Monday, December 22, 2008
~Picture of Greta, one of my "vicious" pit bull fosters.~
SAN ANTONIO — A Dallas lawmaker has asked the state attorney general to issue an opinion on whether local officials have the authority to pass laws banning or regulating certain canine breeds — such as pit bulls and Rottweilers — in a move that could set the tone for a showdown in the Legislature.
In a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott, Republican state Rep. Tony Goolsby requested an opinion to clarify a state law that cities and counties have interpreted as preventing them from targeting breeds. He wrote that confusion caused by “varying interpretations” of the law has stopped local governments wanting to pursue such measures. Most of the confusion concerns whether the law would apply to a dog that has not been deemed “dangerous.”
“I really think this matter should be handled locally, but it seems like these municipalities are afraid to put some tough strength in the law,” said Goolsby, who requested the opinion on behalf of a friend who was attacked by a pit bull years ago. “These dogs are going to continue to maim and kill.”
The attorney general generally renders a legal opinion within 180 days of a request. Goolsby did not ask for an expedited opinion in his Nov. 21 letter, because the Legislature could make a ruling obsolete with the passage of a new law in the coming months.
A bill giving municipalities and counties the power to target breeds has not yet been filed for the upcoming session, though similar measures have failed in the past. But Goolsby, who lost his re-election bid in November to Democrat Carol Kent, said if he were in office when the session convened next month, a bill “sure would be filed.”
Around the country, measures targeting dogs — commonly referred to as breed-specific legislation — have been passed at the local and state level since at least the 1980s, experts say. Some mandate sterilization or require owners to purchase insurance, while others impose an outright ban. Most recently, Sioux City, Iowa, joined a short list of cities to ban pit bulls.
In Texas, several cities — including San Antonio — are petitioning the Texas Municipal League and local lawmakers for a bill this session.
“This is something we've been working on,” said City Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos. “I would like to see the city come to the table and work with one of our local state legislators to see if we can push this issue forward.”
Last year, 10-year-old Amber Jones was fatally mauled by a pit bull in Ramos' South Side district. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year — including 16 fatal attacks.
Recent maulings in San Antonio and Bexar County — including an incident in which a woman was nearly killed on the South Side in August and another in which two county workers were attacked by a pair of pit bulls — have bolstered momentum for more stringent regulations.
“Vicious dogs are a public health and safety concern,” said interim Animal Care Services Director Victor Medley. “It's one of the No. 1 concerns here in San Antonio.”
Although the issue is a hot-button topic, “I don't think anybody is in favor of the all-out ban,” Ramos said.
Still, pit bull clubs across the state have organized petitions against restrictive measures, saying the onus should be on owners, not specific breeds.
“It's all about the owners,” said Pamela Hernandez, founder and president of Alamo City Bully Breeds United. “If you're going to own a pit bull, you have to be responsible and know what's going on with your dog at all times.”
~Just for the record, the Center for Disease Control is often misquoted AND they take in NO contributing factors in any dog related incident.~