Texas Laws

It is part of the Houston Humane Society’s mission to end cruelty and abuse of animals in our community. As one of the primary animal welfare organizations in Houston, TX and surrounding areas, the Houston Humane Society works with several law enforcement agencies and Precincts to bring justice to abused animals.
While many situations break our heart and we would like to remove the animal from the owner/situation, the Houston Humane Society as a non-profit organization does not have the right to do so. Law enforcement can only act on what the law allows.
The Houston Humane Society is not an Animal Control Agency, however, collaboration between Animal Control Agency, animal welfare organizations and law enforcement agencies does take place in most animal abuse situations. For example, the Houston Humane Society has relations with the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Veterinary Public Health, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Crime Stoppers Houston and several Constables and Sheriffs from different Precincts.
During a legal animal cruelty or abuse case/process, the Houston Humane Society provides housing and medical care for the abused animal(s), which is at minimum 20 days and often much longer. In court, our veterinarians will support our officers by providing expert testimony necessary to obtain convictions. Upon completion of the legal process, the Houston Humane Society abides by the court rulings and place the animal(s) in our adoption program, a rescue program or other disposition as necessary. 
Before filing a cruelty or abuse complaint to any agency, please read the Texas Penal Code sections 42.09 and 42.10 description of what is considered cruelty/abuse according to the law. Once a cruelty report has been investigated and filed, the judge has the ultimate decision as to the penalty given to the abuser.
To report cruelty please go to our website and fill out the form which will inform the Harris County Animal Cruelty Task Force (HCACTF). The Houston Humane Society does not have Animal Control Officers or units, but works together with many in Houston, TX to provide medical care and a second chance to an abused animal via our adoption program. 
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.
Texas Laws that Protect Animals from Cruelty

In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed SB 5 - the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act - to protect unattended dogs restrained outdoors.

  • Defines adequate shelter to protect dogs from exposure to extreme temperatures, standing water and ensures the dog can stand, turn around, and lie down.
  • Requires access to drinkable water.
  • Prohibits the use of chain restraints which cause pain and injuries.
  • Strikes the 24-hour waiting period so animal services and law enforcement can take immediate action for dogs in distress.
Special thanks to Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) for providing detailed information to educate and empower. 

You can find the resource guide in Spanish and English HERE

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:
  1. Torturing an animal
  2. Failing to provide adequate food or care, or if applying to non-livestock animals, failing to provide adequate food, care or shelter.
  3. Abandoning an animal
  4. Transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner
  5. Killing, seriously injuring or poisoning an animal
  6. Causing an animal to fight with another
  7. Using a live animal as a lure in a dog race
  8. Tripping a horse
  9. Injuring an animal belonging to another person
  10. 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.
Section 42.10 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.
Section 42.105 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.
Sources:, Texas Health and Safety Code 821.001