HB 1800: Bad Bill for Texas Dogs & Their Owners

OPPOSE HB 1800: Woof! Your Dog is “Aggressive”
(Addition of Aggressive & Nuisance Dog Designations to Dangerous Dog Laws)

As a practicing attorney focusing on animal law for over ten years, I see numerous problems with this bill. It is riddled with far reaching implications for all Texas dog owners that could make every dog in Texas “aggressive” or a “nuisance” with severe legal sanctions. Texas already has some of the toughest dangerous dog laws in the country. A dog does not even have to bite, scratch or touch a person to be declared dangerous under current Texas law.

Problems with HB 1800: 12 Reasons this Bill is Bad for Texas Dogs and their Owners.

1. Woof! Dog Barks at Fence and Your Dog is Aggressive. If your dog is barking at the fence he could be deemed “aggressive” and be subjected to the same requirements as a dog that was at large and bit someone. Sec. 822.041(1)(B) (“on property where the dog is being kept”)

2. Dog Can be Deemed Aggressive in Your Own Home or Yard. This bill provides that your dog can be deemed “aggressive” while it is contained in your own home or yard. Sec. 822.041(1)(B) (“on property where the dog is being kept”)

3. Animal Control or Police: Your Dog is Aggressive Because I Say So. If the officer “believes” the dog has a dangerous disposition he can be declared aggressive regardless that your dog has never touched a person or an animal and despite that your dog is contained in your home or in your yard.. This provision does not define “aggressive disposition” so it can mean anything a police officer or animal control officer wants it to mean. Sec. 822.041(1)(D)(“law enforcement officer or animal control authority reasonably believes has a dangerous disposition and is likely to be harmful to a person or domestic animal”)

4. Neighbor Can Trigger Your Dog being Deemed Aggressive. Your dog can be deemed “aggressive” based on a neighbor’s complaint. If your neighbor does not like you, this proposed law will empower the neighbor to make your life a nightmare by filing complaints against your dog. Sec. 822.041(1)(B)(“acts that cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack”)

5. Neighbor’s Complaint can be Based on What he Thinks Your Dog Might Do. All your neighbor has to do is complain that he thinks your dog might cause serious injury to him or a “domestic animal.” Sec. 822.041(1)(B)(“acts that cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack”)

6. Dogs that Bark at a Stray Cat can be Declared “Aggressive.” So, if you dog barks at a stray cat it can be deemed “aggressive.” This is true even if the cat is roaming at large and antagonizing your dog. Sec. 822.041(1)(B)(“acts that cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause serious bodily injury to that person or a domestic animal”)

7. Guilt by Association: But I Didn’t Even Go Woof! If you have three dogs contained in your yard and one goes woof, then all three can be declared aggressive. Sec. 822.041(1)(E)(“part of a group of two or more dogs and was present”)

8. Dogs Deemed Aggressive in Owners Home/Yard may be Subjected to Same Sanctions as Dangerous Dogs. Dogs deemed “aggressive” despite being in the owner’s home or backyard can be sanctioned as severely as dogs that have gotten out and bitten someone. Sec. 822.0416.

9. Dog Declared Public Nuisance for Getting Out One Time. This bill adds a category for a “public nuisance dog” that would apply to a dog that has gotten out one single time and subject the owner to going to a hearing and other legal implications. Section 822.041(6)(C)(“ has run at large”)

10. Nuisance Law in Conflict with Current Texas Law. This proposed law is contrary to existing Texas law because there is no state leash law. Dogs are legally allowed to be at large in many Texas counties that have not enacted leash laws.

11. Dog deemed Nuisance for Going After a Stray Cat in his Own Yard. Dogs can be declared to be a nuisance attacking a domestic animal even if a cat comes into the dog’s own yard. Many counties and cities have at large laws that apply to cats, so even if the cat is in violation of the local law, your dog can be declared a nuisance if he goes after a stray cat that wanders into your yard. Section 822.041(6)(B).

12. Fat Dogs on a Sidewalk Can be Deemed a Nuisance. A dog can be declared a nuisance if it “interferes with a person’s freedom of movement in a public right-of-way.” So, if your dog is fat or even just big and you are walking him on a leash on a sidewalk, he can be deemed a nuisance if the neighbor contends the dog interfered with his movement. Section 822.041(6)(A)

This bill is being considered by the Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Please let these Representatives know to VOTE NO on HB 1800! Woof!

Here are emails for the Representatives and their staffers:

Carol.alvarado@house.state.tx.us
District145.alvarado@house.state.tx.us
JD.pedraza_hc@house.state.tx.us
Oscar.aguilar_hc@house.state.tx.us
Todd.hunter@house.state.tx.us
Jeff.Kane@house.state.tx.us
Rodney.anderson@house.state.tx.us
Jeff.Miller@house.state.tx.us
Diego.Bernal@house.state.tx.us
Ryan.McHutchion@house.state.tx.us
Gary.elkins@house.state.tx.us
Debra.clonts@house.state.tx.us
Matt.schaefer@house.state.tx.us
Alisha.jackson@house.state.tx.us
Molly.White@house.state.tx.us
Tyler.doucet@house.state.tx.us

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