Texas Increasing Insurance Requirements for Dangerous Pets

February 24, 2011

You might file this in the “only in Texas” category. Representative Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville, TX, has filed legislation with his state that is meant to increase public safety and promote animal welfare by making the insurance and record-keeping requirements for privately-owned dangerous animals more stringent. By “dangerous animals” Hilderbran doesn’t mean vicious dogs, either, but “exotic” pets like lions and gorillas.

Specifically, the bill would increase the required insurance coverage for dangerous animals to guarantee that their owners could cover any bodily harm or property damage the animal may cause. As well, owners would be prohibited from housing dangerous animals within five miles of a church, daycare facility or school, and they must provide two acres of property per registered animal.

“Exotic” pet owners in Texas are already required to file a permit application with their local sheriff’s office or animal control agency, but Hilderbran’s bill would increase the required information that applicants must provide. Currently, the application asks for the animal’s species, gender, age, distinct color markings, and any other identifying information. The new bill would also ask that owners include information on conditions of sale and prior ownership of the animal.

Hilderbran explained, “Identifying the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of these animals helps us verify that the previous owner had a legal right to possess the animal and that it is not being sold through the black market.”

He also said that he is adding language to the bill that will increase the frequency of inspections and care standards for wildlife rescue centers, and make it illegal for such facilities to advertise themselves as both a rescue and a hunting operation.

Hilderbran explained that his bill has nothing to do with hoofed animals, and that he does not intend to alter the list of dangerous animals already included in the Texas Health and Safety Code. That list includes baboons, bears, bobcats, caracals, cheetahs, chimpanzees, cougars, coyotes, gorillas, hyenas, jackals, jaguars, leopards, lions, lynx, ocelots, orangutans, servals, and tigers.

As well, the bill would not apply to aquariums, zoos, or research facilities, only to private animal owners.