Law Takes Baby Steps
Omaha, NE - At first glance, the passing of the new Nebraska law did not register well. The article reported: "Under the bill (LB494) sent to Gov. Dave Heineman for his approval, the owner of a dog deemed dangerous because of a previous attack could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if the dog attacked again and injured someone. After a third attack by the dog, the owner could face a felony penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine."
Upon reading the bill, several clarifications were learned. Most importantly, the bill pertains to any dog deemed dangerous that is owned by the same person. For example, if the owner's pit bull killed a neighbor's dog (1 dog deemed "dangerous") and the owner's rottweiler attacked the mailman (1 dog deemed "dangerous"), the offending dog owner would still be subject to the first tier of penalties. In essence, the new law creates a sticky factor for the dog owner.
In many states, once a dog is deemed dangerous, the owner puts the animal down. When this happens, the "dangerous" label vanishes with the dog. This owner is then free to go out and buy a new aggressive dog. If the new dog attacks, the legal process begins again without a sticky factor. LB494 targets repeat offenders, by 1.) Prohibiting ownership of a dangerous dog for 10 years if the owner has a prior conviction 2.) Penalizing an owner with a history of attacking dogs.
Sec. 13. (1) Any owner whose dangerous dog (1st victim was created to gain the "dangerous" label) inflicts on a human being a serious bodily injury (2nd victim was created) as defined in section 28-109 is guilty of a Class I misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class IV felony for a second (3rd victim was created) or subsequent offense, whether or not the same dangerous dog is involved.
The new law is a step in the right direction in that it focuses on repeat offenders, who clearly present a great danger to the community. But the penalties, particularly the first tier, do not nearly go far enough. Two victims -- that suffer "sutures or surgery or treatment or one or more broken bones" -- must be created before the misdemeanor charges apply (up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine), and a third victim for the felony charges to apply (up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine).
09/07/08: "Vicious" Dog Laws Stop at State Lines; Pit Bull-Mix Whisked to New State
06/28/08: Coverage of the Omaha Pit Bull Attack - DogsBite.org