Important legislation in the Lone Star State

I am disappointed to announce that HB 2981 did not make it out of the Texas House Calendars Committee. Legislation that benefits animals is always hard to pass, but just to give you some perspective as to how tough it was to pass anything in Texas this session, consider this: With only 19 days to go in the session, of the 4,079 bills that have been introduced into the Texas legislature, only 15 have passed both the House and the Senate!

I want to express my personal gratitude to everyone who worked so hard on this lifesaving legislation and assure everyone concerned that we will be back at this for the next legislative session in 2015. I also want to thank all of our members and friends in Texas who took action on this by contacting your state representatives. Together, we will continue to save the lives of more Texas shelter pets.

For some time now, Best Friends has been working with a variety of stakeholders in Texas to develop meaningful legislation to help reduce the high rate of shelter killing in the state.

In Texas, like in many places across the country, some shelters either choose not to work with rescue groups or only work with rescues they like. We are optimistic that with the support of animal lovers, fiscal conservatives and common sense people across the state, this is about to change.

Texas House Bill 2981, the “Tax Saving Pet Adoption, Sterilization and Transfer Act,” sponsored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez of Austin, is an important piece of legislation that will, for the first time under Texas law, require governmental shelters in counties with a population greater that 75,000 to cooperate with qualified rescue organizations and make available to them animals who have been in the shelter for their required holding period prior to being killed. Privately run shelters are exempt from the requirement of establishing lifesaving relationships with rescues that they are not already working with, but they would be prevented from withholding from adoption any animal based on age, size or breed. This sounds like a no-brainer, but currently in Houston, for example, the larger private shelters will not offer pit bull terriers for adoption to the public.

Legislation with the provisions of HB 2981 is long overdue in Texas. Among the many superlatives associated with the Lone Star State is the dubious distinction of leading the country in shelter deaths with over 500,000 animals killed annually. That is more than one eighth of the total for all 50 states!

For those of us in the no-kill movement, the reduction in shelter killing that HB 2981 will produce is sufficient rationale to pass it, but a look at the economics of shelter management with regard to adoptions and transfers to rescues versus killing makes an equally strong case for budget hawks to support the bill whether or not they have a heart for animals.

In addition to working with all stakeholders, including rescues and advocacy organizations, such as Fix Austin and Austin Pets Alive, municipal and private shelter managers, and CEOs, Best Friends engaged John Dunham & Associates, an economic research firm, which specializes in studying the fiscal impact of legislation. They basically do a cost/benefit analysis – how much will it cost, how much will it save, and what are the peripheral benefits or detriments. Here’s what they had to say:


Interestingly, state-funded animal control organizations seem to excel in eliminating their most valuable assets – namely dogs and cats available for adoption. In fact, adoption fees can be significant revenue streams. In the case of the 49 counties included in this analysis, the average adoption fee for a dog is $75.15 and for a cat $61.32. By killing as many as 80 percent of the animals entering the shelter system, these state-funded operations lose out on this potential revenue, while at the same time incurring all of the additional expenses associated with this policy.

By requiring shelters to make animals available to acceptable private rescue shelters, the proposed legislation could not only save the lives of thousands of animals, but would encourage shelters to generate revenues rather than simply serve as large scale, expensive euthanasia operations.

Killing a dog costs a shelter $36 on average ($33 for a cat) on top of the $13.50 per day for the cost of care and feeding per dog ($8.70 per cat per day). Running all these numbers, it is estimated that this legislation could reduce net government expenditures for animal control by $241,680 for each percent of total dogs and cats entering shelters that are transferred to rescue. With the Austin adoption rate as a laudable and achievable benchmark, it is reasonable to say that if all of the participating counties have programs as least as productive as Austin’s, the statewide savings could be as high as $6.4 million per year. That’s real money, even in Texas!

Killing shelter animals just doesn’t pay.

HB 2981 has generated a lot of high-profile support. Willie Nelson has done a PSA for Best Friends in support, as has longtime Texas favorite Asleep at the Wheel lead Ray Benson.

As things stand, the bill has passed out of the Urban Affairs Committee by a unanimous 5-0 vote. It needs to be scheduled for a full House vote by the Calendars Committee. If you live in Texas, your voice is urgently needed. Politics is not a spectator sport. Texans, please take action today.


Francis Battista