Hill County Paw Pals, Hill County, Texas

Why Does Hill County Need an Animal Shelter?
By: Sarah Bennett


The simple answer to this question involves four issues of liability: Health, Economy, Legalities, and Safety.  We are faced with a rapidly deteriorating situation in Hill County as the pet overpopulation crisis becomes more and more daunting each day.  The lack of county-wide animal control services opens us all up to these four potential liabilities.  Hill County is the only county and Hillsboro is the only major city in Central Texas without an animal shelter that provides a public adoption center for dogs and cats.  Communities throughout Central Texas are saving on average 5,000 dogs and cats each year as a direct result of their adoption centers within their animal control facilities.  As residents and concerned citizens of Hill County we owe it to ourselves and our community to allow for the same opportunity for our unwanted companion animals.

Put simply, Hill County is in non-compliance with Texas Health and Safety Codes.  Chapter 821, Subchapter C of this code requires all animals in animal shelters be euthanized in a humane manner with only one of two methods by a licensed veterinarian or certified technician: administrating sodium pentobarbital or commercially compressed carbon monoxide.  In Subchapter C, “animal shelter” is defined as a facility that collects, impounds or keeps stray, homeless, abandoned or unwanted animals.  Thus, Subchapter C applies to rescue groups, humane societies, public animal shelters, and confinement areas used by law enforcement officers and community appointed officers for abandoned or unwanted animals in the interest of public safety and health.  This requirement puts our communities without animal control service (only Hillsboro and Whitney have dedicated animal control) in a severe dilemma because animal shelters surrounding Hill County have already closed their doors to our county’s communities because they have their own “strays” and animal control concerns that take first priority.  It is alleged that some communities are resorting to “other” means of euthanasia—a direct violation of Texas law.

A violation of any provision of Subchapter C is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor which carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail or a fine of up to $2,000 or both.  A private citizen may petition a court to stop action violating any provision of Subchapter C.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just establish a county animal shelter and protect our communities from legal liability?

Texas Health & Safety Code Chapter 826.017 stipulates “the commissioner’s court of each county shall designate an officer to act as the local rabies control authority for the purposes of this chapter.”   Usually, this designee is the animal control officer at the “county” animal shelter.  In this regard as well, Hill County is not in compliance because a “local rabies control authority” has not been designated.

Without an animal shelter serving all the communities of Hill County, some irresponsible pet owners and allegedly some communities resort to the cruel act of “dumping” their unwanted pets—most die a horrific death from starvation, hunger, disease, or being killed and eaten by wild animals.  This cowardly and deplorable act falls under Penal Code 42.09 in Texas Criminal Law.  The State of Texas deems it a serious offense when people perform cruel acts towards animals.  Other than the obvious act of torturing an animal, Texas law views abandonment in the same light.  Irresponsible people who dump their dogs and cats in rural areas are committing a Class A misdemeanor. However, the offense is a state jail felony if the person has been convicted two previous times

The act of abandoning pets when moving from a residence is not only lazy and callous, but it also is considered abandonment.  Texas law defines abandonment as the act of abandoning an animal in the person’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.  “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of an animal subject to the person’s care and control, regardless of ownership of the animal.  When an animal is in a person’s custody, the law states necessary food, care, and shelter must be provided to the extent required to maintain the animal is in a state of good health. Cruelty to animals should never occur but when it does, Texas law will deal with it harshly.  A Class A misdemeanor carries a $4,000 fine and a year in jail.

Hill County needs an animal shelter to protect our citizens and communities from health, economic, legal, and safety liabilities.  Our companion animals and our citizens deserve the service and protection that other cities and counties enjoy.  Having a proper, compliant animal shelter that offers some hope and humanity to our animal population is simply the right thing to do.  If you would like more information about Hill County Paw Pals, the group that is bringing awareness to this plight, please call 580-0679 or visit their website at hcpawpals.org