On Monday, dozens of dog owners gathered outside the office of Rep. Jonathan Stickland to protest what could easily be one of the scummiest moves in Texas Legislative history.
A week before the end of the session, the Fort Worth area lawmaker killed the year’s biggest animal rights bill on a petty technicality.
The bill, which swiftly passed through both chambers with rare bipartisan support, would have criminalized abusive restraints on dogs, like a leash that chokes them or forces them to stay outside in the rain.
“This was an incredibly tough session for us. And frustrating,” Laura Donahue, the executive director for Texas Humane Legislation Network, told The Texas Signal.
By Donahue’s count, 130 out of 150 lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives supported Senate Bill 295. If it weren’t for Stickland, it’s a near certainty the proposed law would have advanced all the way to the governor.
A day after raising a point of order that doomed the bill, Stickland explained on Facebook that he killed the “well-intentioned” tethering law because it was “anti-property rights and full of horrible consequences for animals.”
But instead of debating those issues out, Stickland scrapped the whole thing.
The move would be more shocking if not for the fact that Stickland, and only Stickland, has killed the exact same bill two sessions in a row.
In 2017, he ran out the clock moments before the House deadline to hear bills from the Senate. It’s an incredible clip to watch; Stickland smugly asks the Texas Speaker of the House how much time is left to consider the anti-animal cruelty bill before leading a filibuster.
After years of trying to negotiate in good-faith with the notoriously difficult lawmaker, Donahue said the animal rescue community is done.
“We’re starting to come out of that shock and it’s starting to be replaced with anger,” Donahue said. “2020 is an election year. Folks are very keenly aware of who represents them and who was not helpful. This issue will be carried into the ballot box.”
Moving into 2020, Donahue said the Texas Humane Legislation Network would be open to speaking to other credible candidates in Stickland’s district, but noted they would still be willing to negotiate with Stickland if he returned to the capital in 2021.
Last year, the animal rights group flexed its newly formed Political Action Committee for the first time, issuing campaign checks and endorsing candidates who supported anti-animal cruelty legislation.
This time around, Donahue said it was still too early to comment on how the PAC would interact with Stickland, but said she believed the animal rescue community was ready for a different legislator.
“We didn’t want him to be an enemy,” Donahue said. “We wanted to work with him. We thought we had enough of dialogue this session, we thought that bridge was there.”