Abandoning An Animal Under Texas Law
Animal cruelty may appear in many ways, even in ways one might think is more humane than dumping an animal at the local shelter – dump them somewhere else and give them a chance at life. What most people don’t know is that it is considered a criminal offense when you abandon your pet.
What is considered abandonment of an animal in Texas?
Under the Texas animal cruelty law, the term “abandon” is defined as abandoning an animal in the person’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.
“A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:[…](4) abandons unreasonably an animal in the person’s custody;”
Abandonment Vs Surrendering
Surrendering a dog means that you are relinquishing ownership of the pet to a shelter or rescue.
See more information below about how to rehome a pet.
What is the penalty for abandoning an animal in Texas?
Abandoning an animal is specifically addressed under the cruelty to non-livestock animals. For cruelty convictions involving abandoning an animal, the defendant will be punished with a Class A misdemeanor, which may include a fine up to $4,000, jail time up to a year, or both. If the conviction is a third offense, the state may punish the defendant with a state jail felony. Under Texas law, a state jail felony may include jail time ranging from 180 days to 2 years and a fine up to $10,000.
What if people are dumping their animals on your property?
Sometimes, certain properties are very attractive for dumping animals. For example, the property is at the end of the road, or it is remote, or close to a shelter that does not take animals outside of city limits. One recommendation is to buy some very simple game cameras and hook them up to your phone. You can catch those in the act along with their license plates and report them to the police.
Consider posting a sign to warn potential violators that they are on camera and providing them with resources to handle their pets properly prior instead of dumping and abandoning them.
Considering rehoming a pet?
Sometimes, people have multiple pets in the home and the pets just aren’t getting along. In this case, consider reaching out to local resources like a vet, shelter, trainer, or rescue group that may be able to talk through problems and solutions over the phone with the pet owners. A lot of pet parents just don’t know where to turn to sort out those difficult situations in their homes.
If you are having issues at home with your pet, local resources and vets are available to help you work through them before you consider finding a new home or surrendering your pet.
How do you rehome a pet?
For many, a pet is more than just an animal. It becomes a family member and a friend. But when someone is unable to care for their furry friends any longer, setting your pet up for success to be cared for or adopted will help them get to their next home.
If you can no longer take care of your pet, there are legal choices you can make to make sure your pet is still cared for.
Choosing to re-home your pet is not an easy decision but in order to find it a good home, there are some easy steps to follow.
- First, make sure your pet is healthy and ready for a new family. This includes making sure your pet is spayed and neutered, up to date on all it’s vaccines, and that is knows basic commands.
- Take pictures of your pet and write a catchy description detailing their personality.
- Consider providing the new family some of the pet supplies you may not need anymore. Collar, leash, bowl, food, kennel, etc.
- Gather existing vet records and registration information for the new owners.
Where to bring a pet to be rehomed:
- Animal Shelter – If you are bringing your pet to be rehomed at a shelter, you must go to the one within your city limits.
- Rescue Groups – You can also get help from animal rescue groups, make sure you research some that specifically pertain to the animal you are rehoming. Some sheltering and rescue organizations may post your pet’s picture and profile on their website as a courtesy listing, while your pet stays in your home. Your local agencies may have other programs to help you rehome your pet.
- Ask Family and Friends – Ask your network to see if they might be interested in adding your furry friend to their family.
- Post on Social Media – Consider posting your animal on local and animal-specific Facebook Groups to search for potential homes.
Dumping other pets?
You should never abandon any animal, not just cats and dogs.
It is possible to introduce non-native invasive species when aquariums or bait tanks are dumped illegally. For example, a person who intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence releases a regulated snake from captivity commits a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $4,000; and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year. Read more about this here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/faq/business/permits/nonindigenous_snakes/index.phtml
Looking for more resources and information?
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Texas Humane Network is a 501(c)3 dedicated to promoting the Humane Treatment of Animals Through Education, Training, and Outreach. We aid in the enforcement of animal cruelty laws by spreading awareness to agencies and providing education, resources, and training.
Last Updated: July 2023