available for dissatisfied customers while being able to skirt specific tax laws.

At least five states (California, Nevada, Virginia, Illinois, and Nebraska) have state laws that regulate roadside sale of animals in some way. Some laws enact comprehensive restrictions, while others are limited to specific animals or impose only procedural requirements.

Dubbed as the Puppy Mill on Wheels, this criminal has been selling puppies all over Houston and Harris County, but he is hard to catch and makes a quick getaway once authorities are notified.

Due to the lack of government oversight, many animals sold on the side of the road or in parking lots experience poor living conditions and receive inadequate care. Unlicensed and irresponsible breeders typically conduct roadside sales. Dogs and cats are often kept outside without water in hot temperatures, confined in small cages, and stored like warehouse items. Unregulated breeding and unsanitary practices in transporting, displaying, and selling these animals result in high, unmet needs for veterinary care. As a result, these animals can be rife with disease while spreading zoonotic diseases. 

THLN opposes the roadside sale of animals because of their reported inhumane treatment of animals. Common complaints include animals being kept in cramped spaces, lacking water and food even in hot climates, and animals too young to be weaned and sold apart from their mothers. Many dogs and cats are not vaccinated and suffer from fleas, mange, worms, and other diseases. Many animals are soon turned over to shelters because owners have a change of heart or cannot care for a sick animal, which increases costs to the local government.

The increasing popularity of roadside sales of dogs and cats also creates various safety issues. Pedestrian traffic on the roadside, as well as the frequent stops of vehicular traffic, can be very dangerous. These vendors can create traffic and other safety issues while encroaching on rights-of-way.

Some states prohibit the sale of animals on streets, highways, and boardwalks. See, e.g., CAL. PENAL CODE § 597.4 (West). In other words, they prohibit the sale of animals in public spaces. 

Laws About Roadside Sales of Live Animals in Texas

Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio ban roadside sales of dogs and cats.

However, sellers go to the counties next to these cities; therefore, a statewide ban is necessary. Many of these are not from Texas but from surrounding states due to the lax requirements on dogs and cats being transferred into the state to sell the animals.

Puppies being sold in a parking lot in Montgomery County, Texas, where is it legal to sell puppies.

In 2007, THLN worked on SB 254, which helped tighten up regulations governing roadside sales of live animals.

Before 2007, commissioners' courts in counties with a population of 2.2 million or more were authorized to regulate the sale of animals on a public highway or road, in the right-of-way of a public street or roadway, or a parking lot in the unincorporated area of the county. Through THLN's efforts, the size of the county to which this law applies was reduced from 2.2 to 1.3 million or more, which gives smaller counties like Bexar and Tarrant the authority to regulate these activities.

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Brenda Roberts, left, and Russell Clements of Porter, Texas, set up shop on FM 1960 (Montgomery County, Texas, where roadside sales are not banned).

Unfortunately, in 2011 a significant roadside sales ban was vetoed.

HB 1768 allowed counties with a population greater than 450,000 to adopt ordinances to regulate the sale of animals (other than livestock). However, if the county’s population exceeds 3.3 million, then the county may regulate the roadside sale of all animals. The authors of the bill were Rep. Sergio Munoz and Senator Chuy Hinojosa. The bill, unfortunately, was vetoed by Governor Perry.

Dubbed as the Puppy Mill on Wheels, this criminal has been selling puppies all over Houston and Harris County, but he is hard to catch and makes a quick getaway once authorities are notified.

Since 2011’s veto, three other attempts at roadside sales bills were filed but did not pass: HB 2094 by Rep. Munoz, Jr. in 2015, HB 2309 by Rep. Metcalf in 2017, and HB 1107 by Rep. Reynolds in 2019.

Currently, a statewide roadside sales ban is necessary because of the passage of HB 2127 in 2023. 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.” While HB 2127 bars local government from passing future ordinances of this type, roadside sales ordinances adopted before April 1, 2023, remain enforceable until a statewide law regulating the ban of roadside sales is passed.  


What can you do to stop the sale of animals in parking lots and along the road? 

  • Safely take pictures that are date stamped to include license plates, animals, and the price of animals being sold. Do not attempt to address the person[s] on your own.
  • Notify the police, code compliance, or animal services if they are within the vicinity (especially if they are in a dangerous location to attract attention).
  • Notify the businesses where the animals are being sold.
    • Notify the store managers;
    • Ask if their security can ask the vendor to be removed.