The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


In 2017, the Texas legislature amended Texas Penal Code § 42.092, which governs acts of cruelty against non-livestock animals. The statute in its current form makes torturing, killing, or seriously injuring a non-livestock animal a third degree felony, while less serious offenses carry either a state jail felony or a Class A misdemeanor charge.

While a step in the right direction, Texas law is not comprehensive in that it fails to address a significant aspect of animal cruelty offenses: mental illness. For over fifteen years, Texas Family Code § 54.0407 has required psychiatric counseling for juveniles convicted of cruelty to animals, but in that time, a similar provision for adult offenders has not been suggested. Persons convicted of animal cruelty are notorious re-offenders whose crimes can escalate to violence against humans. Furthermore, violent behavior may not manifest itself during childhood and can be a result of a newly developed mental illness.

Animal cruelty has major negative societal impacts. For instance, domestic abusers often abuse animals to control their victims, while the internet has developed a significant market for animal sexual abuse that involves human victims as well. By creating a stricter punishment for those convicted, Texas has acknowledged the importance of prosecuting these acts. However, the state needs to push farther by requiring psychiatric evaluations for those convicted in order to better prevent recidivism and escalation.

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June 17, 2019

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The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice

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St. Mary's University School of Law


Riley F. Tunnell