During the 2023 legislative session, which begins in January, we’ll be taking a close look at the notable—and, yes, silly—bills that come under the consideration of the august bodies that make up our state government to help you understand what your lawmakers are spending their time on.  

The bill: House Bill 870

Filed by: Jared Patterson, Republican, District 106 (Frisco)

What it would do: HB 870, which is identical to a bill Patterson introduced in 2021, would ban pet stores in counties with more than 200,000 residents from selling animals that were obtained anywhere other than an animal shelter, animal rescue organization, or animal control agency. The bill is intended to target puppy mills that breed large numbers of animals in inhumane conditions and move them into Texas for stores to sell. 

The actual impact of the bill would be somewhat limited. There are only 24 Texas counties that would be affected, and fourteen of the largest cities in the state already have municipal bans on selling cats and dogs that were obtained from commercial breeders, with Dallas and New Braunfels being the latest to pass such laws, in 2022. Additionally, most of the large pet-store chains that sell live animals already obtain their animals from rescues and shelters: as Patterson noted in his release announcing HB 870, only one of the 25 largest retailers would be affected should the bill become law. But there are some smaller stores statewide that the law would target, and HB 870 also serves as a messaging bill meant to please constituents. 

Does the bill have a chance of passing? Certainly. Patterson’s identical bill, HB 1818, passed both the House and the Senate in 2021—albeit too late in the session to resolve the slight differences between the versions that passed the two chambers. By filing early, Patterson is setting HB 870 up for success in the coming session. 

There are no sure things in Texas politics, but HB 870 has a few things going for it: many members already voted for the bill in the previous session, and it tugs at the heartstrings of dog-loving constituents of both parties. Indeed, the area of dog-related bills tends to be one of the few in which both parties can find common ground, as evinced by a 2019 bill that saw Republican lawmakers, who frequently target local Austin ordinances, adopt rules modeled on the Capital City’s to allow dogs on restaurant patios! (The bill’s author, Kelly Hancock, said “a good idea is a good idea” in promoting a measure that outlawed cities from banning dogs on patios, leaving the decision to individual restaurants.) We’d expect that lawmakers might like to engage in a little bit of bipartisanship on behalf of our furry friends in what looks certain to be an otherwise acrimonious session.