The following are some highlights of the Texas Humane Legislation Network’s (THLN’s) successful efforts to protect Texas animals through advocacy, education, and legislation. THLN has been fighting for animal protection since its inception in 1975. Click here to view the 2011 Legislative Session Report.
ANIMAL CRUELTY STATUTE AMENDMENTS
Some of the amendments to the State Animal Cruelty Statute that THLN has been involved with include:
ANIMAL FRIENDLY LICENSE PLATES
Thanks largely to THLN, this law (HB 3250, passed 1997) created a new "animal friendly" fund through the sale of special motor vehicle license plates. Proceeds from the fund provide free and low-cost dog & cat spay/neutering to programs across the state. The $3M allocated to the fund to date has resulted in the sterilization of 58,807 dogs and cats, which has prevented the future potential unwanted births of approximately 4 million cats and 1.5 million dogs (Texas Department of State Health Services, 2011).
THLN continually monitors the fund each legislative session to ensure that the monies continue to be used for their intended purpose and are not held back by the Legislature for any reason.
ANIMAL SHELTER REGULATIONS
Some of the humane animal shelter regulations which THLN helped establish include:
For years before this law came about, THLN fought to bring an end to "gas chamber" euthanization in the state. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS, the state agency which oversees animal shelter euthanasia) maintains that gas chambers must continue to be an option because of the large number of Texas animal control agencies which employ only one individual. DSHS feels two individuals are required to correctly and humanely administer the injectable euthanasia solution.
Based on these arguments, the Texas Legislature continues to allow gas chambers to be used in shelter euthanasias.
Click here to see a list of things YOU can do to help bring an end to Texas animal shelter gas chambers.
THLN has long sought to address the issue of gas chambers with the DSHS and will continue to work tirelessly toward gas chamber elimination.
THLN worked closely with the Texas Animal Control Association and the Humane Society of the United States in passing HB 1043 to strengthen the cockfighting laws in Texas. In addition to cockfighting itself, HB 1043 outlaws promoting a cockfight; allowing one's property to be used for a cockfight; training fighting birds; and attending a cockfighting event.
DANGEROUS PET & BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION
THLN successfully opposed the proposed regulation of "dangerous" pets (SB 349, 2007). The subject bill was far too broad and gave no criteria for what is or is not a dangerous pet. The "dangerous" designation would have been left to the discretion of the county commissioners' court and could have lead to abuses of power and to breed specific legislation.DANGEROUS WILD ANIMALS
In 2001, THLN was instrumental in passing HB 1362 which requires owners of dangerous wild exotic animals (such as lions, tigers, leopards, bears, great apes, etc.) to register those animals with their local animal control authority and provide those animals with housing and care in accordance with minimum standards set forth in the bill and the rules and regulations adopted thereunder. It also allows counties and municipalities to further regulate or totally ban the ownership of these animals. Prior to the passage of this legislation, several children were mauled and either killed or seriously injured by these animals primarily as a result of their irresponsible owners.
THLN was instrumental in getting dog fighting outlawed in the state as well as later strengthening the statute to increase penalties for various offenses.
Since 1949, Texas law has prohibited the sale, possession and transportation of horse meat for human consumption, yet for decades this law was ignored as two foreign-owned plants slaughtered thousands of Texas horses annually for horse meat consumption overseas. The plants operated in Fort Worth (Beltex) and Kaufman (Dallas Crown).
A THLN attorney investigating ways to get horse slaughter banned in the state discovered that it was already illegal via the previously mentioned law. At THLN's request, Representative Tony Goolsby (R-Dallas) asked Texas Attorney General John Cornyn to issue an opinion as to the enforceability of the 1949 statute. Cornyn's opinion (August 2002) confirmed that the 1949 law which bans live horse slaughter for human consumption is applicable and enforceable.
Following Cornyn's opinion, Beltex and Dallas Crown sued in federal court to block prosecutors from closing down their plants. A 2007 federal appellate court eventually upheld the original 1949 statute, and the plants were forced to close.
HB 2476 to legalize horse slaughter was introduced the same year (2007), but died in committee. An amendment that would have effectively done the same was tacked on to a Senate bill without clarification, but was removed by House members.
THLN continues to monitor legislation throughout each session to guard against any new attempts to legalize horse slaughter for human consumption.
Horse tripping is the horrific practice of roping the front or hind legs of a full-on galloping horse and causing it to trip and come crashing to the ground, all for the purposes of entertainment or sport (www.ahdf.org). THLN successfully advocated for the addition of an amendment to the state Animal Cruelty Statute which effectively bans horse tripping (SB 15, passed 1995).
PET EVACUATION BILL
The Pet Evacuation Bill (HB 88, passed in 2007) requires that all companion and service animals be included in evacuation plans in the event of a natural disaster. Previously, evacuees had to either abandon their pets or leave them at local emergency shelters during natural disasters.
PUPPY MILL REGULATION
In 2011, THLN was instrumental in passing HB 1451 which licenses and regulates large scale commercial dog and cat breeders (those having 11 or more intact females and selling 20 or more puppies or kittens per year). HB 1451 provides basic protections for tens of thousands of dogs and cats confined and raised in large scale breeding facilities by requiring humane housing and care standards and needed veterinary care. The law will be administered and enforced by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and will require periodic inspections and annual veterinary care. Those breeders required to register must do so by September 1, 2012 and meet all required standards prior to registration.
ROADSIDE SALES OF LIVE ANIMALS
THLN's work on this bill (SB 254, passed in 2007) helped tighten up regulations governing roadside sales of live animals. Prior to 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 highway or road, or in a parking lot in the unincorporated area of the county. Through THLN's efforts, the size 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.