Beginning tomorrow, the owner of a dog that kills or seriously injures someone could go to prison under a new Texas law, reports the Dallas Morning News. Enacted in response to the fatal mauling of an elderly woman, the law makes it easier to prosecute dog owners and provides for some of the nation’s stiffest dog-bite penalties. Its felony offense adds sting to laws that can be difficult to enforce, easy to disregard, and more often punish dogs instead of the people responsible for them. Supporters hope the tougher terms catch dog owners’ attention and reduce the number and severity of attacks.
The new law applies only to the most brutal attacks and specific conditions. Its impact will be difficult, if not impossible, to know. “Any tool we can get to protect our citizens is vital,” said Keane Menefee, Fort Worth’s director of animal care and control. Vicious dogs are usually the creation of irresponsible owners, specialists say, because many people don’t train and socialize their animals, encourage them to be aggressive and don’t keep them secured. “It’s no different than giving a loaded .45 to a 3-year-old to protect a home,” said Jay Sabatucci of the Humane Society of the United States. Whether the news accounts or bite reports tell of pit bulls, Rottweilers, chows or any breed mix, the attacks keep coming – with sometimes horrific and costly results.