Texas voters change law so retired police dogs don't have to be sold, euthanized

Texas voters change law so retired police dogs don't have to be sold, euthanized
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Texans on Tuesday voted to amend the state’s Constitution so retired law enforcement animals, like dogs or horses, can be adopted as opposed to auctioned off or euthanized.

Proposition 10, placed on the ballot with a unanimous vote from the Texas Legislature, was one of the 10 proposed amendments considered by voters. All but one passed, according to The Houston Chronicle.

The measure on law enforcement animals was overwhelming approved by 94 percent with more than 1.6 million votes. 

"Police dogs develop a special bond with their handler, and — after a lifetime of public service — deserve to spend their golden years with their companion,” state Sen. Jane Nelson (R), one of the legislation’s authors, said in a statement. "These dogs should not be auctioned off as property."

State law classifies law enforcement animals as surplus government property, requiring that they be auctioned off or euthanized so government dollars aren't being used for private benefit, according to The Texas Tribune.

The federal government changed the policy back in the early 2000s to allow military service dogs to retire with their handlers or be adopted to another qualified caretaker. However, Texas officials said they were surprised to see the old-school law still on the books, so sheriffs in three counties — Collin, Ellis and Tarrant — sought to change the law.

"It's one of those things that you always wonder, why did no [one] pay attention to it?" said David McClelland, Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department chief of staff. "It's something we feel really, really strongly about being in law enforcement."

Most cities allow handlers to adopt retired animals, but The Texas Tribune reported that counties have been more restrictive, meaning officials have come up with creative solutions to save the dogs from retirement. Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner took a retiring dog off active duty and sent it home with its handler in 2017 so it never officially entered retirement. 

"People can relate and understand when we talk about these brave and heroic police dogs that are out here working day in and day out with these handlers," Skinner said. "They make great sacrifice[s]. I mean, there's a lot of dogs that die in the line of duty ... because we ask [them] to do things that otherwise we would have to go do. They carry the day."