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Texas lawmakers approve new protections for outdoor dogs

COURTNEY COLLINS / KERA NEWS
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The Texas Legislature has once again passed a bipartisan bill seeking to improve living conditions for dogs that are housed outdoors after Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed similar legislation earlier this year.

After last-minute negotiations between the Texas House and Senate, state lawmakers gave final approval to Senate Bill 5 early Tuesday morning, shortly before adjourning the third special legislative session of the year.

The measure makes the unlawful restraint of dogs a criminal offense. The legislation says owners can only tether a dog outside if they have adequate shelter, shade from direct sunlight, and water to drink. The bill also prohibits using chains or weighted restraints on the animals.

Brownsville Democrat Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., who authored the revised version of the bill, said on the Senate floor Monday that banning chains was key.

“Chains look big and look strong but they are not meant to hold a dog,” he said.

Abbott vetoed a similar bill, known as the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, earlier this year over concerns of government overreach and excessive punishments for pet owners.

“Texas is no place for this kind of micro-managing and over-criminalization,” he wrote in his veto statement.

Abbott, who is running for re-election next year, added the issue to the third special session agenda following widespread backlash from lawmakers, the public, and animal rights organizations. The hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs trended briefly on Twitter in late June.

The governor himself owns two golden retrievers: Pancake and Peaches.

If he signs the bill into law, it would take effect in January.

Joseph Leahy anchors morning newscasts for NPR's statewide public radio collaborative, The Texas Newsroom. He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. The following year, he helped launch Delaware's first NPR station, WDDE, as an afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to St. Louis in 2013 to anchor local newscasts during All Things Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. In 2016, he took on a similar role as the local Morning Edition newscaster at KUT in Austin, before moving over to the Texas Newsroom.