Abbott vetoes bill protecting dogs left outside in harsh conditions

Gov. Greg Abbott has vetoed a bill called the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act for reasons of "micro-managing" and "over-criminalization".

Abbott says Texas does not need this bill when the state already outlaws animal cruelty.

"This law was needed in order to make sure that dog owners understood that there's a law that they need to abide by or else they're going to get a fine or they're going to lose their dog," said state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), the author of Senate Bill 474. "The bill came out of a need to provide clear standards for the humane treatment of dogs."

The bill focused on what dog owners would need to do if they left their dogs outside and unattended.

"Adequate shelter, shade from direct sunlight, shelter, and clean, drinkable water," said Sen. Lucio.


The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act would have also prohibited the use of chains to tie up dogs and remove the 24-hour waiting period law enforcement officials currently must follow to write a citation for tethered animals. Exemptions to this bill would have included hunting, agricultural activities, and dog walking. Failure to follow this bill would have allowed law enforcement officials the ability to take the dog away.

"When [kids are] neglected, when they're abused, we have an agency called Child Protective Services and they take your child away if you're going to endanger that child's life. The same thing should be with animals," said Sen. Lucio.

The bill made it through the legislative session and onto Governor Abbott's desk, but he ultimately vetoed the bill. The Governor released this statement on his decision:

"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. Since the Eighty-Seventh Texas Legislature, Regular Session, by its adjournment has prevented the return of this bill, I am filing these objections in the office of the Secretary of State and giving notice thereof by this public proclamation according to the aforementioned constitutional provision."

"We were blindsided to see this," said Stacy Sutton Kirby, Director of Government Relations for the Texas Humane Legislation Network.

Kirby has been working hard to get the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act passed. "We have worked so closely with stakeholders and legislators to get to the perfect language that strikes that balance between a Texans freedom to have their dog outside, tethered, and preventing needless suffering when dogs are tethered inhumanely," she said.


Kirby says it is a missed opportunity from the Governor to protect dogs especially in rural areas who will continue to not be covered by a bill like SB 474.

"The fact that we didn't take this opportunity to get this right for Texas dogs and the communities they live in means that they'll continue to suffer in the extreme weather conditions that we have in Texas," said Kirby.

Supporters of the bill plan to bring the bill back up in a future legislative session.