When law enforcement K-9s in Texas have retired, they haven’t always gone home with their handlers. Laws in the nation’s second-largest state treated the dogs as surplus public property that, like firearms or police cars taken out of commission, needed to be auctioned off, donated to charity or destroyed.

That changed Tuesday, when voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that allows dogs, horses or other law enforcement animals to be adopted at no cost by their handlers or other “qualified” caretakers, the Washington Post reports.

It was backed by the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, whose members were regularly perplexed by how to handle dog retirement legally — complying with laws that viewed the animals as surplus — and ethically, in ways that made sense to officers who view K-9 partners as family and departments who mark dogs’ retirements or deaths with ceremonies.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner, who chairs the legislative committee for the sheriffs’ association. “There’s been a lot of great dogs with great handlers, and the right thing should have been done by them. But it’s better late than never.”