Texas House lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill that would only allow pet stores to obtain cats and dogs from animal shelters, animal rescue organizations, or animal control agencies.
The bill aims to crack down on puppy mills and prevent widespread euthanasia among cats and dogs.
Under the bill, a petstore would face a civil penalty and a fine of up to $500 for each dog or cat sold in violation of the law. The legislation would only apply to counties with a population of 200,000 or more.
Bill author state Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) presented the bill to the House floor as a consumer protection law. The bill stipulates that pet stores must maintain a documented record of where a cat or dog they are selling came from. Those records would then be available for Texans seeking to purchase a dog from a petstore.
Patterson argued that only a small percentage of pet owners obtain their pets from major pet stores (4 percent according to a survey he cited), and that major pet stores don’t derive much revenue from pet sales anyways, instead finding real profits in services and supplies.
“Unfortunately, current state and federal laws do little to protect either animals in puppy mills or pet store consumers,” Patterson said. “A sunset report from June 2020 even recommended the state licensing program be shut down due to its effectiveness.”
Patterson said the bill is meant to go after pet stores who purchase from puppy mills — mills often located outside Texas that see small puppies shipped more than a dozen hours across state lines.
“The licence breeder programs at the state and federal level have proven unable to provide mass accountability to bad actors,” Patterson concluded, with several House members (quite literally) barking and howling in agreement.
The bill faced pushback from multiple Republican lawmakers that attempted to paint the legislation as anti-business, or as a ban on breeders. Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) attempted to raise a point of order against the bill, but it was withdrawn after about half an hour of deliberation.
“Does any other member have a dog in the hunt?” joked Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) before House members moved to pass the bill 75-66 — which they celebrated with some more barking and howling.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com