Brad Kirby has been pushing for tougher penalties for pet thieves for a while now, ever since two of his Huskies were stolen from in front of the Design District warehouse where he lives and works.
He reported the thefts to the police, even told them who stole the dogs and where the man lived, but police did nothing. They said he couldn't prove the dogs were stolen and, anyways, didn't seem terribly interested in tracking down a dognapper. The thief eventually gave both dogs away, according to an account Kirby posted on his website.
So, Kirby began lobbying City Hall, aiming for a rule making it clearer that keeping another person's pet is illegal. His efforts eventually led to an ordinance requiring anyone who finds a stray dog to try to find its owner within three days or face a $500 fine.[jump]
Then, he turned his attention to the state legislature. Under current law, which doesn't specifically address it, pet theft is typically classified as a misdemeanor with those found guilty essentially having to pay a ticket. Kirby would rather throw them in jail.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has taken up Kirby's cause. He co-authored a bill with Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Harlingen, filed Friday, that would make the theft of a pet a state jail felony, punishable by a maximum two years in jail and a $2,000 fine.
A similar bill Lucio filed last session stalled in committee.
Update at 11:49 a.m.: Anchia returned our call and said the bill "is one of those classic examples of ideas that come from community members," in this case Kirby.
"He was concerned that he did not have the requisite legal remedies and that the penalties weren't significant enough to dissuade" potential pet thieves, Anchia said.
After looking into the matter, he concluded that Kirby's wasn't an isolated case and that there was a need for tougher rules governing pet theft, hence his support for Lucio's bill.
He plans to sit down with Lucio to hash out a legislative strategy, but he expects it will include direct testimony from victims of pet theft.