New Texas Dog Bite Law Goes Into Effect

A new Texas dog bite law went into effect on September 1. Pet owners will face felony charges if their dogs seriously injure or kill someone and could go to prison.

The new law came after the fatal mauling of a 76-year-old Central Texas woman.

Under the new law, the owner of a dangerous dog can still face misdemeanor charges if the animal injures someone. That same owner now can be on the hook for a felony and prison time if the victim dies or suffers wounds requiring hospitalization.

Eliminating the so-called free-bite defense, a dog’s first attack can be a felony offense – if the injuries are fatal or severe enough and if prosecutors prove the owner’s criminal negligence in not securing the animal.

Officials said this adds some sting to laws that are difficult to enforce, easy to disregard and that usually punish the dogs instead of their owners who are responsible for them.

Supporters of the new law hope this will catch a pet owner’s attention and decrease the number and severity of attacks by having harsher penalties.

It is still unclear what kind of impact this new law will have on animal bites. Despite this, animal control officers still support this new law as a possible solution to a horrible problem.

“Any tool we can get to protect our citizens is vital,” said Keane Menefee, Fort Worth’s director of animal care and control.

Dogs owners who are irresponsible and allow their dogs to run free are the problem, said animal control officers.

Experts said this new law in Texas will be one of the toughest in the nation.

Source: Dallas Morning News

19 Responses to “New Texas Dog Bite Law Goes Into Effect”

  1. wescott20 says:

    It’s about time owners were held responsible. Perhaps now more owners will be careful, reducing the number of dog bites and subsequently the number of dogs penalized.

  2. catmom5 says:

    Responsible owners? GREAT IDEA! It will be interesting to follow this and see what the actual results are.

  3. Sharon says:

    How about legal owners? the 76 year old woman was mauled by a pack of dogs owned by an illegal immigrant living next door. Until our existing immigration laws are enforced US citizens will continue to be killed by people who have no legal right to be in this country. It happens every single day in Texas and nobody does a damn thing about it. Not only did they not charge the neighbor with the killer dogs, they didn’t even deport him. If our government enforced the law than that lady would still be alive.

  4. Barb says:

    Texas Teens Accused of Torturing Dog to Death -

    Boys Accused of Torturing, Killing Dog -

    Investigation continues in dog killing -

    Anita Solomon of DogsDeserveBetter created this petition - PLEASE SIGN:

    Their lawyers may try to keep the kids protected under the current laws, which will mean little or no punishment. We need them prosecuted under the NEW laws, which take affect SEPT 1.

    Letter contents on Petition site:
    It is with great trepidation and concern that the heinous act these teens committed will not be prosecuted under the NEW animal cruelty laws since the crime was committed prior to Sept 1.
    Belinda Smith, assistant district attorney for Harris County made this statement recently after TX announced its’ new Texas Animal Cruelty Statutes.

    “Here’s how weak the current law is. Now you can take your pet into Memorial Park and beat it in front of everybody, burn it with a cigarette, and there’s nothing I can do. The only thing the current law says rises to cruelty is torture, and the law doesn’t define what torture is. It’s hard to prove something that isn’t defined.

    “That’s changing. The new law defines what cruelty is and makes it easier for me to drag an abuser in front of a grand jury and get an indictment. The usual loopholes, like the abuser ‘forgot’ to leave food for his dog when he went on a two-week vacation, are closed. We’re going to get more indictments and we’re going to get more convictions.”

    (You can read excerpts of the current laws (prior to Sept 1, 2007) below this petition request)

    We the undersigned, support a complete psychological evaluation and psychiatric therapy intervention for these boys. In addition, we suggest placement in a Juvenile Detention facility until they reach 18 years of age; at which time, each child is re-evaluated and continues to serve time in adult jail if uncertainty of their character prevails.

    Probation and or release into society should not be considered prior to their 18th birthday and have completed intense counseling, nor do we support or approve of such a decision based on the horrifying nature of the crime committed.

    These teens, without the proper intervention of counseling and reprimand, will most certainly become criminals who will think nothing of inflicting harm to, or worse, kill another human being.

    Hopefully, through your intervention, these children will grow up to be responsible compassionate adults. It is imperative that you, as exemplary adults, set the standards for these children, because obviously, the parents certainly did not.

    Perhaps it’s also time to sentence parents to community service and subject to fines for their children who commit crimes such as this. Maybe if they were held accountable for their child’s actions in this way, they will become more responsible parents!

