June 2, 2023
AUSTIN – During the 88th Regular Session, the Texas Legislature passed HB 4164, authored by Representative Phillip Cortez (D-San Antonio) and sponsored by Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston). HB 4164 increases the fines for individuals attempting to masquerade their dogs as Service Dogs and adds 30 hours of community service to nonprofits or government agencies serving people with disabilities as a penalty.
The bill received support from Service Dogs, Inc., a Texas nonprofit that has trained Service Dogs for 35 years, and from the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN), the only Texas-based, Texas-funded animal protection advocacy group in the state.
“We are elated that the Texas Legislature wants to protect Texans with disabilities’ the rights of equal access to public facilities and also their safety,” said Service Dogs, Inc. Founder and CEO Sheri Soltes. “When people try to pass their pet dogs off as Service Dogs to take them into a store or restaurant, those untrained dogs often end up attacking Guide Dogs or Service Dogs injuring them, and the disabled person using them. Blind Texans have said they’re afraid to go out after their Guide Dog has been attacked in a store. We’ve had veterans injured when they tried to get between their Service Dog and another dog attacking it in a grocery store. This bill will put some bite into the law where it belongs.”
“I am proud to have sponsored this important legislation for both our service animals and the people who rely on their dedicated and faithful companionship,” said Senate Sponsor John Whitmire.
“This bill is another monumental step forward Texas has taken to advance animal welfare in the state during this legislative session,” said THLN Executive Director Shelby Bobosky. “We are so grateful to our champions, Representative Cortez and Senator Whitmire, for their dedication on this issue that will protect our disabled population as well as the incredible service animals that they rely on.”