Play Dead

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Queso the cat, known to lap up cheese outside a Taco Cabana in Waco, was well known to students at Baylor University. The scrawny stray later went on to gain national attention when two students brutally killed it, then got off scot-free.

Texas has some of the weakest animal protection laws in the nation, according to a first-of-its-kind survey released in February by the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund. The fund used 30 different criteria to measure how states compare. Texas ranked in the bottom tier.

"The laws in Texas have loopholes big enough to drive a truck through," agrees state Representative Toby Goodman, a Republican from Arlington and longtime animal-rights proponent who has successfully sponsored bills to outlaw horse tripping and canned hunts.


animal protection laws

For more information, also see High on the Hog by Todd Spivak.

For instance, say Goodman and other statewide advocates, Texas law defines an animal as a "domestic living creature." As a result, abusers can successfully argue that a stray cat or dog is not an animal.

This defense was employed five years ago in the Queso case, in which two Baylor baseball players shot the cat with a pellet gun, beat it in the head with a golf club, decapitated and skinned it. Both young men were acquitted since no one had proper ownership papers for Queso.

Also, according to Texas law, it is illegal to kill an animal "belonging to another." But the law says nothing about killing your own animal.

Therefore, law enforcement could not successfully prosecute a Brazoria County man who drowned two puppies in a bucket because he was mad at his girlfriend, a Bell County man who rode over his puppy with a lawn mower because its barking irritated him and countless other similar cases.

And while it is illegal to cause one animal to fight with another, in Texas it is perfectly OK to train or condition animals for fighting.

"I know of at least 25 locations in Houston where roosters are raised for fighting," says Mark Timmers, a Harris County Precinct 6 investigator. "But I have to catch them in the act of fighting the animal to make a case--and that's not easy."

In the last legislative session, dozens of district and county attorneys and police chiefs from across the state rallied behind legislation written by Goodman that intended to address these issues. But House Bill 326 died in committee, along with a separate bill sponsored by state Representative Jose Menendez, a Democrat from San Antonio, which would have strengthened penalties against dog fighting and make it illegal to organize or attend cockfights.

In other states across the South, lawmakers have used the controversy surrounding hog-dog rodeos--in which dogs and feral hogs are pitted against each other in a pen--to close the loopholes in their own animal cruelty laws. The Texas Legislature has not considered the issue for many years.

Even after the negative publicity spawned by Queso's death, there are still many ways to torture animals in Texas and get away with it.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.