    Here are some excepts from the CURRENT TX Animal Cruelty Laws of which pertains to this heinous crime, yet the laws are vague, weak, and such as they are, have been undeniably negligent in prosecuting previous cases.


    Actions Constituting “Cruelty”: Affirmative Cruel Acts & Omissions

    Texas law defines cruelty to include two general types of actions: affirmative acts and failing to act.

    Affirmative Cruel Acts

    Affirmative cruel actions include:
    (1) torturing an animal;
    (2) transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner;
    (3) killing, seriously injuring, or poisoning an animal belonging to another without legal authority or the owner%u2019s effective consent;
    (4) causing an animal to fight with another;
    (5) using a live animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a race track;
    (6) tripping a horse;
    (7) injuring an animal belonging to another without legal authority or the owners effective consent; or
    8) seriously overworking an animal.

    Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 42.09(a)(1), (4)-(10) (Vernon 2001).
    The current statute does not provide a definition for “torture.” Prior versions of Texas criminal statutes defined torture of an animal as “every act, omission or neglect whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering is caused, permitted or allowed to continue”…McGinnis v. State, 541 S.W.2d 431, 431 (Tex. Crim. App. 1976). In McGinnis, the court focused on the words unnecessary or unjustifiable to conclude that the law, in some circumstances, contemplates that the infliction of pain and suffering is allowable. The law was subsequently amended to generally prohibit the “torture of an animal”, but no statutory guidance was provided as to the meaning of the term. In fact, courts recognized that a charge of “torturing” an animal was not sufficiently descriptive of the offense. Consequently, specific acts of torture had to be alleged. Cross v. State, 646 S.W.2d 514, 516 (Tex. App.%u2014Dallas 1982).

    Generally, in interpreting “torture” under the current statute, the court looks at the physical condition of the animal and the side effects of the cruel treatment. First, the court in Celinski relied on the physical condition of the cats (prior to their being euthanized) to find that the defendants actions of placing the cats in the microwave constituted torture. In a second case, the court found that the defendant%u2019s amputation of his puppys ears without the benefit of anesthetic or antibiotics, causing severe inflammation and side effects, constituted “torture.” Bell v. State, 761 S.W.2d 847 (Tex. App.%u2014Beaumont 1988). Not surprisingly, the court rejected the defendants excuse that he “chopped off” the dogs ears because “veterinarians charged too much.” Id. at 849.


    Often times, animal cruelty cases are not reported nor are they prosecuted. However, if a person is prosecuted and found guilty of animal cruelty, Texas law imposes different punishments based on the type of cruel action involved, whether the conviction was one of many offenses, or whether the defendant involved is a minor. If a minor has engaged in delinquent conduct constituting an offense under Section 42.09, the juvenile court shall order the child to participate in psychological counseling for a period to be determined by the court. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 54.0407 (Vernon 2002). This law pertaining to minors involved in animal cruelty conduct was only recently added in 2001.

    Some cruel actions warrant harsher punishments even on the first conviction. For cruelty offenses involving the torture, killing, seriously injuring, poisoning, fighting, or tripping of an animal, a state jail felony may be imposed on the first conviction. Id. § 42.09(g). If a defendant is convicted three times under these harsher penalties, he may be subject to a third degree felony sentence, which translates to imprisonment ranging from 2 to 10 years and a possible fine of up to $10,000.

  5. Mike says:

    “Eliminating the so-called free-bite defense, a dog’s first attack can be a felony offense – if the injuries are fatal or severe enough and if prosecutors prove the owner’s criminal negligence in not securing the animal.”

    A dog’s first attack is the same as someone shooting someone else “for the first time”. It should be treated to the full extent of the Law.

  6. 3FURS says:

    Parents are by law, are responsable for their under-age children. If a child is injured or left alone, under age, the parents are guilty of abandonment. An older child is deemed able to take care of himself. Therefore, if a young child commits any crime wheather it’s destroying someone’s property or harming another person or animal, the parents are the ones responsable and they must be charged. The older child, who is deemed to be aware of right and wrong, is responsable for his own actions and he must be charged. Young offender laws need to be clarified as to who is the guilty party. And in a crime there is a guilty party.

  7. 3FURS says:

    The same thing holds true for pet-parents. They are the adults who are responsable for their pets, who are equal to dependent children.

