Houston PetTalk March 2022

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NEWS & EVENTS

The Sae f rodtuO Dosg Ac:t Arae Y - 7 yenruo J ot tceorP Tesax Dosg

By: Shelby Bobosky, Executive Director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network

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n 2014, when I was the Legislative Chair for THLN, I was sitting at a small East Texas restaurant with retired sheriff of Van Zandt County, Pat Burnett, when he asked me, “When are we finally going to fix the tethering law?” That question would begin a seven-year journey filled with many legislative battles before we would finally achieve it. However, in late 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 5, also known as the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act (SODA), into law. Going back to 2007, then-Governor Rick Perry signed into law the Unlawful Restraint of Dogs, that addressed the material of collars and stated dogs must have enough leash to move around. The legislation laid the groundwork for statewide animal welfare reform but was essentially unenforceable due to a mandatory 24-hour waiting period written into the law. The law also did not address a dog’s access to shelter, food, or water. Throughout seven years, the bills we

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introduced to fix the original law became a battleground in the state legislature. In 2021, we garnered widespread bipartisan support and saw more momentum than ever before. The bill passed both the chambers, however, in June, Governor Greg Abbott vetoed the bill without warning. Having come so far, we were shocked and saddened. The veto also created a vast public outcry, with outlets covering the story across Texas and around the world. After a few months of public discussion around the bill and the veto, Governor Abbott surprisingly brought back the legislation in the third special legislative session in the fall. THLN worked tirelessly with the Governor’s office to craft legislation that addressed his concerns in the veto proclamation and maintain the law’s purpose. On October 25, 2021, Governor Abbott signed SODA into law, effective January 18, 2022. SODA establishes basic standards of shelter and care for dogs left outdoors and

clarifies existing law without increasing criminal penalties. It provides clarity for dog owners on how to properly restrain their dog and provides measures to protect dogs from inclement weather, lack of shelter, and heavy chains. It’s a win for both animals and the people around them by eliminating the dangers of inhumane tethering, providing a safe environment for all. While we determine what’s next in passing animal welfare legislation, we have started educating community members on compliance and offering resources to those in need. We encourage Texans to support the implementation of SODA, whether fundraising for dog houses and cable tie-outs, teaming up to build dog houses, or simply spreading awareness within communities, all Texans can help ensure the law works as intended to protect dogs and the people around them. To learn more about SODA or how to support animal welfare legislation in Texas, visit THLN.org.