HARRIS COUNTY ANIMAL CRUELTY TASK FORCE
To Report Animal Cruelty/Abuse* in Harris County
Harris County Animal Cruelty Task Force (HCACTF) is designed to be a proactive & comprehensive approach to investigating human cruelty against animals. Concerned citizens can report cruelty through either the website, which is the most effective, or by calling the central call center number.
Houston Humane Society (HHS) has expanded our commitment to fight animal cruelty and will play a significant and essential role in the task force by continuing to fund 100% of the salaries of two Harris County Precinct 5 (Pct. 5) law enforcement officers dedicated solely to investigating animal cruelty cases. HHS will continue to provide housing and medical care for the abused animals during the legal process, which is at minimum 20 days, and often much longer. In court, HHS veterinarians will support our officers by providing expert testimony necessary to obtain convictions. Upon completion of the legal process, HHS will abide by the court rulings and place the animal(s) in our adoption program, a rescue program or other disposition as necessary.
Harris County Precinct 5 Constables Office (Pct. 5) is the lead investigative agency. Two contracted deputies will be dedicated solely to investigating animal cruelty complaints in both Harris County and the City of Houston. The deputies will arrange transportation of seized animals to HHS or VPH for medical care and housing, and handle both the civil & criminal components of animal cruelty prosecution. In addition to underwriting the contracts, HHS provides equipment and specialized training for the deputies.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) will provide one deputy to work with the two Pct. 5 deputies to investigate the complaints.
County Veterinary Public Health (VPH) will maintain the call center taking reports and calls from the public. General and animal control related calls will be handled as is currently being done. Calls defined as animal cruelty will be sent to Pct. 5 to coordinate investigations. In addition to their regular duties, VPH animal control officers will respond to officer requests and transport when necessary to VPH or HHS.
Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO) will prosecute cases that meet the definition of Animal Cruelty under the State of Texas Penal and Health and Safety Codes*.
Crime Stoppers Houston (CSH) will provide media awareness of the Animal Cruelty Task Force and its purpose. Crime Stoppers will also provide education and continued awareness of the Task Force and its activities.
Houston Police Department (HPD) will respond to animal cruelty and abuse cases within the City of Houston and work in cooperation with the HCACTF Investigators.
Houston PetSet (HPS) will provide financial assistance and resources to promote the Task Force, maintain the website and work with Crime Stoppers to provide ongoing education to the community.
Drumbeat Marketing will maintain the Task Force website.
*Before filing a complaint, please read the description of what is considered cruelty/abuse as described by the Texas Penal Code sections 42.09, 42.10.
While many situations are heinous and we feel abusers should be punished,
Law enforcement can only act on what the law allows.
In Texas, two types of laws protect animals from cruelty: Civil laws and Criminal laws. They differ in evidence needed and penalties imposed.
Civil Cases: If a judge rules a person(s) has been cruel to an animal(s), he/she determines disposition of the animal(s) and may order the person(s) to pay restitution.
The scope of civil laws is broader than criminal and does not differentiate between domestic and wild animals. Civil statutes have more narrow definitions of what constitutes cruelty, therefore, a person(s) could engage in actions not prosecutable under Texas criminal laws, but held liable for their actions under civil laws.
Criminal Cases: If judge rules a person(s) to have cruelly treated an animal(s) a person(s) may face penalties including fines, jail or both. Those under the age of 18 are also required to undergo counseling if convicted of criminal animal cruelty.
Texas criminal laws only apply to domesticated animals, such as house pets and livestock. Statute defines domesticated animals as “living creature(s) or any wild living creature previously captured and subject to a person’s care and control”.
Criminal animal cruelty convictions are classified as either a:
Felony which is punishable by a $10,000 fine and from 6 months to 10 years in jail; or, a Misdemeanor which is defined as a criminal charge that, depending on class, carries a potential jail sentence of one year or less and/or $4,000 fine.
Section 42.09 "Cruelty to Livestock Animals"
and Section 42.092 "Cruelty of Non-Livestock Animals"
of the Texas Penal Code
prohibits a person from intentionally or knowingly cruelly treating an animal. The following actions define cruel treatment:
- Torturing an animal
- Failing to provide adequate food or care, or if applying to non-livestock animals, failing to provide adequate food, care or shelter.
- Abandoning an animal
- Transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner
- Killing, seriously injuring or poisoning an animal
- Causing an animal to fight with another
- Using a live animal as a lure in a dog race
- Tripping a horse
- Injuring an animal belonging to another person
- Seriously overworking an animal.
Exclusions: Texas’ animal cruelty statutes are narrow in scope because they exclude certain types of animals such as circus animals, wild animals and animals used in experiments, from protection under Texas animal cruelty laws.
of the Texas Penal Code defines dog fighting as “any situation in which one dog attacks or fights with another dog” and deems offensive such activities as attending a dog fight as a spectator, or participating in the earnings or operation of a dog fighting facility. Dog fighting can be judged a felony or a misdemeanor.
of the Texas Penal Code defines cockfighting as “any situation in which one cock attacks or fights with another cock” and can be judged a felony or misdemeanor crime.
Federal law prohibits any interstate or foreign transport of fighting animals.
To report other animal nuisance complaints such as, stray animals, barking dogs, please contact your local animal control agency for the laws in your city/county.