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EDITORIAL: Abbott bites dogs, owners should bite back

EDITORIAL: Abbott bites dogs, owners should bite back

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With Republican Party of Texas Chairman and right-wing agitator Allen West and former state senator Don Huffines emerging as threats to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s vision of a third term, Abbott is quite obviously turning frantic. Instead of offering Texans sound, rational, wise leadership, he’s desperately trying to demonstrate he’s a tougher hombre than anyone else: He’s crowdfunding to build the former president’s border wall, defying federal gun laws, demanding voter rights be rigorously restricted and pressing for more ways to ban the teaching of critical race theory, which state legislators just banned.

But letting Fido bake to death in the roasting summer sun? Well, yes, that’s also OK with Gov. Abbott. He’s Texas tough.

Last week Abbott vetoed Senate Bill 474, which would have allowed law enforcement to immediately render aid when suffering dogs are found cruelly tethered outside, exposed to the blazing heat or hail or ice, and/or are left without fresh water or sufficient shelter. The bill was supported by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, whites and non-whites. Abbott gave absolutely no indication during the legislative session that he had reservations about the bill. His insistence now that a new state law to protect dogs isn’t needed clashes with what law enforcement officers witness daily in Texas.

“Currently the [state] law is unusable, mainly due to the 24-hour notice that is required to be given to people violating the law,” Jamey Cantrell, president of the Texas Animal Control Association, told lawmakers this spring. “As we saw earlier this year during the freeze, and as we will see again in the coming months when temperatures rise, 24 hours in Texas weather can mean the difference between life and death. There are numerous other deficiencies with the Texas law that [Senate Bill 474] also fixes, such as defining ‘shelter’ and ensuring animals are not kept in dangerous or unhealthy situations.”

Grapeland Police Lt. Carly Foster from rural East Texas told lawmakers a dog owner “may claim that a piece of plywood leaning against a barn is adequate shelter, even though it’s clearly not and will not protect him from the extreme elements in Texas.” During the freeze that killed many Texans who lost power (thanks to an independently run power grid Abbott now claims is fixed), Foster fielded “198 calls about dogs chained, and we usually get only about 25 to 50. During the February freeze we had two dogs that froze to death subsequently because we could not [immediately] enforce the law.” Foster also delivered to state legislators a bag of chains she had removed from tethered dogs.

One can tell a great deal about a man by how he treats his dog who, after all, seldom has much say in the matter and relies on the judgment, care and affection of his master in all things. Abbott has revealed what kind of a man he is. He has vetoed a bill that demands Texans with outdoor dogs at least provide “an area that allows the dog to avoid standing water and any other substance that could cause harm to the health of a dog that is subjected to prolonged exposure to the substance, including feces or urine; shade from direct sunlight; and potable water.” Next year will offer many choices in election bouts, but Abbott’s abject cruelty should settle the matter for all of us who love dogs.

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