Safe Outdoor Dogs Act returns for third special session after Abbott veto

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — During the regular session earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed Senate Bill 474 known as the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act.

The current law “requires peace officers give 24 hours notice to comply with the current statute, essentially giving little to no ability to penalize those who fail to provide dogs with adequate shelter,” according to SB 474 and adds that, “the current statute only extends to extreme living conditions such as freezing temperatures and heat advisory warnings without requiring adequate shelter from rain or the ability to escape the rain’s ensuing standing water.”

The legislation called for a “more humane standard of care for dogs as well as an enforcement mechanism for peace officers” such as ensuring a dog left outside, unattended and restrained have adequate shelter, shade and water.

Abbott called the bill “micro-managing and over-criminalization,” saying Texas already had animal cruelty laws on the books. He listed several concerns from “the tailoring of the dog’s collar, the time the dog spends in the bed of a truck, and the ratio of tether-to-dog length, as measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.”

Texans love their dogs, so it is no surprise that our statutes already protect them by outlawing true animal cruelty. Yet Senate Bill 474 would compel every dog owner, on pain of criminal penalties, to monitor things like the tailoring of the dog’s collar, the time the dog spends in the bed of a truck, and the ratio of tether-to-dog length, as measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.  Texas is no place for this kind of micro-managing and over-criminalization.  

SB 474 Veto Proclamation
Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas

However, many animal lovers across the state took to social media to express their disappointment using the hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs.

Baby before she was surrendered to the Austin Animal Center. (Photo courtesy of Carri Crowe)

“The governor heard back from thousands of people across the state, from people in his own party, from law-enforcement officers, from legislators, some longtime supporters who were shocked and dismayed,” said Stacy Sutton Kerby, the director of government relations for the Texas Humane Legislation Network.

Abbott listened and listed the item on his third special session proclamation. The Texas Humane Legislation Network, a Texas-based organization focused on addressing unjust state animal welfare law, was not expecting the opportunity but is grateful for it.

“We are definitely open to modifying the version of the bill so we can both address concerns and keep those dogs restrained outdoors safe,” the organization’s director said.

Dogs like Baby.

“She had been the subject of an animal protection case for basically the whole first three years of her life,” Carri Crowe said.

Her owners had been cited numerous times and fined and they finally decided to surrender her to Austin Animal Center.

That’s when Crowe brought Baby home and gave her love and training, she never had.

“She was a therapy dog for years, and she was doing so much outreach to schools and all sorts of different people,” she said.

In February, Baby passed away due to medical issues. Crowe hopes this bill will give other dogs a second chance.

“If you can get good laws on the books and take these dogs out of environments that are not humane or improve conditions for them the dogs are resilient the dogs will respond and they’ll have better lives for it,” she said.

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