I normally would not devote a column to a press release, but today I am making an exception. The following from a Dallas personal injury law firm explains how cities and counties may regulate dangerous dogs, and describes the criminal and civil penalties to which all owners must answer if they are irresponsible. The argument for breed-specific legislation that “…nothing can be done until someone is killed/maimed” is pure fiction. The below is reprinted in it’s entirety without alteration.
December 22, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ — After a horrifying dog attack on his granddaughter, a Texas grandfather recently urged the Van City Council to ban dangerous dog breeds. The state of Texas has a state-wide law on dog bites, however, cities and counties may instate local laws that create more protection for their residents.
Terrifying Dog Attack
On Halloween night, Douglas Wolfe’s 2-year-old granddaughter, Summer, was viciously mauled in Van, Texas by a neighbor’s 7-month-old pit bull. Summer knew and trusted the dog, but for unknown reasons, attacked her that evening.
According to East Texas KLTV news, Summer received seven deep bites to her head, resulting in 18.5 inches of lacerations and hundreds of stitches. Wolfe said that seeing his granddaughter’s skull bone through the gashes in her scalp was the hardest thing he has ever done in his life.
Left feeling helpless after the dog attack, Wolfe intends to do all he can to protect his granddaughter and other children in the area from dangerous dogs. At a Van City Council meeting last month, he asked to the council to consider an “outright ban on the ownership, possession and breeding of pit bulls and rottweilers in the City of Van.”
Texas Dog-Bite Law
Currently, the state of Texas does not have laws in place banning the private ownership of certain dog breeds. But, Texas has passed dog-bite laws that impose liability on Texas dog owners if their dog attacks someone.
Before 2007, Texas followed what was known as the “one-free-bite law.” Essentially, the law allowed a dog to bite someone once without consequence for the owner.
The law was changed after a pack of loose dogs killed 76-year-old Lillian Stiles while she was mowing her front lawn. Her family and other Texans were shocked to learn that many dog owners were not held responsible under the law for injuries or fatalities caused by their dogs. A group called the Texas Families Against Dangerous Dogs formed to help change the law.
In 2007, the one-free-bite law was changed when Lillian’s Law took affect. Under Lillian’s Law, the owner of a loose dog in Texas that causes a person’s injury or death may go to jail if he or she is found criminally negligent in failing to prevent the dog from escaping, or if the dog is a known dangerous dog.
If a person is injured in a dog attack, but does not need hospitalization, the owner may be charged with a misdemeanor.
If the dog severely injures someone, the owner may be charged with a third-degree felony and, if convicted, could serve a two to 10 year prison sentence and pay a $10,000 fine.
If the victim of the dog attack dies, the owner may be charged with a second-degree felony and could serve up to 20 years in prison.
Texas Dog-Bite Law: Criminal Negligence
Under Lillian’s Law, a loose dog’s first attack may be a felony offense if two requirements are satisfied:
– First, the injuries caused by the attack must be fatal or cause severe impairment.
– Second, the owner must be proven criminally negligent in not properly securing the animal.
According to Robert Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, prosecutors must demonstrate that the owner knew of and ignored the risk of a dog’s escape from its enclosure in order to prove the owner was criminally negligent.
In addition, a dog owner may be found criminally liable for an attack if he or she knew the dog was a “dangerous dog” and it severely injured or killed someone while it was loose from its enclosure.
According to Lillian’s Law, a dangerous dog is either:
– A dog that has previously injured someone in an unprovoked attack outside its enclosure, or
– A dog that has committed unprovoked acts outside its enclosure that cause a person to reasonably believe it will attack
Texas Local Regulations
Cities and counties may also instate local regulations for dog leashing and registration if they wish. However, the state of Texas Health and Safety Code (Section 822.047) states that cities and counties may only place additional restrictions on dangerous dogs if the rules are more stringent than state law and do not single out specific dog breeds. Therefore, unless the law changes again, the City of Van is prohibited from specifically banning pit bulls and rottweilers as Wolfe urged.
Seeking Legal Compensation for a Dog Bite in Texas
However, a dog attack victim, or the victim’s family, may still pursue a cause of action for money damages and make a claim against the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance, or, file a timely personal injury lawsuit to protect the victim’s legal rights. The victim can seek compensation for his or her injuries including medical treatment, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and past pain and suffering, as well as any treatment or counseling that may be needed in the future.
If you or a loved one has been attacked or bitten by a dog, contact an attorney experienced in handling Texas dog-bite cases to discuss legal options available.
Article provided by Weinstein Law
Visit us at www.longhornlawyer.com
For more information:
Read more about the Van City Council Meeting.
Read more about how Texas cities and counties may regulate dangerous dogs.
Read more about recent incidents in East Texas.