On Monday, May 30, the 87th Session of the Texas legislature adjourned sine die. The Texas legislature considered many issues related to canine policy this session, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) is pleased to consider 2021 a success for responsible dog breeders and owners in Texas.
Overly Expansive Breeder Regulation Not Considered
In June 2020, as part of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation’s (TDLR) a report by the staff of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended that the state’s almost-10-year-old Licensed Breeder Program, which carries out the Texas Dog or Cat Breeder Act (Act), be eliminated because it was found to be inefficient, ineffective, and insolvent. Vocally and with a high volume, anti-breeder groups responded to the Commission staff’s recommendation by not only advocating for preservation of the program (within the Commission’s power), but also for its expansion to include more breeders, including fanciers (within the Legislature’s control).
Anticipating extensive anti-breeder activism and legislation to significantly expand the Act and the Licensed Breeders Program, AKC teamed up with an Austin-based lobbyist in mid-2020 to help protect the interests of responsible Texas dog owners and breeders through the 2021 legislative session.
In January, as the 2021 legislative session was just getting underway, the Sunset Advisory Commission eliminated the recommendation, ensuring the Licensed Breeder Program would remain in effect.
Additionally, the same day that the Commission announced its decision, Senate Bill 323 was filed. SB 323 would have greatly expanded breeder licensing requirements by reducing the licensing threshold for intact adult female animals a person could possess (from 11 to five), and by removing a minimum annual sales requirement and other specific exceptions provided in the Act. If this bill had been successful, the Dog or Cat Breeder Act, which was originally conceived as a commercial breeder licensing program, would have been fundamentally changed to include many more hobbyists, including fanciers.
Due In part to AKC’s vocal and strong urging of opposition upon its filing, and extensive work by our Texas-based representative, SB 323 was never considered.
Microchip Scanning Now Required of Shelters and Rescues
At the request of both the House and Senate sponsors, AKC was pleased to support House Bill 604, a common-sense measure aimed at protecting the rights of owners of lost and at-large dogs. The bill requires animal shelters, releasing agencies, and animal rescue organizations to scan an animal for a microchip as soon as practicable after the animal is placed in their custody. AKC also supported this legislation during the 2019 Texas legislative session. The bill was signed into law by Governor Abbott on Mary 26, 2021, and becomes law on September 1, 2021.
Texas Police Service Animals Memorial Monument Close to Reality
AKC was pleased to support House Bill 1677, which seeks to establish a new monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol to honor the ultimate sacrifices of police service animals that have been killed in the line of duty. The bill has been approved by both houses and is awaiting Governor Abbott’s signature.
Other Bills that Failed During Session
HB 543 sought to restrict political subdivisions in the state, including counties and municipalities, from imposing requirements that ban the use of working animals. The bill was left pending in a House committee. AKC supported HB 543.
HB 652 sought to require animal shelters to provide an animal’s new owner with notice of the animal’s possible exposure to a communicable or infectious disease while it was in the custody of an animal shelter. The bill passed the House but failed to receive committee consideration in the Senate. AKC strongly supported this bill during both this and the 2019 legislative session.
HB 1083 sought to provide for the quick termination of ownership rights in animals that are impounded by an animal shelter. Instead of a uniform statewide minimum holding period before ownership rights would be terminated, as is customary in other states, the bill would have let local governments set a holding period for such animals; however, it did not require them to do so and did not require holding periods to be of a minimum amount of time. AKC strongly opposed HB 1083, which was thankfully left pending in a House committee.
HB 1818 attempted to limit the sources of dogs and cats that pet stores located in counties with a population over 200,000 could sell. AKC opposed the version of the bill that was passed by the House, which limited sources to animal control agencies, animal shelters, or animal rescue organizations. The bill was subsequently amended by the Senate to allow certain licensed commercial breeders to remain a source of purpose-bred pets, which AKC supported. The bill ultimately failed when a conference committee was appointed but failed to agree on a final version.
HB 3057 would have required breeders licensed under the state’s Dog and Cat Breeders Act to provide a purchaser a bill of sale and submit those bills of sale quarterly to the state Comptroller. The bill passed the House but was not considered in the Senate. AKC took no formal position on HB 3057.
HB 3798 would have required local housing authorities with policies permitting pet ownership to comply with all applicable dangerous dog rules imposed by the state, including the state’s prohibition on breed-specific local legislation. It passed the House but was not considered by the Senate. AKC strongly supported HB 3798.
SB 552 would have required each animal control authority in the state to submit an annual report on dog bites that occurred during the previous year to the Department of State Health Services. The bill passed the Senate and one House committee, but failed to move toward a floor vote of the full House. AKC expressed support for HB 552 with reservations about the reliability of breed identification for reporting purposes.
Dog-Related Legislation Pending Action by Governor Abbott
AKC monitored the following bills, which are now awaiting executive action by Governor Abbott:
HB 1071, which was sent to the governor on May 20, allows for the presence of a qualified facility dog or qualified therapy animal in certain court proceedings.
HB 2850, which was sent to the governor yesterday, provides immunity from civil liability for the act or omission of a certified veterinary assistant, a licensed veterinary technician, or a veterinarian who in good faith and as a volunteer provides veterinary care or treatment to an injured animal under certain circumstances.
HB 3340 provides a 10-day stay to any order to destroy a dangerous dog to allow the dog’s owner time to file a notice of appeal. The bill was sent to Governor Abbott on May 28.
SB 197 was sent to the governor on May 20 and extends the state’s current sales tax exemption for dogs sold by a nonprofit animal shelter to those sold by nonprofit animal welfare organizations.
SB 474 reasonably clarifies the state’s law on tethering. The bill was sent to the governor on May 29.
NOTE: For legislation transmitted with less than 10 days left in the session, the governor has 20 days after adjournment to act, or the legislation becomes law without being signed.
Click here for the final list of Texas bills AKC tracked this legislative session.
Next Steps for Texas
AKC Government Relations (GR) will continue to provide updates on the above-mentioned bills awaiting Governor Abbott’s executive action, and on local issues impacting Texas dogs and their breeders and owners. If you aren’t already receiving AKC GR legislative alerts, you may sign up to receive them on the AKC GR Legislative Action Center webpage.
AKC appreciates the many Texas residents who contacted their state lawmakers this session to promote reasonable and enforceable laws impacting dogs and their breeders and owners. AKC also appreciates the work of our Texas federation, the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, for its continued work in defending the rights of Texas’ dog owners.
For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.