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Recent Animal Law Achievements in Texas
The two largest animal rights groups in the nation, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) both found that Texas is one of many states with weak animal protection laws. Each study involved a comparative analysis of the animal protection laws of every state. Although the methodology used by each group was different, their final conclusions about Texas were the same—Texas has weak animal protection laws.
Despite being perceived as weak on animal cruelty and abuse, Texas has had some recent legislative achievements which may help repair the state’s poor image. During the past five years, the state passed several laws dealing with issues such as pet trusts, animal cruelty, puppy mills, dog fighting, disaster evacuation plans for pets, cock fighting, and pet protection orders. The following is a brief summary of these new laws.
In 2006 the legislature passed Texas Property Code Section 112.037 which allows people to establish pet trusts to provide for the care of their pets.
Felony Animal Cruelty
In 2007 the legislature passed Texas Penal Code Section 42.092 which increased the punishment for animal cruelty from a misdemeanor to a state jail felony. The law also expanded the state’s animal cruelty laws to cover stray dogs and feral cats. The following acts are now considered state jail felonies:
- killing, poisoning, or causing serious bodily injury to an animal without the owner’s consent
- torturing an animal
- killing an animal in a cruel manner
- causing serious bodily injury to an animal in a cruel manner
- causing one animal to fight with another animal
- using a live animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack
Felony Dog Fighting
In 2007, Texas passed an amendment to Penal Code Section 42.10 which increased the punishment for dog fighting from a misdemeanor to a state jail felony. The amendment also increased the penalty for attending a dog fighting event from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. The following acts are now considered state jail felonies:
- causing a dog to fight with another dog
- participating in the earnings of a facility used for dog fighting
- operating a facility used for dog fighting
- using or permitting another to use any real estate, building, room, tent, arena, or other property for dog fighting
Disaster Evacuation Plans for Pets
In 2007 the legislature passed Texas Government Code Section 418.043 which requires the Texas Division of Emergency Management to assist neighborhoods “in developing plans for the humane evacuation, transport, and temporary sheltering of service animals and household pets in a disaster”.
In 2011 the legislature passed Texas Occupations Code Chapter 802 which provides that large-scale commercial dog and cat breeders must now obtain a state license to operate and must undergo regular inspections by the Texas Department of Licensing. In addition, large-scale breeders must also meet the following minimum standards:
- provide confined dogs and cats with enough space to easily sit, stand, turn around and lie down in a normal manner
- provide adequate amounts of wholesome food and clean water
- kennels must not be stacked more than three high
- enclosures must have adequate drainage and flooring
- provide proper handling, treatment and veterinary care
- provide basic grooming
- at least one vet exam per year
- an adequate period between breeding cycles (adequacy of period based on breed)
- only a vet can euthanize an adult animal or perform a surgical birth
In 2011 the legislature passed Texas Penal Code Section 42.105 which makes cock fighting and participating in the earnings of a cock fight state jail felonies.
Pet Protective Orders
In 2011 the legislature passed an amendment to Family Code Section 85.021 which allows a judge to include pets and service animals in a protective order. The judge may prohibit a person from removing a pet or service animal from the possession of a person covered by a protective order. The judge can also prohibit a person from harming, threatening or interfering with the care, custody, or control of a pet or service animal.
Animal Care During Cruelty Trials and Appeals
In 2011 the legislature passed an amendment to the Health and Safety Code Section 821.021 which requires the court to order a person convicted of treating their animals cruelly to pay restitution to the government agency or non-profit organization which is taking care of their animal during the trial. The person must reimburse the organization for their costs in housing and caring for the animal. The court must also set a surety bond in an amount equal to the amount of restitution the court ordered for housing and care during the trial plus the estimated amount of the costs of housing and caring during the appeal.
Required Animal Care Courses
In 2011 the legislature passed an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42.12 which permits a judge to require a person who is convicted of animal cruelty or neglect to attend a responsible pet owner course sponsored by a municipal animal shelter.
Adopt a Shelter Pet Month
In 2011 the legislature passed HR 131 which declared October the “Adopt a Shelter Pet Month” to encourage citizens across the state to enrich their lives by adopting an animal from a local shelter.
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
Animal Law State Rankings
- ALDF 2010 State Animal Protection Laws Rankings
Study ranks each jurisdiction on the relative strength and comprehensiveness of their current animal protection laws.
- HSUS 2010 Humane State Ranking Report
Comprehensive report rating all 50 states on a wide range of animal protection laws dealing with pets, animal cruelty and fighting, wildlife, animals in research, horses, and farm animals.
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