During the 88th Regular Session, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 4164, authored by Representative Phillip Cortez (D-San Antonio) and sponsored by Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston). HB 4164 increases the fines for individuals attempting to masquerade their dogs as Service Dogs and adds 30 hours of community service to nonprofits or government agencies serving people with disabilities as a penalty.
Service Dogs, Inc. supported the bill. SDI Founder and CEO Sheri Soltes and SDI graduate Ada Kay Brown (seen in photo with her Hearing Dog Sensei) testified in favor of the bill to the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) also supported the bill.
“We are elated that the Texas Legislature wants to protect Texans with disabilities’ rights of equal access to public facilities and safety,” said Soltes. “When people try to pass their pet dogs off as Service Dogs to take them into a store or restaurant, those untrained dogs often end up attacking Guide Dogs or Service Dogs, injuring them, and the disabled person using them. Blind Texans have said they’re afraid to go out after their Guide Dog has been attacked in a store. We’ve had veterans injured when they tried to get between their Service Dog and another dog attacking it in a grocery store. This bill will put some bite into the law where it belongs.”
"I am proud to have sponsored this important legislation for both our service animals and the people who rely on their dedicated and faithful assistance," said Senate Sponsor John Whitmire.
“This bill is another monumental step forward Texas has taken to advance animal welfare in the state during this legislative session,” said THLN Executive Director Shelby Bobosky. “We are so grateful to our champions, Representative Cortez and Senator Whitmire, for their dedication on this issue that will protect our disabled population as well as the incredible service animals that they rely on.”