The Texas legislature this week approved a bill that will increase the penalty for livestock theft in Texas. SB 1163, introduced by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), unanimously passed the House, and is now on its way to the governor where it will be signed into law or vetoed.   

"Texas is the No. 1 cattle producing state in the nation, but the penalty for cattle theft in Texas is more lenient than the neighboring states of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana," said Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association president Dave Scott, of Richmond, Texas.

"Cattle theft in Texas has more than doubled during the past year. To protect this $15 billion a year industry, Texas needs a stricter penalty. SB 1163 does that by increasing the penalty for cattle theft from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony," Scott continued.

In 2007, 2,400 head of cattle were reported stolen to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.  In 2008, that number jumped to 6,404.  Under current law, theft of less than 10 head of cattle, horses or exotic wildlife is a state jail felony. 

TSCRA was founded in 1877 by a small group of ranchers to fight cattle theft.  TSCRA has 29 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma to combat and investigate cattle theft. 

Prior to 1993, livestock theft was classified as a third-degree felony.  In 1993, the Texas legislature created the state jail felony category, also known as a fourth-degree felony.  Livestock theft has risen since the law was changed in 1993, largely due to the number of repeat offenders who are let out on state jail felony probation.