Lawmaker tries to tighten leash on dog attacks

Sunday, January 20th 2008, 10:17 pm
By: News 9

By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9

A dog bite could earn pet owners a $10,000 fine and a year in jail if legislators pass a new law.

After two setbacks in his fight against vicious dog attacks State Rep Paul Wesselhoft will try again. He is writing a bill that would make a dog attack at "first bite" felony for the owner.

"The pit bull breeders keep telling me ‘don't go after the dog, don't go after the dog, go after the owner," he said. "I'm going after the owner."

If passed, the bill would make it a crime if a dog is off the owners property and caused a deep, penetrating wound and shred muscle tissue. In other words, the bit would cause a person to seek medical help.

The bill isn't specific to any breed, but Wesselhoft thinks it will still have an effect on pit bulls.

"I'm trying to curtail the pit bull population in Oklahoma, make no secret about it," he said. "If my bill is passed it will have the effect on the pit bull population because people will think twice about buying a pit bull - these nice little puppies that grow up and sometimes can tear peoples' arms off."

Dog owners had mixed reactions to the bill.

Ray Laverdiere said he was nearly attacked once and supports the bill.

"I know I was scared when those dogs came at me," he said. "Personally I wouldn't own a dog that I would have to worry about attacking somebody."

Dog Owner Royce Wright said she is opposed to the bill.

"A felony charge, that's outrageous," she said. "I was shocked. I mean what is the purpose behind it?"

Texas legislators passed a similar bill last year.