A bill that would increase punishment for those who criminally kill cattle, bison or horses that passed in the 85th Legislative session now heads to the governor's desk for approval.
According TSCRA Special Ranger Marvin Wills who investigates these type of cases said right now, criminal offenses involving stealing cattle don't have the same penalty as killing the same animal.
"You are taking from the landowner. The same thing when you steal it, he is not getting it back,” Wills said."They’ve lost that animal forever. Whether you shot it or steal it, you can't get it back."
Currently, killing someone’s cattle is considered a criminal mischief, which is punishable with a fine for the most part. If Gov. Greg Abbott approves HB2817, it would be a third degree felony at a minimum. That means you could face up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. The punishment would be enhanced depending on the value of the livestock.
Wills said the change would serve as a deterrent.
“I think those joy riders are just riding around at night or late in the afternoon, just shooting stuff off the road, vicious and malicious in someone's pasture. I think it's going to deter them when they find out it is a third degree felony,” Wills said.
Cattle Rancher Kipp Thomas who buys 100 cattle every week said losing even one of them would be a loss.
"That's a complete loss to me and my business, if they shot my cow. That is anywhere from an $800 and a $1,500 cow lost,” Thomas said.
The former Navarro County constable said he supports the change in punishment.
“I think it needs to be done, for a farmer or rancher that is their livelihood, it's their crops and livestock,” Thomas said.
The bill also allows a cattle inspection program that has helped recover stolen cattle to continue even if the state loses federal funding. According to TSCRA, the program has helped recover more than $37,000 head of stolen cattle and related property $42 million worth.
Several lawmakers voted against the bill. News Channel 25 reached out to them on Thursday morning but have not heard back as of 7 p.m.