Until Nov. 5, 2019, it was legal protocol for retired Texas police dogs to be auctioned off, donated, or even destroyed as public property. But an overwhelming vote in favor of a new bill means that retired Texas police dogs and horses can now go home with their handlers.
The new measure amends the previous state Constitution, which considered such animals “surplus government property not to be used for private benefit,” as per the Texas Tribune.
Proposition 10 was supported by 94 percent of voters in Texas and will change lives for retired service dogs and horses; either their handlers or other qualified caretakers will be able to become their permanent guardians with absolutely no adoption fee.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner told the Statesman. “I see these young men and women that handle these dogs and how hard they work. You just can’t imagine a situation where you’d have to take that dog from them.”
Skinner speaks from personal experience. When he served in the Air Force some four decades ago, he extended his deployment in the Philippines several times in order to stay with his K-9 service dog, Jessie, as per KCBD. Skinner knew they would be separated after service.
The government changed its policy in the early 2000s, but only at a federal level. While it’s not common practice for law enforcement dogs to be “destroyed” (euthanized) in Texas, Skinner said, police departments have had to think creatively in order to sidestep certain legal protocols in the past.
Skinner once saved two “old and ailing” canines by “taking them out of active duty,” as opposed to registering official retirement, allowing the dogs to remain happily with their handlers.
Retired dogs and mounted horses have also been sold by the Austin Police Department to their handlers or other employees for the sum of $1. The token sum allowed the sale to comply with state law but also ensured that the animals were cared for in their winter years by the people who knew them best.
“[F]ew people are qualified to humanely care for and properly supervise a police dog or horse,” State Senator Brian Birdwell wrote in a letter to his constituents, “and these animals need to be cared for by a capable individual at the end of their service.”
The new amendment will “protect these animals to ensure they are going to a proper home after their retirement from service,” Birdwell continued, “and save taxpayer dollars from continued housing and care of the animal.”
Skinner assured Fox News that Texas police have been wanting to “do the right thing” by their animals in the eyes of the law for the longest time. “We’ve asked for this exception, to not treat these animals like property,” he said, “for all the obvious reasons.”
On Nov. 5, both the House and the Senate unanimously approved Proposition 10. Not one person testified against the measure in a Senate committee, as per the Statesman.
This unanimous change to Texas law is a fitting tribute to the bond between law enforcement animals and their handlers. The animals who work so hard to serve their community will finally be allowed to enjoy their retirement with the families they know and love best.
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Author: Louise Bevan