Texas state legislators scored on animal protection

Texas state legislators scored on animal protection

Rankings come as the Humane Society Legislative Fund releases its Texas Humane Scorecard 

AUSTIN, Texas (December 21, 2023)—Today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund released its 2023 Texas Humane Scorecard, which grades state legislators’ actions on animal-protection legislation during the 2023 session. The laws passed this legislative session will close loopholes exploited by breeders, tighten regulation of service animals, enshrine the legality of Trap-Neuter-Return (T-N-R) programs, prevent animal abusers from possessing certain animals post-conviction, and prohibit breed discrimination in public housing.

HSLF is a nonpartisan organization that evaluates candidates based only on a single criterion, where they stand on animal protection. HSLF does not judge candidates based on party affiliation or any other issue.

“Over the last year, we have seen an increased commitment to animal protection on both sides of the aisle in the Texas State Legislature. This proactive leadership not only echoes the values that are deeply meaningful to Texans, but also positions them as leaders in fostering responsible governance,” said Alex Gamez, the Texas state director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “I applaud the work of these dedicated public servants, and I look forward to the next legislative session where we have the opportunity to continue shaping a more humane future for the Lone Star State.”

The following bills supported by HSLF and scored on the 2023 Texas Humane Scorecard have been signed into law:

  • Licensed Breeder Act (SB 876): Texas has revamped its licensed breeders law with the passage of SB 876. Effective September 1, 2023, the legislation mandates licensing for breeders with five or more breeding females, addressing previous loopholes. It eliminates the need for proof of selling 20 animals, closing a significant accountability gap. Authored by Senators Pete Flores (R) and John Whitmire (D) and sponsored by Representative Brad Buckley (R), SB 876 aims to curb cruelty and neglect complaints, ensuring the industry aligns with intended standards by January 1, 2024.
  • Fraudulent Service Animals (HB 4164): Combatting the rise in fraudulent service dogs, Texas enacted HB 4164, effective September 1, 2023. Authored by Representative Philip Cortez (D) and sponsored by Sen. Whitmire (D), the law tightens regulations around service animals. Amending Section 121.006 of the Human Resources Code, HB 4164 clarifies service animal definitions and imposes stricter penalties for misrepresentation. Offenders now face a $1,000 fine, up from $300, and may be required to perform 30 hours of community service for disability-focused organizations. This legislation aims to preserve the rights and safety of legitimate service animal users by deterring fraudulent claims.
  • T-N-R is Not Abandonment (HB 3660): Texas has clarified the legality of Trap-Neuter-Return (T-N-R) programs with the passage of HB 3660. Authored by Representative Cody Vasut (R) and sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini (D), the law updates Section 42.092(a) of the Texas Penal Code. It defines T-N-R as nonlethal population control, offering defense against prosecution for returning T-N-R cats to outdoor homes. The legislation maintains penalties for the unreasonable abandonment of owned companion animals while safeguarding T-N-R providers from unwarranted legal action. Effective September 1, 2023, HB 3660 ensures the continued success of humane feral cat management programs across the state.
  • Cruelty Prevention (HB 598): Addressing gaps in animal cruelty legislation, Texas enacted HB 598 to enhance post-conviction possession bans. Authored by Representative Matt Shaheen (R) and sponsored by Sen. Whitmire (D), the law amends Chapter 42 of the Texas Penal Code. Section 42.107 makes it a crime for individuals convicted of animal cruelty to possess non-livestock animals (e.g., cats or dogs) for five years post-conviction. Notably, repeat violations escalate from a Class C to a Class B misdemeanor, reflecting the severity of the offense. Effective September 1, 2023, HB 598 aims to disrupt potential future violence by restricting offenders' access to animals.
  • Pet Inclusive Housing (SB 349): Texas breaks down housing barriers with the passage of SB 349, championing pet-inclusive living. Sponsored by Representative Charles Anderson (R) and authored by Senator Drew Springer (R), the law ends dog breed restrictions imposed by public housing authorities. SB 349 mandates compliance with county and municipal dangerous dog regulations, aligning with state law while prohibiting breed-based restrictions. By allowing responsible pet owners the freedom to choose their furry companions, SB 349 seeks to keep families and pets together, reducing surrenders to shelters. This legislation prioritizes the well-being of pets and aims to boost adoptions from Texas shelters, fostering a more inclusive environment for both residents and their beloved animals.

HSLF only scores bills that receive roll call votes in order to accurately reflect legislators’ actions. HB 3660, HB 598, and SB 349 were not included in the score calculus for the upper chamber as the Texas State Senate records show the three bills were passed via voice vote. Without a roll call vote, HSLF cannot independently verify the actions of each senator did not incorporate those three bills into the upper chamber’s portion of the scorecard.

As the nation’s leading political advocacy organization for animal protection, HSLF has published a Congressional Humane Scorecard since 2006 to track the relevant votes, co-sponsorships, and other actions of federal lawmakers. This resource effectively records which members of Congress are animal champions and which need more political pressure to denounce cruelty. Now, the organization is increasing its release of state-level scorecards, to build on the progress made in animal protection at the state level and hold members of the state legislature accountable animal advocates.

Texas voters are encouraged to use this scorecard to make humane choices in future elections.

Read more in our blog.

Media contact:   
Kate Sarna: 202-836-1265; katesarna@hslf.org