  8. 3FURS says:

    The story about Tobey is disgusting. The children and ALL the parents should be assesed by psychiatrists. Then they should ALL receive the necessary treatment in institutions. IF by any chance, they were found sane, then severe punishments are due for all.

  9. nora says:

    Those 3 kids MAY BECOME criminals? They ALREADY ARE. Those worthless pieces of human flesh should be put to death. Their actions proved they are unfit for society.

  10. wescott20 says:

    I agree with you totally, Nora!

  11. Cynthia says:

    Sharon, I agree!

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Texas would spend this much time and effort in stopping and deporting illegal aliens and penalizing business who hire them. Texas, and the rest of our country would be a much safer place to live.

    Government at all levels must make the prosecution and deportation of law-breaking illegal aliens a top priority. That includes drunk driving, as well as theft, rape and murder. All foreign prisoners eligible for deportation must be shipped home at the end of their sentences, not released onto American streets to commit further crimes on innocent citizens. The common excuse that these dangerous criminals “fell through the cracks” is not acceptable when our fellow citizens are being killed, raped and otherwise harmed by these invaders.
    Postings of Victims and Criminals…

  12. Christina says:

    I’m sorry, but if a family pet were to attack, say, a repairman or meter reader, for walking suddenly onto an enclosed property without knowledge of the homeowner, the dog should not automatically be deemed a “dangerous” animal. Dogs are natural defenders of their environments. If they view someone in their own home as an “intruder” and attack, then how is the owner responsible? I understand this is not the same situation as the woman who was attacked and killed for no good reason, but the new law does not seem to differentiate. I could see if the dog were running loose in a neighborhood, trained for fighting, or worse, being mistreated by the owner, but how does fear or instinct on the part of the family pet not come into play at all here? The owner should do time in PRISON and charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for an animal acting on pure instinct in its own home?? It should be noted that while some “power” dogs (such as rotts, pits, chows) are born with more propensity to attack, even a toy poodle or a mutt will do so in an effort to protect a mortgage they don’t even pay for!! I think the law needs some tweaking to protect all parties involved. And certain “victims” should share some of the burden of responsibility too, in my humble opinion… and no, it has never happened to me personally. I just think Texas wants to find more creative ways to fills its prisons and raise money for the State. And before anyone asks, yes, I am a Texan. The fact that there are severe criminal penalties and fines associated with a dog bite just makes it seem obvious what the law’s true intent is…

  13. Thinking about getting a new dog? | Texas Insurance Experts says:

    […] your insurance. Your decision also effects your personal umbrella policy. This blog from the Dallas Morning News tells about a new law in […]

  14. Shirley says:

    This new law “bites”. What about people being responsible for their own actions. Watch your kids better; keep their hands off of our dogs when we take them to the pet store or out to the beach. Just because we take our dogs in public places DOES NOT give anyone the right to touch that dog. Would you want strangers to come up to your kids and start petting them? I bet not! So, if you don’t want bit, get the h### away from our dogs.

    Also, if you haven’t noticed it is NOT THE DOG’S FAULT; it is the stupid owner. I agree that owner’s need to be responsible for their dogs actions; I’m one of them. I have two Rottweillers that I take to the pet store with me all of the time. People cannot believe their eyes when they see them and how well behaved they are. People it takes 100’s of hours of training to get dogs to behave in such a manner it does not happen over night.


  15. Ann says:

    If a neighbor has been told the dog is protective of the children and still elects to stand on something and hold on to the top of our side of the fence to speak with the children. The dog is going to consider that person an intruder and naturally defend his/her family. Why then is the dog considered dangerous and quarantined? If the dog is up to date on rabbies, why quarantine? This happened here and I’m afaid we’ll never see our dog again. Shouldn’t the neighbor be held responsible for their own injury when they elect to put their hands on someone elses side of the line and the dog is confined in their own backyard?

  16. Carol says:

    What if a person is aware that a dog is protective of his enviorment, and asks a person if she can spend the night in a person’s home where the dog will be and bring her own two dogs with her? While my dog is constrained on the back porch…I have to leave and go to the store…tell her NOT to open the back door, I will be right back…After I leave, she apparently opens the back door, unlocking three locks and lets the dog out which she claims bit her. When I get home, my house was left wide open (to any burglar) and she was gone. She calls animal protection and the dog is quarantined. The dog, by the way, has been released. She now calls me and claims I am responsible for her hospital bill and her lost wages. Shouldn’t she be SOLELY responsible for this bite? I think she should have to pay the $460.00 vet bill. Also, the dog in question isn’t even MY dog, but, my boyfriend’s. For all I know her own dogs could have bit her.

