Anyone who owns livestock in Texas, including horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, fowl and honey bees in a managed colony, need to be aware of key changes to the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act that will be effective Sept. 1, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agricultural law expert.
The Texas Legislature passed and Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 365, making important changes to the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act, said Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, AgriLife Extension agriculture law specialist, Amarillo.
Lashmet spoke at the recent Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course on the Texas A&M University campus and said AgriLife Extension agents across the state have been getting calls for more information on House Bill 365.
The Texas Farm Liability Act was initially passed in 1996, but a Texas Supreme Court case in 2020 essentially ruled the act did not apply to injuries on working farms and ranches, Lashmet said.
The Texas Legislature came back with House Bill 365 to ensure it does apply to those entities, clearly outlining all activities, species and situations that are covered. In addition to ensuring applicability to working ranches, the amendments also added bees as a covered species and made clear that the act does apply to injured employees and independent contractors as well.
Protection is not automatic
Previously, a sign was required only for farm animal professionals, but farm and ranch owners and lessees must also now hang a sign at or near their arena, corral or stable to get the statute’s protections.
“While livestock owners have enjoyed the Farm Animal Liability Act’s protection for years, House Bill 365 made important changes to expand the scope of the Act in response to a Texas Supreme Court decision last year,” she said. “In doing so, there is a new signage requirement that producers need to be aware of and take action on.”
The required language has been slightly modified by the new bill and must read as follows effective Sept. 1:
“Because injuries happen around farm animals, even when a person takes precautions, having the Farm Animal Liability Act as an available defense is important for all livestock owners across Texas,” Lashmet said.
Texas Farm Bureau and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association will have signs available, she said, or individuals can make their own.
For more information on the case or the new law, read the latest Texas Agriculture Law Blog post, Lashmet’s award-winning blog.