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May 21, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Senate Approves Tougher
Animal-Cruelty Laws

AUSTIN - The Senate today passed a measure that would create stiffer penalties for animal cruelty.

Dallas Sen. David Cain, the sponsor of House Bill (HB) 653 and the author of a companion bill in the Senate, said the legislation was prompted in part by an incident in Dallas in which a puppy's eyes were intentionally gouged out.

"This bill is designed to deter the crime of cruelty against animals," Cain said. "It attempts to accomplish this by changing the penal code to increase the penalties for crimes such as torturing or injuring an animal."

HB 653 would make animal cruelty a felony offense and minors who are convicted would have to undergo psychological counseling. Under current law, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor. The bill applies only to domestic, non-livestock animals, so activities such as hunting, fishing and rodeos would not be affected.

Also in today's session, the Senate also passed a measure sponsored by La Porte Sen. Mike Jackson that would help create a larger database of DNA information for use in law enforcement.

HB 588 would allow police to obtain a DNA sample from people convicted of a wide range of offenses. Current law allows for the collection of a DNA specimen from those convicted of several types of felonies, including rape and indecency with a child.

HB 588 would require any adult convicted of a felony and any minor guilty of a felony-grade juvenile offense to submit a blood sample for DNA purposes.

The Senate also today approved HB 2522, a measure sponsored by Victoria Sen. Ken Armbrister that would direct the Texas Department of Transportation to establish a state airport in Central Texas that would also be available for non-commercial public use.

"It's anticipated that the increase in commercial traffic over the next 15 to 20 years out at Bergstrom, now the Austin international airport, that general aviation will be moved out further and further," Armbrister. "This would be a reliever-type of situation for that facility."

The former Robert Mueller Airport in Austin was excluded as a possible site under HB 588.

Also approved today was HB 546, a measure sponsored by Houston Sen. Mario Gallegos that would require judges to undergo additional judicial training classes. HB 546 would add racial, cultural and ethnic sensitivity training to the existing training that judges are required to undergo.

The Senate stands in recess until 8 a.m. Tuesday, when bills on the Local and Uncontested Calendar will be taken up. The Senate will then reconvene at 10 a.m.

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