Cattlerustlingmeasureclears.cfm Cattle rustling measure clears Texas Senate
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Cattle rustling measure clears Texas Senate

AUSTIN, Texas (AP)--Amid warnings that cattle rustling is on the rise in Texas, the state Senate passed a measure April 16 that would stiffen penalties for stealing farm animals.

The bill, which passed 29 to 2, would make theft of any cattle, horses or exotic livestock a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Currently it's a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine to steal fewer than 10 head of cattle, horses or exotic livestock.

The bill by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, also would make it a third-degree felony to steal 10 or more head of sheep, goats or swine. The legislation, which now moves to the Texas House, raises penalties when the value of the farm animals exceeds $20,000.

According to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, cattle theft has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2007, 2,400 head of cattle were reported as stolen to the association. In 2008, that number jumped to 6,404, according to the industry group's website.

Proponents attribute the increase at least in part to cross-border poaching from Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico, where they say the penalties are higher. Making matters worse, Seliger said, is that the "evidence is often eaten or done away with."

Only two senators voted against the measure--Democrats Carlos Uresti and Wendy Davis. Uresti said he was worried that a kid who steals a single cow as a prank could end up serving 10 years in prison.


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