Bill of the Week: House Bill 1800

Rep. Walle proposes bill to rein in dog attacks

Bill of the Week

House Bill 1800

Author: Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston

Filed: Feb. 23; heard in Urban Affairs: April 21

Dogs are supposed to be a person's best friend. But friendships break down, sometimes even turn violent. Like any friendship, it can be important not to overreact. Especially since, unlike humans, dogs can't call the cops.

Laying out his bill, Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, said it originated with residents near the Melrose Civic Club in his district, after the U.S. Postal Service warned them that they may suspend mail deliveries because there were so many stray dogs attacking their staff. Houston is the No. 1 city in America for dog attacks on postal staff, and Texas has six cities in the top 30, so this is a real problem. The state already has a legal definition of dangerous dogs: Walle's bill creates legal definitions of nuisance and aggressive dogs, as well as other best practices intended to reduce the risks of attack. It also adds in new microchipping language, so stray dogs that are not aggressive, but simply lost and scared, can be reunited with their owners faster. Houston has already adopted near-identical measures. Walle said, "Combined, these changes will allow local authorities more discretion to target aggressive or stray dogs before they escalate to dangerous levels."

However, speaking against the bill, Michael White, director of the Veterinary Public Health Division of Harris County, said the current laws "adequately address aggressive dogs." And he warned that these new definitions would be an unnecessary addition to already overburdened county staff, and would leave them chasing "barking and defecating dogs when they should be working on priority public health threats." Houston lawyer Zandra Anderson, who specializes in pet law, argues that the bill is so broadly termed that pretty much any dog can be classified as a nuisance. For example, where the bill says that a law officer may intervene when they think an animal might become a threat, she notes there is no actual definition of "aggressive disposition, so it can mean anything a police officer or animal control officer wants it to mean."

Walle (a dog owner himself) has said that his door is open to working with opponents of the bill, and a committee substitute is in the works.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Bill of the Week
Bill of the Week
Bill of the Week
Bill by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez would support community schools

Richard Whittaker, March 6, 2015

Bill of the Week
Bill of the Week
Rep. Molly White wants to protect Texas from the UN's sustainability agenda

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 27, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Rep. Armando Walle, Michael White, Zandra Anderson, 84th Texas Legislature, HB 1800, Rep. Armando Walle, dog attacks

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle