AUSTIN, Texas — In order for police dogs to be easily adopted by their handlers after retirement, an amendment to the Texas constitution would need to be approved this November.
- Would make it easier for handlers to adopt retired K-9s
- K-9s currently considered government property
- Election Day is November 5
Proposition 10 is meant to come in and smooth out the process of giving the animal to its handler or another qualified person after the animal retires. Currently under Texas law, law enforcement animals, like police dogs, are considered government property, and can't be transferred to a private person for free and are typically put up for auction.
"It's just crazy, and at the end of the day, why do we have to do it? Because it's Texas," said Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University. "So rather than say, giving the officer the leash and saying 'Here you go,' it would have to go through this formal legal process where you then actually have to document every single step of the way. So that's why we have a law that makes sure that every 'I' is dotted, every 'T' is crossed, if you're moving around property that the taxpayers paid for and that the government purchased, even if it is a dog."
Smith said Prop 10 is just common sense legislation. It's written to update what he calls an archaic law in Section 263.152 of the Local Government Code that refers to police dogs as government property, on the same level as old police vehicles.
"Property that is 'worn, damaged or obsolete,' meaning that they can no longer perform the law enforcement duties they were originally assigned," Smith said. "Because the law’s currently so specific, you have to do an amendment because an amendment gets rid of any gray area whatsoever on what you can do with the animal that the state looks at as 'surplus property.' But in reality is an animal and a member of somebody's family."
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The state code currently says 'here's how you get rid of surplus property' and it's only by destroying, trading, selling, or donating it.
"You think, okay, the dog is old, let's give it to the officer so the dog can have a happy life after serving the citizens of Texas," Smith said. "But no, what would happen is you would have to, if it had any value, take it to auction, if it didn't have any value, see if you could donate it. Even if you gave it to a shelter, the officer might not end up with the dog, because then they would have to go through that entire [adoption] process."
That entire process currently involves formalities and fees. Prop 10 would get rid of the need for the long legal paper trail, and transfer the K-9 directly to its officer when it retires.
"It's in the best interest of the dog because police dogs especially, these are specially bred animals. These are dogs that are bred to work with law enforcement and to do a job. So when they leave that, they need to be in a familiar setting," Smith said. "These aren't little puppies that you can train to play with your children. These are actually specially trained dogs who've been trained to work. And the person that they're going to have the best life with is that person that they've worked with their entire career as a police dog.”
Smith said he hopes to see Prop 10 pass with unanimous support come November.