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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Texas House Bill 598 Sentences Abusive Pet Owners to Five-Year Ban

Valerie Zhang
Texas House Bill 598 was passed on May 24, 2023 and prevents convicted animal abusers from owning an animal for five years. The bill currently acts as a precedent, opening up future implications for further legal action against animal abusers.

Urged forward due to popularity after a similar law failed to be passed in a previous legislative session, Texas House Bill 598 (HB 598) was reintroduced by Representative Matt Shaheen and approved with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s signature on May 24, 2023. The bill entails a five-year ban on pet owners convicted of animal abuse, and thus establishes a legitimate stance against animal cruelty that can be expanded on in future society. 

HB 598 has been seen in effect in cases such as that of Wichita Falls resident Kristi Perez on Sept. 26, 2023. After an officer noted her dog’s declining health and her lack of action, Perez was sentenced to 280 days in jail for animal cruelty on top of a five-month probation for assaulting her elderly father. Recently, however, her probation has been revoked and, according to newer legislation, her sentence has been increased to five years in prison and 12 months in jail for resisting arrest. 

According to an interview by Jamey Cantrell, President of the Texas Animal Control Association, subsequent past penalties did little to stop animal abuse cases, as prosecutors often convicted the same offenders multiple times. Offenders were still able to acquire more animals, and Texas law did not prevent future aggression towards these animals, prolonging a cycle of abuse. 

Many suspect that animal abuse is only the start of larger violent tendencies for individuals such as Perez. However, abuse is not always inflicted as physical harm and can come in varying forms. 

“[The reason behind abuse] is not all psychological,” Phoenix Mielcarek ‘25 said. “There’s a lot of people who feel they can’t afford to take care of their pets, and they’re too embarrassed to get help. [But neglect] is another form of abuse.”

Animal abusers do not deserve the privilege of being a pet owner. However, not all pets are registered, so abusers may fall below the radar.

— Joyce You '24

Hoping to prevent further crimes, HB 598 attempts to cut off the root of the problem. With the implementation of this bill, a person who is convicted of animal cruelty cannot own animals, and will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor or a $500 fine if found to be in possession of an animal during the next five years. If suspected of being a repeated offender, the charge will be increased to a Class B misdemeanor, or a fine up to $2000 and 180 days in jail. 

Student pet owners have voiced their support for the bill. 

“Animal abusers are a danger to society and they should seek help. They do not deserve the privilege of being a pet owner,” Joyce You ‘24 said. “However, not all pets are registered, so abusers may fall below the radar.” 

To report animal abuse concerns, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas can be contacted at 214-742-7722.

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About the Contributor
Valerie Zhang
Valerie Zhang, Reporter
Class of 2024
Because of writing, the spontaneity of ideas that pop into my head in the middle of the night has transformed me into a night owl. Throughout the late hours, I cultivate my obsession with period dramas, sports animes, and pictures of swim practice sunsets. Other hobbies include learning languages, lifeguarding, and sleeping!

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