Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Texas Legislation for Pets in 2011

Skip Trimble, THLN

The Houston area has a huge overpopulation of dogs and cats. That includes counties adjacent to Harris County in Southeast Texas, such as Montgomery County. There are several bills being proposed in the 2011 82nd Texas legislative session. We focus on two of them here that are sponsored by the Texas Humane Legislative Network (THLN), a lobby based in Dallas working on behalf of animal advocates in Texas. Skip Trimble from THLN was here in The Woodlands to discuss what to expect to see proposed this legislative session for improving the conditions of domestic animals and reduce their overpopulation.
Natalie Johnson - volunteer welcoming members and guests
The Woodlands Dog Park Club hosted the presentation and discussion. Both bills are preventative in nature and designed to strengthen existing animal cruelty laws. The Woodlands Commentary supports these two bills and will follow them through the 82nd legislative process during the next 5 1/2 months. 

  1.  License large scale breeders! - this law is commonly known as the Puppy Mill law but is being formally called the "Large Scale Commercial Breeder Bill". (This applies to the volume of breeders, not the size of breeder dogs.) It has no application to retail sales or kennels unless they are also the breeders of the animals they sell. It does ensure that any breeder having more than 10 breeding females, irrespective of size or breed,  (and selling their offspring) be required to license their wholesale business. Breeding for profit is considered a root cause for cruelty to animals, thus a law is proposed to regulate the large commercial establishments, to protect the animals being used for breeding. In many establishments ("mills"), the animals are confined to cages and do not live a life with a human companion. It is these conditions under which they live that is the cause for concern and inspection. Those of us who have been regulated by the Texas Licensing  understand the Licensing Commission's process and the expectations of the commission to protect the public, in this case the domestic animal population within "puppy mills". This law is also designed to address the conditions of animals raised for fighting. There are approximately 91 such breeders known to sell domestic animals in Texas. The intent from inspection is that the puppy mills should be clean; the animals must be provided exercise opportunities, fed and watered adequately, properly handled, immunized against disease, and in general, be treated humanely instead of simply a commodity. The cost of enforcement will be self-funded, in the same way as other inspections in other industries, e.g., nail salons or beauticians. Texas ranks low in legal protection for animals. This needs to be fixed. The situation is very embarrassing, especially to a native Texan like myself! 
  2. Protect animals seized in cruelty cases!- there is a need to clarify the legal processes and tighten the law to minimize the suffering of animals seized using existing laws. We must have up-front and adequate security for the cost of appealing the removal of the ownership of animals which have been mistreated. This is brought about by a slow appellate process in our court system. A surety bond is needed to cover the cost of the care of animals during the appellate process. This is known as the "Clarify Appellate Procedures in Cases Involving Seizure of Cruelly Treated Animals".

Everything here is focussed on the health of animals. Yes, we have laws against cruelty, but they constantly need review for effectiveness and to determine if there are unwanted loopholes. We want laws that prevent as much as practical, the harming of animals, similar to those protecting the health of humans, not waiting to slap the hands of the offenders, but imposing consequences for not treating animals humanely. Man must protect the handling of wild and domestic life found upon this earth. In Texas, the THLN seeks exactly that in our state. There may be no other planet in the universe that supports life. We have been blessed with creatures who love and trust us as much as we should love and trust them. 

The Commentary will explore the related issues and facts in subsequent articles. In the meantime, I encourage you to help the THLN in any way you can. They need support when the bills make it to a vote by the committees and on the floor of the two houses. They need local lobbying from grass root constituents and they need  financial support. It costs a lot of money to contract lobbyists and push bills through the incredible process maze of our legislature. Legislators are being confronted now with many legislative bills. They are prioritizing their agendas and trading for favors. The time is now! In June, it will be all over again until the next session in two years. THLN has been successful in the past with several projects including the license plate labeled "Animal Friendly"  which has provided funding for neutering 800,000 animals in this state. When you see a license plate with this inscription, it signifies the car owner contributed $22 to the low cost neutering grant program.

Please support these bills, especially the puppy mill bill by letting your legislative representatives understand your concern and your desire to protect dogs and cats (and other animals) from abuse.

Legislative contacts for The Woodlands:
Texas House Representative, District 15 Rob Eisler Official Government webpage
Texas Senate Representative, District 4 Tommy Williams Official Government webpage

Since parts of The Woodlands lie outside the districts above, here is a handy website to determine who your representatives are and in what district you reside

Friday, January 14, 2011

Waterway Taxis - issuing an RFI for business operation

The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) was challenged last year with the responsibility to make the expensive water cruisers cost-effective for The Woodlands taxpayers. Today the CVB announced that the bureau is now accepting business proposals for their use as catered meal vessels on the 1.5 mile waterway. In the proposal, there is room for a variety of related business models including multiple business establishments overseen by an umbrella business. This could be an exciting time for our community if we can find creative thinking in the catering industry to build a profitable business with them, a possible win/win for residents and businesses alike. This initiative is aimed to provide a revenue source to offset expenses of the boats' maintenance and operation. An RFI (Request for Interest) has been issued for sponsorship of all six cruisers including name and advertising.

The scenario is that three of the boats will continue to be used for waterway transportation, principally tourist rides. The other three will be used to provide catered meal services, part of the original vision for these water taxis. Currently, two of the boats are equipped with tables and one is not, of the three to be used for catered services.  Twenty people can be seated in each of the two boats with tables and 80 can be seated in the third without tables. The boats will be ready for operation about April of this year after refurbishment, scheduled to begin very soon.

Any business venture interested in this opportunity can contact the Woodlands CVB. Please refer to the link below for additional details and contacts.

The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau 

Woodlands Village Associations and Design Review Committees

The 2011 election for The Woodlands villages are upon us. We are nearing the deadline for volunteers which make this community so great. I am noticing a waning energy among those I know who volunteer their time for the community.  We can influence what happens and how it happens by being engaged in the activities of the villages. I made a stand initially for the continuance and even integration of the village associations with the Township, because I could see that the heart and soul of The Woodlands was there. I am  seeing more and more complacency and disinterest in the community. Please volunteer and come out to vote for those who you wish to be working for your village. If the volunteers detect a lack of interest, they are less likely to work for you. The deadline for submitting your name for one of the positions in your village is Thursday January 20th at 5PM. Filing forms and instructions can be found on the township website. The election begins February 14th and ends Feb 19th at 6PM at the Township Service Center on Lake Woodlands Dr.

Township website - Election information