Owners on a Tight Leash
Hinds County, MI - Allen Kelly and his wife have been fighting for tougher laws on vicious dogs since two pit bulls mauled him two years ago. Hinds County added teeth to its vicious animal ordinance in November, and now a bill is pending in the Legislature to do the same statewide. State Rep. Jim Ellington, R-Raymond, is sponsoring House Bill 1364.
The bill defines a vicious dog as one that has shown a tendency to attack unprovoked, to cause injury or to otherwise endanger the safety of people or other animals. It gives law enforcement the authority to euthanize animals if necessary. The bill also requires that vicious dogs be confined at all times in most subdivisions and that anyone who owns a vicious dog place "beware of dog" signs on their property. Violators could face maximum penalties of $5,000 in fines and up to six months in jail. Hinds County imposes up to 90 days in jail and $3,000 in fines.
Debra Boswell, director of the Mississippi Animal Rescue League, said the problem of dog attacks is escalating in Jackson and in other places. MARL handled more than 300 cases of aggressive dogs in 2007. MARL supports vicious dog legislation, Boswell said, not breed-specific. But she said, "there's no ignoring the fact that pit bulls lead the records hands down on the number of fatalities and critical injuries." She cited statistics showing that of 32 people killed from dog attacks in 2007, 69 percent involved pit bulls or similar type dogs.
A lot of people think the bill is targeting pit bulls. But the legislation is not breed-specific. "It's any vicious dogs," she said.