While Republicans and Democrats in Texas’ recently-ended legislative session fought like cats and dogs over weighty matters like voting rights, guns and abortion, the only clear winner appears to have been the dogs – and perhaps some cats. In fact, throwing a bone to man’s best friend seems to be about the only thing lawmakers saw fit to agree upon.
Three bills, one banning heavy chains to tether dogs, another requiring animal control to scan lost dogs for microchips and a third providing tax breaks to rescue facilities, passed the House and Senate and are now waiting for Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.
The plum for animal rights groups is the tethering legislation. For almost a decade it has languished on the sidelines as lawmakers hemmed and hawed. Now Senate Bill 474, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a Cameron County Democrat, allows dog owners to keep their pets confined outdoors but only so long as they are not restrained with heavy chains, short lines or any other means that could cause pain or injury.
The law goes a welcome step further in ditching a requirement in state law that requires law enforcement to give dog owners 24 hours to rectify a bad situation before seizing the animal. Sadly that lag time has too often proven deadly to animals that are left to fend off the elements, particularly during last February’s arctic deep freeze.
The bill labels a first offense as a class C misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of up to $500. Pet owners who have been cited previously can face a class B misdemeanor and an onerous fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.
The chip-scanning bill, meant to expedite the return of lost animals to their owners, passed the House 147-2 in mid-April and breezed through the Senate 30-0 last week. The law will ensure that shelters and rescues complete the microchip scan as soon as animals enter confinement
The final animal-related bill, Senate Bill 197, extends the elimination of sales tax on animals sold by non-profit shelters to rescue groups that rely on foster homes to hold dogs or cats until they are adopted.
These three bills combine offer a bit of saving grace to lawmakers who have squandered a good deal of the 87th legislative session on issues that seek only to dispense red meat to their respective bases. That the two parties could come together on issues impacting helpless animals is a welcome sign of humaneness.
Read More: Editorial: Dogs come out on top in session