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

K-9 dog
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."

The Texas Tribune/Chase Karacostas


A graphic that reads "today's coronavirus updates"
Travis County coronavirus indicators still hovering at upper end of Stage 4 risk

Travis County saw 657 new cases and 68 new hospitalizions July 13.

The city said residents should make sure they are only watering on their scheduled days based on address. (Courtesy city of Georgetown)
Georgetown faces watering restrictions, SW Austin private school closes: News from Central Texas

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas here.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, shown here in March, announced July 13 the U.S. Department of Defense would provide additional resource to help Texas combat COVID-19. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Department of Defense task forces deployed to help Texas combat COVID-19

Gov. Greg Abbott announced July 13 the U.S. Department of Defense would provide more resources to Texas to combat the rise of COVID-19.

The proposed fiscal year 2020-21 budget includes an $11.3 million reduction in police spending, achieved largely by eliminating 100 vacant positions within the Austin Police Department. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's $4.2 billion proposed budget includes 2.5% reduction to police department funding

Community groups and some Austin City Council members have called for a police department budget reduction of at least $100 million.

Thousands marched from Huston-Tillotson University to the Texas Capitol on June 7 to protest police brutality and systemic racism. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Where Austin's mayor, 9 City Council members stand on police reform, funding, leadership

With decisions coming soon on the city's fiscal year 2020-21 budget, all but one City Council member sat down for interviews on where they stand on various policing issues in Austin.

Travis County has added 3,069 new confirmed cases over the past week from July 6-12. (Community Impact Staff)
Travis County adds 3,069 new coronavirus cases over past week

Travis County has added 3,069 new confirmed cases over the past week from July 6-12.

A sign directs voters inside Ridgetop Elementary School in North Central Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
11.8% of voters in Travis County have voted early since June 29, exceeding 2018 primary numbers

More than 97,000 Travis County residents have voted in person or by mail. The turnout far surpassed the combined early and Election Day totals in the 2018 primary run-off election.

A photo of the potential Tesla property
Travis County updates Tesla incentive package, pushing for $1 billion-plus investment from the company

Poised for a possible July 13 vote, Travis County has released a refined incentives structure proposal with electric carmaker Tesla.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

Origin Hotel, located in the Mueller development in East Austin, broke ground July 6. (Rendering courtesy The Thrash Group)
Origin Hotel breaks ground in Mueller development

The five-story, 120-room hotel will be located at the corner of McBee and Aldrich streets.

Thunderbird Coffee will close its Koenig Lane location July 26, and the spot will be redeveloped to become a new location of Bird Bird Biscuit, with a Thunderbird coffee trailer planned to operate on-site. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Thunderbird Coffee on Koenig will turn into a second Bird Bird Biscuit location by next year

When the new fried chicken and biscuit spot opens in 2021, Thunderbird will operate a coffee trailer on-site.