Safe Outdoor Dogs Act returns for third special session after Gov. Abbott veto


Baby spending her day in Bluebonnets. (Photo courtesy of Carri Crowe)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — During the regular session earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed Senate Bill 474 known as the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act. The original legislation called for pet owners to face a Class C misdemeanor if they left a dog outside, unattended and restrained, unless the dog had adequate shelter, shade and water.

Abbott called the bill “micro-managing and over-criminalization,” saying Texas already had animal cruelty laws on the books.

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.  


However, many animal lovers across the state took to social media to express their disappointment using the hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs.

“The governor heard back from thousands of people across the state, from people in his own party, from law-enforcement officers, from legislators, some longtime supporters who were shocked and dismayed,” said Stacy Sutton Kerby, the director of government relations for the Texas Humane Legislation Network.

Abbott listened and listed the item on his third special session proclamation. The Texas Humane Legislation Network, a Texas-based organization focused on addressing unjust state animal welfare law, was not expecting the opportunity but is grateful for it.

“We are definitely open to modifying the version of the bill so we can both address concerns and keep those dogs restrained outdoors safe,” the organization’s director said.

Dogs like Baby.

“She had been the subject of an animal protection case for basically the whole first three years of her life,” Carri Crowe said.

Her owners had been cited numerous times and fined and they finally decided to surrender her to Austin Animal Center.

That’s when Crowe brought Baby home and gave her love and training she never had.

“She was a therapy dog for years, and she was doing so much outreach to schools and all sorts of different people,” she said.

In February, Baby passed away due to medical issues. Crowe hopes this bill will give other dogs a second chance.

“If you can get good laws on the books and take these dogs out of environments that are not humane or improve conditions for them, the dogs are resilient the dogs will respond and they’ll have better lives for it,” she said.

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