3rd special session: What is the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act?

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SAN ANGELO, Texas (KLST/KSAN) — Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation announcing a third special session of the Texas Legislature on Tuesday, September 6, 2021 with the stated goal of wrapping up the last of the items he had made a priority for the State Legislature this year. Among the items he prioritized for the upcoming special session, was a request for a bill similar to something he vetoed only two months ago, the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act.

The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, written by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, passed both chambers of the Texas Legislature with bipartisan support. When the act arrived at his desk, though, Abbott vetoed it. He called the bill “micro-managing” and said “Texas is no place for this kind of over-criminalization.”

The reaction on social media was swift and unforgiving, with the hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs trending for some time following Abbott’s veto.

Now, with the third legislative session on the horizon, Abbott has called on the Legislature to revisit the act, asking for legislation “…similar to Senate Bill 474 as passed by the 87th Legislature, Regular Session, but that addresses the concerns expressed in the governor’s veto statement.”

While there’s no way to know precisely what changes will be made to the original legislation, chances are good that the act sent to the Governor’s desk after the State Legislature reconvenes on September 20, will have more than a passing resemblance to the original.

What was in the vetoed act?

The act would have made knowingly leaving a dog outside, unattended, and restrained a Class C Misdemeanor unless the dog’s owner can provide:

  • Adequate shelter which “allows the dog protection from the rain, hail, sleet, snow and subfreezing temperatures.” The shelter must also be large enough to “… allow the dog to stand erect, sit, turn around, and lie down in a normal position.”
  • An area that allows the dog to avoid standing water and provides shade from direct sunlight
  • Potable water

The original act also makes it an offense to restrain a dog with a chain or any restraint that:

  • Has weights attached
  • Is shorter in length than the greater of “five times the length of the dog,” from nose to tail, or 10 feet.
  • Is not attached to a properly fitting collar
  • Causes pain or injury to the dog

The third special session of the Texas Legislature will reconvene on Monday, September 20, 2021.

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