What’s the Point of Texas Animal Cruelty Laws?

Note – contains raw language.

Concern for animals is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.

– Harriet Beecher Stowe




One situation that always pulls at my heart is the sounds of a puppy crying and nothing breaks my heart more than seeing a dog abused or neglected. Living in West Texas, I thought I’d seen the worst of humanity when I was serving on the board of a large rescue. Driving down a dirt road off in a rural part of a local county seeing hundreds of German shepherds and collies living in subpar conditions topped it for me. Then I saw a female dog that only had three legs with a pen full of puppies. But that was not the gut kick – there was a horse with a broken leg, puss coming from several areas on his body, flies covering his exposed flesh, and blood coming from his mouth just about did my heart in. The pain in that Mustang’s eyes was unbearable when I reached out to caress its face. I never could get his blood out of my jeans. Often that horse still gives me fucking nightmares.

There have been other cases of animal abuse I’ve encountered here in West Texas, but nothing would break my heart more than the story I’m about to share with you. Because you see the dog in question was right next door.

This story starts on a rather chilly, foggy, and heavily misting day when I was working on camera trap photos in October 2017. I kept hearing the crying sounds of a puppy over and over – nonstop. It was outside next door in the cold wet. Ginny, my friend told me to call Sundown City Hall to report it. I did.  By the time I called the puppy had been crying nonstop for FOUR hours. At the time of the call, I was told no police officer was on duty to help and would not be coming on duty until after 3 p.m. The puppy continued crying and crying and crying. Not even my loud Goth music and Fox news playing covered that puppy’s crying. Then the crying stopped about 4 p.m. By then the cold, wetness of the day had not ceased. The puppy had stayed in that cold and wet for nearly eight hours. There was not a damn thing I could about it.

The story jumps forward to February 4, 2018, with a completely different puppy.  I was working on my personal photographs and was watching the horrible movie “The Mist.” It’s a dreadful movie because of the stupid cop-out ending – so don’t watch it. I was working on a variety of photographs when the sounds of a puppy from next door in clear distress echoed through my patio door and over the sounds of the movie. The distress cries worsen over the course of the movie. The sounds of “The Mist” nor the walls of the house did not drown out the cries. I silently cursed.

One cry is what got me up. With my continued cursing, I went out into the backyard to see where the cries were coming from. Pausing to listen I determined the sounds were coming from the alley. Upon opening the back gate I immediately laid eyes on the face that was making the crying sounds. The puppy had its head out of a hole underneath the fence. It was using its front paws to claw its way out of the hole. The dog was crawling out of a hole that’s been there since the former renters lived there. The hole leads into the alley next to our fence. Due to their metal fence possibly doing more harm to this puppy, I let it continue to struggle out on its own so I could return it to the next-door neighbors, whom I continued to curse, using lots of f-words.

Once the grey pup gained its freedom – my heart went into my throat and I stood frozen in sheer horror. Blood and guts don’t bother me. Vomit makes me gag. This puppy sent chills down my spine and nearly brought me to tears on the spot – much like that Mustang.

It was extremely emaciated. Nearly every single rib was showing on its tiny body. Bite wounds and other sores were evident. But that’s not what made me stop breathing. It was the way he was walking. His back legs looked as if they were tied together with an invisible string making him look like he could not walk. He wobbled and dragged his back legs. His legs or pelvis upon looking closer at him appeared as if they had been broken and not healed back properly.

As I picked him up, his tail wagging, I knew in my heart right then, my intentions of returning the puppy to the neighbors was a mute point. Hell no!

I closed the gate and called my friend, Ginny to ask for help. As I was waiting on Ginny to arrive, I sat the pup down and it started running around in the backyard. Dragging its back legs. He was climbing under things and exploring like a puppy should be doing. When I called to him, his darling little tail wagged like crazy. He gave me kisses. He sat down more than once and looked around his surroundings. It was like he was seeing the world for the first time.

