New Texas Legislation Aims at Cracking Down on Animal Cruelty

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

State lawmakers are throwing some new legislation to the dogs. If you're involved in any way in animal fighting, members of the Texas House want to send you straight to jail. 

It's an effort to cut back on animal cruelty as well as keep our children safe.

There's a number of bills working their way through the Texas Legislature addressing cruelty to animals.

Midland Animal Control says a change in the law means animal fighters will end up in the doghouse.

"Right now, if you get caught fighting your dog, it could be a Class A which means felonies, jail time," John Nevarez with Midland Animal Control said. "Or they could put it as a Class B which is a fine and let you go. That's basically what it is now."

But a new push from legislators would slap a Class A felony charge with automatic jail time on anyone initiating, facilitating, or even watching animals fight. They'll also confiscate the vehicles, profits, and anything else involved.

"In other words, they're trying to treat it like an organized crime, gang-related," Nevarez said.

Owners may also face charges even if they've bought a dog from a breeder associated with dog fighting.

"A pitbull is like a lethal weapon, especially one that's been bred for generations to fight," Nevarez said.

It's an issue close to the Urias family's heart.

"I have a child that was attacked by one of them," Angelica Urias, whose child was attacked by a pitbull, said. "He was playing outside in my mom's yard and the dog came running and he got attacked."

Lawmakers are also proposing legislation that would prevent children from walking pitbulls.

"I don't think kids should be messing with pitbulls anyway, because a pitbull is stronger than most kids are," Midland neighbor Ray Burns, said.

Ray Burns owns a pitbull. He says, when other dogs approach his home his dog goes into attack mode.

"That's when he gets aggressive," Burns said. "When they come on his territory."

Memers of the Texas House are hoping that by bringing these issues to the table it will ultimately cut back on organized crime.

"There are gangs that are using this to profit, so they're targeting every situation they can," Nevarez said. 

Lawmakers presented the animal cruelty bill for the first time during the legislative session on Monday. It's now in the process of being reviewed by other members of the Texas House.