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Is Abbott Trying to Improve His Image With a Dog Bill?

With everything happening in the Texas legislature right now, Governor Greg Abbott is putting priority on an animal cruelty bill benefiting dogs in Texas. Is he sincere, or is this a way to improve his dismal standing in the state ahead of the election next year?

If there is one area that both Texas Republicans and Texas Democrats can agree on, it’s apparently that dogs should not be left out in extreme weather at the end of a chain. Senate Bill 474, aka the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, has been a personal project of State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Harlingen) for about a decade, and even in one of the most contentious legislatures in living memory it looked like was going to pass in June. The bill did away with the regulation that law enforcement had to give dog owners 24 hours to correct an inhumane condition before issuing a citation or seizing the dog and easily sailed through both the House and the Senate.

Then Abbott vetoed it, calling it unnecessary overreach and a burden on pet owners. The move stunned both the legislature and Texas voters. Almost immediately, #AbbottHatesDogs was trending on Twitter and the governor was facing a tremendous backlash. 

“We were just floored when we saw the veto, we just couldn’t believe it,” Stacy Sutton Kerby, director of government relations for the Texas Humane Legislative Network, told the Houston Chronicle. “This isn’t a bill that came out of nowhere, and it’s definitely not any kind of overreach.”

The anger apparently worked wonders, as Abbott added the bill to the third special session, and it’s almost certain to pass again. Lucio was pleased with the second chance but remarked that he’d never seen such an about-face in 35 years. 

Quite simply, Abbott probably needs the publicity from such a feel-good act. An August poll from the Texas Politics Project shows that the governor is at an all-time low when it comes to approval ratings. Only 41 percent of Texans approve of the job he’s doing, and 50 disapprove. His handling of the COVID pandemic appears to be driving much of the antipathy. There has been little polling on Abbott’s failure to adequately address the electric grid following the devastating winter storm in February, but it’s safe to say that the lack of movement on the subject has probably not endeared Abbott to the Texans who suffered.

On the other hand, maybe there’s hope for some other legislation to be turned around now that Abbott has proven himself susceptible to dedicated backlashes. Having embraced the rights of dogs, maybe he can be talked into fixing his assaults on reproductive freedom and pregnant people. Nationwide, 70 percent of people disapprove of the new abortion law, and it’s looking like tech companies are rethinking their presence in the state. The loss of Big Tech could be a crippling blow to the Texas Economy, as much of the economic boom came from workers in those industries. 

Abbott found that hating dogs was too costly for him with an election coming up. It would be nice if he felt the same about women and other pregnant people.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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