Ginny arrived with Marissa. At first Ginny said she would return the puppy giving the neighbors a stern verbal warning, but then changed her mind. Hell no! Ginny went looking for one of the local police officer’s who did not respond and then went to the city manager. When she showed both men the puppy, they both agreed that it was a case of animal cruelty.

This is where the synopsis comes in: puppy was seized, a report was filed, other dogs were seized, one seized dog had puppies in the Sundown shelter, dogs including the newborn puppies were given back, with the abused puppy being turned over to a local rescue. The vet that rescue uses determined that the puppy had been confined to an area so small he could not move and had been laying in his own pee and poo for a long time.

Immediately, your thinking that justice would prevail for this abused puppy. This is where the laws set to protect animals in Texas don’t work. If this was a clear case of animal cruelty where’s the justice for the puppy? Let’s see – the city judge did not want to deal with the case. City attorney made a deal with the neighbor’s lawyer that all dogs, except for the abused puppy would not go back. According to last reports, the criminal charges are still pending, but for some reason, word has it the Hockley County judge did not want to deal with it and the story is the case was transferred to Lubbock County. Then the plot thickens that until the seized puppy’s back leg comes off they cannot file proper charges of animal cruelty. WTH?

Ok – let’s stop right here and show you the penal code under Texas law on animal cruelty.  Animal cruelty based on this case is pretty damn straightforward. Under Texas Penal Code Sec. 42.092.  CRUELTY TO NONLIVESTOCK ANIMALS it clearly defines what animal cruelty is. It’s not hard to interpret this law and if animal cruelty is evident in any case, especially this case it is clearly prosecutable OR it should be.

Here is the full law:

(a) In this section:

(1)  “Abandon” includes abandoning an animal in the person’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.

(2)  “Animal” means a domesticated living creature, including any stray or feral cat or dog, and a wild living creature previously captured.  The term does not include an uncaptured wild living creature or a livestock animal.

(3)  “Cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering.

(4)  “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of an animal subject to the person’s care and control, regardless of ownership of the animal.

(5)  “Depredation” has the meaning assigned by Section 71.001, Parks and Wildlife Code.

(6)  “Livestock animal” has the meaning assigned by Section 42.09.

(7)  “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter” includes food, water, care, or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.

(8)  “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.

(b)  A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

(1)  tortures an animal or in a cruel manner kills or causes serious bodily injury to an animal;

(2)  without the owner’s effective consent, kills, administers poison to, or causes serious bodily injury to an animal;

(3)  fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;

(4)  abandons unreasonably an animal in the person’s custody;

(5)  transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner;

(6)  without the owner’s effective consent, causes bodily injury to an animal;

(7)  causes one animal to fight with another animal, if either animal is not a dog;

(8)  uses a live animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack; or

(9)  seriously overworks an animal.


Sadly, for those of us who are involved in animal rescue, we see it more and more that animal cruelty on a local Texas level is not taken seriously.

Sadly, this puppy will have to undergo surgery to remove one of his back legs because of the way he’d been confined in such a small space he could not even move and or barely stand. He slept in his own pee and poo that caused sores on his body. He’d been bitten more than once by another dog. He was starving for food and water. He was starving more for love. The one thing that endeared me to him was when he boofed at Barry coming into the backyard.

Thankfully, this puppy has the chance at a brighter future than what he was raised in. Hopefully, he will find his person or a family that will give him a loving home. No matter what he did endure his bright eyes showed that his heart is still full of love. The rescue that took him is giving him the best care. I wholeheartedly trust the vet who’s overseeing his care and wellness.

What my friends and I have lost is faith in is our justice system when it comes to animal cruelty. What’s the point of having state animal cruelty laws when those laws refuse to be enforced by the people charged to enforce them? What’s the point of my friends and I saving this precious babe, when others refused to do what’s right for him?

We did right by him. Why cannot others who are in positions of authority take up the cause and do the same?