AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - It's common in our area for animals to be dumped by their owners or neglected in some way.
Now Texas Senate Bill 762 will quickly put repeat offenders behind bars.
Punishment for animal cruelty ranges from a Class A Misdemeanor for crimes like neglect or failure to provide adequate shelter, to a Third Degree Felony for physically injuring, torturing or killing an animal.
Currently, you have to be convicted of some type of animal cruelty twice before the charges are increased.
Senate Bill 762 is changing that.
"So they've taken out the two times on those, so now if you've been convicted one time it doesn't matter, it goes from a Class A Misdemeanor to a state jail felony," said Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas.
"If people are going to treat their animals appropriately they don't ever have to worry about this," said Richard Havens, Director of Animal Management and Welfare. "But if they do want to abuse their animals there are going to be some pretty darn stiff penalties for the individuals that like to partake in these illegal activities."
Offenders can now be charged with a Third or even Second Degree felony more easily.
Both these charges have a minimum of two years serving time in a state jail, and a fine of up to $10,000.
The maximum jail time for a Third Degree Felony is 10 years, and maximum 20 years for a Second Degree Felony.
Thomas and Havens hope this legislation will stop people from abusing animals, but they said it's hard to predict if it will help.
"We've had laws on the books forever and we still have people that want to violate the law," said Thomas. "Is this going to make a difference? I don't know, it's hard to say that, it really is. You hope that it will, you hope that it makes the people more responsible."
"There's going to need to be a few big cases that really get publicized for people to know that these types of offenses are not being taken lightly anymore," said Havens. "Until that happens I don't think we'll see a substantial trend of decreasing in nature."
Senate Bill 762 is on Governor Abbott's desk waiting to be signed.
These changes will go into effect on September 1, 2017.