Dangerous Dog Bill Advances
Austin, TX - Some months ago, state Rep. Chuck Hopson drafted HB 1389 that increases criminal penalties for dog owners -- from second degree to first degree -- if their dog kills a person under the age of 18 or over the age of 65 and falls under 822.005 (Lillian's Law, which only affects "loose dog" attacks). The bill recently passed the House in a 123-7 vote and is headed to the Senate. The bill in part came in response to the 2009 death of Justin Clinton.
We have highlighted the area that shows Hopson's addition. It is important to point out that neither Lillian's Law nor Hopson's increased penalties to it eliminate the "one bite free" rule, which governs the State of Texas. Unpredictable, violent attacks by pit bulls and rottweilers without a history of prior aggression (as is often the case) are unaffected by these laws as well as on-property attacks (as is often the case), such as when a child visits a relative's home.
SECTION 5. Section 822.005, Health and Safety Code, is amended to read as follows:
Sec. 822.005. ATTACK BY DOG.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person is the owner of a dog and the person:
(1) with criminal negligence fails to secure the dog and the dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than the owner's property and that causes serious bodily injury or death to the other person; or
(2) knows the dog is a dangerous dog and the dangerous dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than a secure enclosure in which the dog is restrained in accordance with Subchapter D and that causes serious bodily injury or death to the other person.
(b) Except as provided by Subsection (b-1), an [An] offense under this section is a felony of the third degree [unless the attack causes death, in which event the offense is a felony of the second degree].
(b-1) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree if the attack causes death, except that the offense is a felony of the first degree if the attack causes death to a person:
(1) younger than 18 years of age; or
(2) 65 years of age or older.
(c) If a person is found guilty of an offense under this section, the court may order the dog destroyed by a person listed in Section 822.004.
(d) For purposes of this section, an owner knows a dog is a dangerous dog when the owner learns as described by Section 822.042(g) the owner is the owner of a dangerous dog.
(e) A person who is subject to prosecution under this section and another law may be prosecuted under either or both this section and the other law.
Lillian's Law already provides a 20-year penalty of imprisonment when a "loose" dog mauls an innocent person to death and its owner knew the animal was dangerous (a known history of aggression). In 2008, Jack Smith and Crystal Watson, the owners of the pit bulls that killed 7-year old Tanner Monk, were the first to be prosecuted under Lillian's Law and the jury chose a 7-year sentence for each. The 11th Court of Appeals recently upheld their conviction.
06/23/09: Texans Killed by Pit Bulls in 3.5 Year Period (2006-2009)
10/08/08: Fatal Dog Mauling Trial of Tanner Joshua Monk, 7 Years Old
08/20/08: Dog Attacks, Trends and Dog Law Coverage of Texas
01/09/08: Lillian's Law - Texas State Dangerous Dog Law