The Harris County Attorney's Office was already considering more strict regulation of sexually oriented businesses in the area before Toronto-based KinkySdollS expressed interest in launching a brothel in Houston.
The sexbot firm opened its first facility near Toronto last year, where half an hour with a doll sporting synthetic skin and a fully articulated skeleton costs $60. In September, Yuva Gavriel, the founder of KinkySdollS, said that he was planning to open 10 locations throughout the United States by 2020, Sputnik previously reported.
Earlier this month, the Houston City Council issued a "red tag" to suspend the construction of the first sexbot brothel in Texas. City reporters stated that building inspectors had determined that KinkySdollS lacked the permits required for demolition and construction at the location of a former hair salon in the Galleria area of Houston.
In order to continue the work, the company would have to "apply for a demolition permit and submit [the] permit," a spokesperson from the mayor's office revealed earlier this month, Sputnik reported.
Although the sexbot company has not expressed any interest in opening a brothel in Harris County, court members said they wanted to eliminate the potential of that occurring in the future, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.
Assistant County Attorney Celena Vinson told the Chronicle that the county mirrored the language used by Houston's legal department when writing the regulations.
"We wanted to address the sex robot shop that was allegedly going to open in the city, and wanted to ensure our regulations were consistent with what the city of Houston was doing," Vinson said.
The regulations now define sex dolls like the ones offered by the Toronto firm as "anthropomorphic devices" that cannot legally be rented out to customers. However, residents of the city and county are free to purchase such devices to use in their own homes.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez commended the new rules, which take effect January 1, stating that they will now allow deputies to concentrate on shutting down red light businesses that operate secretly.
"Before, everything was lumped together and was ambiguous," Gonzalez said. "Now, that's no longer the case."
A vice squad made up of seven deputies and a sergeant will collaborate with Houston police to enforce the rules.
Elijah Rising, a Houston-based non-profit organization that seeks to put an end to sex trafficking, has launched a Change.org petition, "Keep Robot Brothels Out of Houston," having secured almost 14,000 signatures as of October 24.
"As a nonprofit whose mission is to end sex trafficking, we have seen the progression as sex buyers go from pornography to strip clubs to purchasing sex — robot brothels will ultimately harm men, their understanding of healthy sexuality and increase the demand for the prostitution and sexual exploitation of women and children," the petition reads.
According to the organization, such brothels will only "create an expansion of the already dehumanized act of sex buying."
KinkySdollS did not immediately respond to Sputnik's request for comment.