Barking Mad Over “Vicious” Dog Bill

Many pet owners say a bill before the Legislature that would define and regulate "vicious" dogs goes too far.

The bill, HB 1982, would force the owners of "vicious" dogs to get liability insurance.

It would also require owners who live in cities with populations of more than 1 million to keep vicious dogs that weigh more than 40 pounds on a leash, in a secure enclosure or inside a residence and ban the animals from parks and schools.

"I'd hate for them to tell me that I can't take my dog for a walk on a leash because he's vicious," Stephanie Longinotti said. "I should be able to do that."

People younger than 21 would also not be allowed to own vicious dogs.

"I think it's a good idea," Macarthur Gilber, of Dallas, said. "Just like firearms -- they can be dangerous. If a minor shouldn't possess a firearm, he shouldn't possess a dangerous dog."

According to Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer's measure, vicious dogs would be defined as dogs that are capable of seriously hurting or killing someone because of the animal's "physical nature and vicious propensity" and acts in such a way that an owner thinks the animal may attack someone.

The San Antonio Democrat proposed the bill after a pair of pit bulls killed a 7-month-old baby last week.

But even the owners of Unleashed, an indoor dog park that does not allow pit bulls in its play areas because of insurance concerns, say the law just goes too far.

"We don't agree," co-owner Cody Acree said. "Every dog can be a good dog. We think that any dog can have a good day (or) a bad day."

Animal groups say the bill and its restrictions on public places such as parks would harm responsible pet owners, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

The Texas Veterinary Medical Association testified against the bill, which is in the House Committee on County Affairs, on Monday.

Animal groups say they are also concerned the law would allow local governments to target specific breeds of dogs, the Express-News reported.

But Martinez Fischer told the newspaper his bill goes after behavior, not breeds.

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