  17. Mrsb057 says:

    I had my own dog a 4 yr old Belgian Malinois bite my neighbors daughter this afternoon. My husband had the little girls father over and the little girl ran into my home as if it was her own startling my dog which caused him to bite her. I am a bit concerned as the new laws are clearly already into effect. My dog has never bitten anyone. He is very protective of his pack. I just feel in some way the childs father is responsible for the incident and not my animal.I am a very responsible dog owner. Anytime we have ever had small children over my dog is placed outside in the backyard. i am devastated at the fact that my dog bit a child but i feel that he was merely protecting his home from an “intruder” and I am well aware that 5 yr old girl is not really what people would consider an intruder but a dogs mind is different. Bottom line i paid the bill of $355 she had to get stitches. in a sense i dont feel bad for her because you dont just let your children run into other peoples homes.Be responsible for your child and I will be responsible for my dog.

  18. marti miernik says:

    A few months ago I decided that I wanted a dog. I decided on an Afghan Hound. The breed is stunning, their temperament matches mine. I decided to get a rescue young adult. I contacted AHCA for a dog, but they did not have one available. But Debbie White, owner of Hatari Afghans (, a rescue rep and Evangers rep from Texas had a young adult ready for adoption. Debbie sounded like she cared about her dogs, was knowledgeable and professional. I bit and entered into a contract with her. TRUSTING HER WAS MY GREATEST MISTAKE.

    I started talking to her in mid May with the understanding that she will send me the puppy after my event in Tahoe, mid June. She got the money, I did not get the dog. She charged me $700 for his adoption, $400 for flight, $200 for a kennel, $100 for health certificates. That ís $1400. AGAIN, she got the money, I never got the dog. First he needed grooming, then he got into fire ants, then Debbie got busy, then, well, something else happened. Delay turned into another delay and finally ended in silence as Debbie stopped communicating with me completely. I reported her to AHCA. It took a call from AHCA director Barb Hastings for Debbie to actually email me back, letting me know that she will return my money. But guess what! Though she promised the refund, she never sent it.

    I was made aware that she is helping with the pretty bad “puppy mill” situation in New Mexico. But if this is the way she treats people, I wonder how she treats her dogs. For example, she mentioned that the dog I was supposed to have gotten was house trained. Then she let it slip that he only lives outside. Afghans need constant care and companionship. If she did not clean him take care of him, how much socialization has he gotten? And other dogs in her possession? For Afghans that’s imperative. On the website she lists a few more pups for adoption. These are just from her own breeding. And now with the other pups in he possession, if she has no time for her own dogs, how will she be able to handle others? I think that with her bubbly personality she taking people and the dogs in her possession for a ride!

    I don’t want other people to go through this sort of experience. Getting an animal is an emotional experience. I prepped for this dog. Debbie works for Evangers Dog Food. I purchased the food she suggested. I got a whole bunch of toys, I prepped the house for the animal only to get suckered in and screwed. Please pass this along to anyone who is thinking of purchasing an Afghan / getting one from a rescue. Hatari Afghans is a scam. Debbie White and her operation should be closed. She is not to be trusted and should be avoided at all costs.

  19. Dana Romero says:

    I have been trying to reach the office of GENBAND AT 3605 E.PLANOPARKWAY SUITE

    On (thursday august 28 at 6:30 pm) my dog and I were charged and attacked and
    knock to the ground by two Boxer breed dogs,belonging to one of your employees
    working in the back of your building, working in shipping and receiving.

    My dog received three bites on his head and his lips on one side have been

    I’am angry about this.Your employee clearly had a woman visiter there whom had
    brought the dogs to Genband with out leash or harness and this why the dogs were
    able to attack us in the mannor that they did.

    I’m hoping you will talk with this employee about this matter.He is a 5′10 flat
    top hair cut with silver frame glasses,pot bellied and wears a skylue lab coat
    that says GENDBAND.

    As far as I can tell drives a bright red suv type car.

    He was rude offered no help to me what so ever and told me to call the Police
    because he was on private property.
    I did call the Police on returning home and they have told me to call the animal

E-mail It