House Bill 652 passed the Texas House Monday, May 3, with an amendment. This legislation would require public-sector animal shelters to provide notices of disease in the shelter to individuals who adopt animals. The City of Irving has opposed this bill during committee hearings because it could create the false impression that dangerous, communicable diseases are always present in public-sector shelters, leading to a decline in adoptions in these facilities, including the Irving Animal Care Campus.
The bill as amended requires a standard notice to be provided to anyone adopting a pet, which does not alleviate the city’s concern. It also only applies to public-sector animal shelters, leaving pet stores, breeders and private releasing agencies - which account for about 75 percent of all adopted animals - not subject to the notice requirement.
The legislation will be sent to the Texas Senate for a committee hearing and possibly a vote on the Senate floor. Irving, along with other cities, will be asking senators to vote against suspending Senate rules to allow this legislation to come up for a vote in the Senate.
If this legislation is of interest, contact members of the Irving delegation in the Senate:
This item will be updated to include members of the Senate committee that will take testimony on the bill, once HB 652 has been assigned to a committee.
About House Bill (HB) 652:
Texas HB 652, if passed, will require public animal shelters to notify their animal adopters if there is “epizootic” disease present in the shelter within 15 days before or after an animal is adopted.
The definition of “epizootic” in the Texas Health and Safety Code is vague. The state code defines the term as “the occurrence in a given geographic area or population of cases of a disease clearly in excess of the expected frequency.” Based on this definition, it could include any disease. The requirement to identify all diseases with certainty requires testing and could be costly.
Because shelters often take in sick animals, the “expected frequency” of any disease will be higher than outside in the community. To comply with the legislation, the city’s Irving Animal Care Campus would constantly generate these notices.
Not every disease is life-threatening to an animal, and the City of Irving has a full-time veterinarian to examine and prescribe treatments for animals at the shelter. In the rare instance that an animal passes away shortly after adoption, the city refunds the adoption fees.
Additionally, it is relatively common for animals to show signs of illness after they leave the shelter that were not apparent at the time of adoption. The city already provides information about common illnesses to adopters, who are encouraged to follow up with a veterinarian soon after adoption.
The result of the city constantly issuing disease notices based on a vague law could negatively impact and reduce adoptions at the animal shelter. Pet stores, breeders and private rescue organizations are not regulated by this legislation.
The community has been very vocal about reducing euthanasia in animal shelters, and HB 652 could reverse the progress Irving has made in saving animal lives.
Irving and several other cities attempted to further amend the bill to make it more acceptable, in particular seeking the following changes:
- Remove bordetella and kennel cough. Kennel cough is most commonly caused by bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria, so having both is redundant.
- Make the notifications only apply for animals of the same species so that notifications about cat illnesses don’t have to go to dogs.
- Include breeders, pet stores, and animal releasing agencies as defined by Health and Safety Code 828.001.
These amendments were not accepted by the bill’s author, Representative Dennis Paul.
A letter describing concerns about this legislation from the Texas Animal Control Association was sent to members of the Legislature. To contact Representative Paul or any other member of the Legislature, the email pattern for legislators is firstname.lastname@example.org
The bill text is available at https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/pdf/HB00652I.pdf#navpanes=0.
For more information, email the city at email@example.com.