Texas Struggles With Dangerous Dog Laws

One Proposed Solution Is Simply Kill Dogs After One Bite

One Proposed Solution Is Simply Kill Dogs After One Bite

By Laura Allen, Best Friends Staff

Texas Legislature Considers Repeal of Ban on BSL

Other Texas legislators have introduced bills that would avoid breed specific discrimination but do not really address the issues that cause the problem of "dangerous dogs".

In one bill dubbed "Lillian’s Law", one legislator has called for greater penalties for owners of dangerous dogs that seriously injure or kill someone. In another bill also called "Lillian’s Law", another legislator has said any dog that bites and causes injury, "no matter the extent", must be destroyed.

The proposed laws are named for Lillian Stiles, an elderly woman killed by a pack of dogs in Thorndale, Texas.

Lillian Stiles, 76, was in her yard in November 2005 when she was fatally attacked. The owner of the dogs faces a trial on charges of criminally negligent homicide.

Under one version of "Lillian’s Law", HB 1355 pending in the Texas House of Representatives, owners of a dog already declared "dangerous" under state or local law that seriously injures someone would be charged with a third degree felony. If such a dog kills someone, the owner could be charged with a second degree felony.

Also, if the dog has not been declared "dangerous" but the owner is criminally negligent in causing the attack, the owner can still be charged with a third degree felony for any serious injury and a second degree felony for a death.

The possible punishment for these crimes ranges from 2-20 years in prison. In any of these situations, the dog may be ordered destroyed.

Under the other version of Lillian’s Law", S.B. 405 pending in the Texas Senate, would do away with the "dangerous dog" designation and require owners of all dogs to keep them on a leash or in a secure enclosure. Curiously, dogs in unincorporated areas may run loose as long as they have been registered and wear a collar and registration tag.

Under this proposal a dog must be destroyed if it causes any injury to someone in an unprovoked attack or bite. In other words, one bite and no matter the extent of injury, and the dog must be killed. The dog’s owner may be charged with a misdemeanor.

This proposal would not have helped little Pedro Rios who was attacked by 2 dogs in an unincorporated area of Harris County. For more on that, click here.

Texas Legislature Considers Repeal of Ban on BSL

Texas' Current Dangerous Dog Law

Both of these proposals would amend Texas’ existing dangerous dog law which currently provides that following a hearing, a court may declare a dog "dangerous" basically if it causes injury in an unprovoked attack. Texas Heath & Safety Code §822.041. The owner must register the dangerous" dog each year and provide proof of $100,000 in liability insurance to cover injuries and damages caused by the dog, current rabies vaccination, a secure enclosure, and payment of a $50 fee. Tex. Health & Safety Code §§ 822.042, 822.043. The owner must notify authorities of any attacks by the dog on people. Also, the owner must comply with any other restrictions imposed by local county or city governments.

Under current Texas law it is a Class C misdemeanor if the owner violates the provisions of the dangerous dog law or the dog causes serious injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the dangerous dog causes a death of a person in an unprovoked attack. A $10,000 penalty may also be imposed on the owner whose dangerous dog causes serious injury or kills someone. Texas Heath & Safety Code §§822.044, 822.045.

Click here to find the names and addresses of Texas legislators. Find Texas legislators

Call or write and urge them to oppose S.B. 405, the zero tolerance for dogs proposal.

While the other bill, HB 1355, certainly recognizes the importance of greater owner accountability, it should be combined with stronger, enforceable anti-cruelty laws, anti-chaining measures, and breeding regulations as well as financial appropriations for tougher enforcement of leash laws and dog fighting laws. Also, with the stronger accountability contemplated by HB 1355, there should be requirements for training, owner responsibilty classes, and community service. The problem of dangerous dogs is a complex one and simply imposing longer prison sentences will not be enough.
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