What’s Dead & What’s Still Alive: 2011 Legislative Update
There were well over thirty bills dealing with animals this legislative session. Most have not survived. This is a nutshell analysis of what is dead and what still has life. Just because a bill is currently dead does not mean that it might not get tacked onto another bill that is on the move. This session is over in a mere three weeks (5/30/11) so put your seatbelts on for the fast, furious maneuvering of the last days of the 2011 Session. Speed chess is tame by comparison!
Notable Bills Currently Dead:
HB 998. Doggy Insurance. Most notably, HB 998 which we vigorously opposed has been killed. This bill would have required $100,000.00 in doggy insurance for all intact male dogs over twenty pounds, mandated they be kept in secure enclosures meant for dogs legally declared dangerous and required that they be leashed and under the immediate control of the handler when out of the secure enclosure.
Happily, the barks and howls of many folks and the Texas Dog Commission made sure that bill is dead. In politics, it ain’t over ‘til the Fat Lady sings so we have to carefully watch to make sure it is not attached to some bill on the move later on.
BSL Bills Proposed. A great success came when no representative or senator would sponsor either bill proposed by lawyer Cynthia Kent who sought to criminalize the owning of American Pit Bull Terriers and other similar breeds. The Texas Dog Commission fought hard to prevent these bills from ever getting off the ground along with many Texans who called and wrote to their legislators to prevent such nonsense. The barks and howls of us all sent a clear message that Texas dog owners of all kinds of dogs vehemently oppose breed specific legislation of any kind. Even the cat folks joined in the howls of opposition.
HB 3450. Companion Animal Protection Act. This bill intended to save more animals by providing restrictions on the killing of healthy animals. The bill sought to regulate animal control facilities and corporate humane organizations that operate kill shelters like the Houston SPCA and the Houston Humane Society. It also sought to provide transparency to large corporate shelters which do not have to provide intake and outcome statistics like government run animal control shelters. This bill was vigorously opposed by these corporate shelters and the Texas Humane Legislative Network (THLN) which represents the interests of such corporations.
Bills Still Alive and on the Move:
HB 413–Release of confidential client information by a Veterinarian. This bill provides for the release of confidential client information for the collection of a debt. It also provides for the release of Rabies information to a public health authority. This bill has worked its way through the House and is now in the Senate Committee for Agricultural and Rural Affairs. It is set for public hearing on 5/9/11.
HB 963–Regarding appeals in cruelty seizures. This bill provides for an increase in the cost bond as a pre-requisite for an appeal of a cruelty seizure by including the cost of investigation and experts. It also includes the amount of impoundment prior to the appeal. The bill mandates that testimony about the cost of care come from animal control or a humane organization that has possession of the animals. The substitute makes it clear that appeals are de novo and a trial is available to any party upon request. The substitute does not require that the animals only be given to animal rescues that are incorporated per IRS laws as a 501(c)(3) charities. This bill is still pending in the House but the substitute has been reported on favorably.
HB 1389–Enhancement of punishment for Felony Dog Bite statute. In 2007, the legislature enacted the felony dog bite statute that provides that a person can be charged with a felony if their dog gets out and causes either serious bodily injury or death to a person. It is a second degree felony for death and a third degree for serious injury. This bill enhances the punishment by making it a first degree felony if the person killed is under 18 or 65 or over. This bill has been voted favorably out of the House (5/4/11) but has not been assigned to a Senate Committee.
HB 1451–Breeder Bill. This bill has been substituted and provides for the licensing and regulation of commercial breeders. A commercial breeder is anyone with over ten intact female dogs or cats that are being bred for sale. There is a presumption that anyone with this number of intact female dogs or cats is breeding them and that presumption must be disproved by the owner. This law provides for the inspection and investigation of such breeders by third party contractors which are hired by the state. This would allow the State to contract with corporate humane organizations to inspect and/or investigate. It was voted favorably out of the House (4/27/11) and is not pending in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice (this bill is not a criminal issue).
HB 1768–Roadside Vendors (sale of animals). This bill is empowering more counties to prohibit the roadside sale of animals (not livestock). Currently, counties with a population of 1.3 M can regulate. This bill lowers that number and allows counties with a population of at least 450,000 to enact the law if the Commissioner’s Court so chooses. This bill passed the House (4/14/11) and is pending in the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
HB 2116–Confinement/Breeder Bill Study. This was another breeder bill that initially sought to mandate that each dog over the age of six months be contained in at least 150 square feet. The substitute did away with the containment provisions and now it merely states that dog crates/cages cannot be stacked unless there is an impervious barrier between them. Further, the substitute has removed the breeder provisions and has instead sought to create a commission to study the confinement and care of dogs and cats which is to be finished by August 31, 2012 and reported to the appropriate legislative committees. It was reported favorably as substituted and has been sent to the Local and Consent Calendar (5/3/11) for a House vote.
HB 2471–Limitation of Liability of Animal Control and other persons for care of non-livestock animals. This bill seeks to limit the liability of animal control and other persons who render medical attention to injured non-livestock animals that are at large except for gross negligence. This statute would apply if the person has rendered medical attention without compensation and they have tried to locate the owner. This bill has passed the House (5/3/11) and is pending in the Senate Committee for Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
HB 2679–Appeals in Dangerous Dog Cases. This bill sought to provide for a trial at the outset instead of a hearing for dangerous dog declarations and for a trial de novo on appeal for all appeals. The bill was watered down as substituted and does not provide for trial de novo for all appeals but still allows for a trial at the outset instead of just a hearing. The bill as substituted was reported favorably in the House Committee (5/5/11) but has not been voted on by the full House.
SB 279–Including Pets in Protective Orders. This bill would all protective orders in family cases to include pets so that they are not removed and/or harmed during the pendency of court matters covered by the Family Code. This bill has passed the Senate (3/24/11) and has been reported favorably without amendments in the House.
HB 3487–Service Dogs/Search & Rescue Dogs. This bill seeks to prevent certain charges for canine handlers of service dogs and SAR dogs in disasters. The bill would prevent lodges and restaurants from assessing extra charges or security deposits for handlers of these dogs during disasters. The bill does make the handlers responsible in any damage is done by the dog. This bill has been voted out of the House and assigned to the Senate Business & Commerce committee.
SB 779–Cruelty Database. This bill seeks to establish a database for people convicted or for those who have received deferred adjudication for animal cruelty. It is similar to the database for convicted sex offenders and would be available to law enforcement and to the public. It allows the government to solicit funding from private sources.