Virginia Leads the Way for Toughening Dangerous Dog Laws

Virginia Leads the Way for Toughening Dangerous Dog Laws

New legislation to stiffen the penalties for owners of dangerous dogs is being drafted and set to be debated and voted on early in 2006.  Senator Edd Houck, a Democrat, of Spotsylvania County, Virginia is leading the new bill and laws.

The Virginia bill calls for the penalty of having a dangerous dog to be raised and punishments start at class 5 misdemeanors and go as high as a class 3 felonies in serious cases of dog attacks, injuries, or deaths.

The new laws were spurred into being by the death of Virginia resident Dorothy Sullivan, an 82-year-old woman who was killed by her neighbor’s three pit bulls in March.  Pit bulls are being outlawed around the country as more attacks and death continue.  Over 12 people have died this year from pit bull attacks.
In an unprecedented trial scheduled for December 20, the pit bulls’ owner, Deanna Large, is being charged with manslaughter.  It would be the first time in Virginia history that a person was charged with such a serious offence for the behavior of their dogs.

Other aspects of the bill include restrictions on a dog after it has been declared dangerous by animal control or any other official.  Dangerous dogs would not be allowed to be sold, adopted, or otherwise given to anyone other than an animal control facility. 

In Virginia the bill would require owners of dangerous dogs to have insurance policies covering up to $300,000 in damages.  Hospitals who get patients injured in dog attacks would be required to report the injuries to law enforcement officials, as part of the bill.

The bill marks a shift in state law from penalizing the dog to putting the responsibility for the dogs on their owners and their owners’ behaviors.



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