Texas law requires retired police dogs be auctioned off. Proposition 10 would send them home with their handlers.

Gus, a contraband detection dog at the the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, performs a demonstration of how to seek out cellphones around the prison. A measure on the Nov. 5 ballot would ensure law enforcement animals like Gus can be adopted by their handlers after they retire. (Brandon Thibodeaux for The Texas Tribune)
Gus, a contraband detection dog at the the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, performs a demonstration of how to seek out cellphones around the prison. A measure on the Nov. 5 ballot would ensure law enforcement animals like Gus can be adopted by their handlers after they retire. (Brandon Thibodeaux for The Texas Tribune)

Gus, a contraband detection dog at the the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, performs a demonstration of how to seek out cellphones around the prison. A measure on the Nov. 5 ballot would ensure law enforcement animals like Gus can be adopted by their handlers after they retire. (Brandon Thibodeaux for The Texas Tribune)

When Jim Skinner served in the Air Force nearly 40 years ago, he extended his tour in the Philippines several times because he wanted to stay with his best friend, Jessie, knowing the two wouldn't have much time together after his service.

It wasn't that Jessie, his military service dog, was injured. Back then, military service dogs were often euthanized after they retired. The federal government changed the policy in the early 2000s, allowing them to retire with their handlers or be adopted. But that was only at the federal level. Texas requires retired law enforcement animals—classified as surplus government property—to be auctioned off or destroyed to ensure government dollars aren't used for private benefit.

On Nov. 5, Texas voters will consider Proposition 10, which would amend the state Constitution to allow retired law-enforcement animals, such as dogs or horses, to be adopted by their handlers or other qualified caretakers. A proposal to put the measure on the ballot received unanimous support from the Texas Legislature last spring.

Skinner became the sheriff of Collin County in 2017 and, soon after arriving, had to retire two members of the K-9 unit. So he and his counterparts in Ellis and Tarrant counties sought to change the law to ensure retired law-enforcement animals would be allowed to retire with their handlers, the people they've spent almost every minute of every day with for years.

"As they get older and more and more used to the families that they're around, these dogs, they're like a pet, and they love their handlers and their families," said Skinner, who is also the chairman of the legislative committee for the Sheriffs' Association of Texas. "So why not give them the ability if they're qualified to be a caretaker for their dog?"
David McClelland, the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department chief of staff, said there was a vacancy in one of the K-9 positions when he came in with Sheriff Bill Waybourn in 2017. As they began working on a replacement, they looked at the policies regarding retired law enforcement animals and realized state law prevented them from being easily adopted by their handlers. The county would be required to auction the animal, which creates the risk of the handler being outbid, or euthanize it.

"It's one of those things that you always wonder, why did no pay attention to it?" McClelland said. "It's something we feel really, really strongly about being in law enforcement."

"Without this law being in place, you've got to go home and tell your 10-year-old why they don't have their dog anymore," McClelland said.

Most cities let handlers adopt the retired animals, but counties, McClelland said, are much more restricted.

Before the law could be changed, however, Skinner still had to replace two of Collin County's dogs. One of them died from liver complications shortly after retiring, and the other, Skinner said, went home with its handler but did not officially retire to avoid the need for an auction.


State Sens. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, authored the legislation.


"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," Nelson said in a statement. "These dogs should not be auctioned off as property."

Proposition 10 exempts law-enforcement animals from the state's surplus government property rules. Its companion legislation, Senate Bill 2100, includes measures to ensure that retired law-enforcement animals, if they are not adopted by their handlers, will be taken in by someone properly equipped to care for them, and if an animal's handler is injured or killed in the line of duty, the handler's family can adopt it. Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 2100 into law May 14.

Reid Golson, a deputy sheriff for Collin County, said he spends more time with his K-9 partner, Olex, who stays with him at home along with traveling with him at work, than he does his family.

"You spend so much time with with these dogs. ... They become a part of the family," Golson said. "When they retire, I think they should be able to enjoy their retirement with who they've been with for the past five years and not put them in another environment that they're not familiar with."


Skinner, who said he voted for Proposition 10 during early voting, said the support the legislation got showed him how much people care for dogs, especially those that help keep communities safe.

"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. 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."
SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

New dockless vehicles, such as Revel mopeds, have entered the Austin market, in addition to electric scooters, pictured here in West Campus. (Emma Freer/Community Impact Newspaper)
City of Austin expects to see more dockless vehicles used for longer trips in 2020

When electric scooters first arrived in Austin in April 2018, residents and city officials alike raised concerns about regulations, safety and inconvenience.

Austin City Council directed the Austin Police Department to end enforcement of lower-level marijuana possession offenses to furthest extent possible under state law during a Jan. 23 meeting.  (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin police chief doubles down: Cops will continue citing and, in some cases, arresting for pot possession despite City Council direction

City Council decision does not change how police department handles marijuana possession, according to the police chief.

Trudy's North Star, located at 8820 Burnet Road, Austin, was closed as of Friday afternoon, Jan. 24, with a sign on the door saying the restaurant would reopen Monday, Jan. 27. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Trudy's files for bankruptcy, owes employees more than $267,000 in unpaid wages

According to court documents, the Tex-Mex restaurant's financial issues started with its Dripping Springs location, which lost over $1 million per year.

Students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute in East Austin point to their classmate holding the red bag, whose artwork is featured on the new electric bus. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro sets ambitious goal to eventually replace all 423 buses with electric versions

Starting Jan. 26, riders can ride the new electric buses, which will rotate among routes.

(Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Council members divided over hire of outside attorney in property protest rights lawsuit

Some City Council members said taxpayer dollars should not be used to fight taxpayer interests.

Central Health is exploring options to provide a cash injection to its employees with minimum wage salaries. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Central Health will explore minimum wage bumps for its employees

The health care district is considering increasing its minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The 87,744-square-foot campus formerly occupied by HealthSouth has remained vacant for several years. (Courtesy Google Maps)
With resources limited in homelessness initiatives, potential of former HealthSouth property sparks disagreement on City Council

The city-owned 87,744-square-foot property has sat vacant in downtown Austin for years.

(Courtesy Whataburger)
Whataburger opens new location on East Oltorf Street

This is the burger chain's 19th location in Austin.

Travis County commissioners participated in budget hearings during the fiscal year 2018-19 budget process. (Taylor Jackson Buchanan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis Central Appraisal District board will host in-person meetings for informal protests in 2020

The Travis Central Appraisal District board of trustees voted to bring back in-person meetings for informal protests this year.

Residents can expect mailers to arrive by mid-March requesting they participate in the 2020 census. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
Austin-Travis County officials establish nonprofit to raise funds to support complete census count

Officials in Austin and Travis County have formed a complete count committee to support the 2020 census effort.

Austin Transportation installed "No parking" signs in 2019 on South Congress Avenue to discourage illegal parking in bicycle lanes. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Austin to start issuing tickets to drivers who park in bike-only lanes in effort to improve safety

Drivers who illegal park in a bicycle lane could receive a $300 fine and have their vehicles towed.

Back to top