Featuring suggestions and tips from Texas Humane Legislation Network’s Executive Director Shelby Bobosky
Did you know that with a couple of minutes of your time, you can advocate for the animals and effectuate change with Texas laws? This year, a piece of legislation that could improve the lives of canines that live outside is the “Safe Outdoor Dogs” bill, House Bill 873, and Senate Bill 474.
HB 873, filed by Representative Nicole Collier, and SB 474, filed by Senator Eddie Lucio, improves the current law through a few simple but key clarifications. HB 873 and SB 474 defines adequate shelter to protect dogs from extreme outdoor temperatures and prevents the use of overly heavy, cruel chain restraints.
The bill also ensures dogs have access to drinking water and can move around without being trapped in standing water or mud. HB 873 and SB 474 explicitly exempts outdoor sporting activities like camping, herding, and field trials. Additionally, this bill does not penalize people who humanely tether their dogs, and it does not outlaw tethering. Finally, the bill strikes the 24-hour waiting period to allow law enforcement to address critical situations immediately, instead of only after tragedy has struck.
To successfully pass this legislation, it is tremendously helpful for those working in animal welfare to become advocates. Your elected officials want to hear from their constituents and know that people in their district care about the bill. Find out who represents you today, and then get involved by doing the following:
- Make the time to call or email your legislators to request their support. You can also request to have a virtual meeting with the elected official by calling their phone number and saying, “I would like to Zoom with either the Representative/Senator or staffer that works on House Bill 873/Senate Bill 474.”
- Be sure to do some research on your legislator’s voting history on animal welfare issues. You can find your elected official’s voting scorecard on Texas Humane Legislation Network’s website here. If they have a 100% score, thank them! If you have concerns about why they’ve voted for certain legislation in the past, kindly ask them for their reasoning.
- Be respectful of, and efficient with, the time that you are allotted. When your time is up, your time is up! To be most effective, you may want to write out your testimony and practice it.
- Bring fact sheets with you to the meeting. Offer to send them to the person you are speaking with after the call. If you have any props to show, for example, a heavy chain you may have removed from a dog, bring them to your meeting and explain that it is legal to restrain dogs with it.
- Talk to your legislator/staffer about the bill and why it is important, and feel free to speak about your personal experiences. If you are asked a question about the bill and you do not know the answer, it is perfectly OK to say you will get back to the person with the correct information. Do not make up the answer to a question you are unsure of!
- Be polite! You will rarely get a chance to speak with the actual legislator, and you will likely speak to someone on the legislator’s staff. The staffer’s opinion of you and what you are trying to advocate for is incredibly important because it speaks to your credibility. Have patience. Courtesy is key. Your bill is just one of the hundreds, maybe thousands, that they are working on.
- At the very end of the meeting, make the ask for support. “Could we have Representative/Senator [insert name]’s support of House Bill 873/Senate Bill 474?”
- Follow up with a handwritten thank you. Do not underestimate its importance.
- Follow your Representative and Senator on social media. Engage with their posts and find areas where you agree with them, including issues outside of animal welfare. Do not start fights or get involved in the comments section of these sites unless there is untruthful information being shared; keep it civil.
- Note: If you contact an elected official that does not represent you, you are not one of their constituents. If you are a Texan, they might pay some attention, but legislators generally do not care what those from outside the state are calling about.
Following these tips will help make the meeting with your elected official, or a member of their staff, successful. To stay up to date on HB 873 and SB 474, sign up for Texas Humane Legislation Network’s action alerts by clicking here.