Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dog Laws Hound Legislature

It took about one day for Senator Tommy Kilby to back off and offer some new spin for a bill he proposed to make it illegal to own any bull terrier type dog. Still, Sen. Kilby and others are spending time working on legislation to deal not only with violent dog attacks but cruelty to animals.

One legislator, who initially started out wanting an outright ban on pit bulls in Tennessee, said he'd settle for strengthening penalties against owners of vicious dogs that harm others.

Another lawmaker wants victims to be able to sue in court, even if the dog attack occurs on the dog owner's property. "That's where most bites occur," said Sen. Doug Jackson, a Dickson Democrat.

Lawmakers also will consider whether to create an online registry for animal abusers, much like the sex offender registry maintained by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and whether the state should be able to confiscate property where animal fights are held."


"So last year, lawmakers finally toughened Tennessee's weak animal control law, which before then was essentially nothing more than a $50 fine on owners who allowed their dogs to run at large.

The new law, named the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, abolished Tennessee's long-observed "first bite" rule, which allowed owners to escape civil liability if that was the first time their dog harmed someone.

Now, victims no longer have to prove that they weren't the first person bitten by a dog before they can sue an owner in civil court.

"It was a good first step," said Acklen's daughter, Darbie Sizemore.

"I'm encouraged they put more responsibility on the dog owner.

"My right to walk down a county road should not be infringed upon by your ability to own a dog."

She added, "Owning a dog is not a right; it is a responsibility.

"You have a responsibility to keep your dog contained on your property."

But that's where things get thorny.

The new law applies only if the dog is not on its own property.

Jackson said he's already filed a bill to correct what he says is a "crazy" loophole."

(via the Tennessean, which also has links to all the legislation currently filed and how to contact the sponsors of the bills.)

Meanwhile, The Editor has copious information on the upcoming consideration by the Knox County Commission on a 'dangerous dog' ordinance, which they will review on Jan. 28. She also has lots and lots more information about incidents involving dog attacks here.

Some critical changes certainly need to be considered to make sure the existing laws demand accountability for people who abuse animals and allow them to roam unchecked. Stronger laws and penalties, yes -- banning ownership of one breed or another based on anecdotes and personal bias, no.


  1. Thanks for the shout out Joe.

    I'm really thinking about attending that meeting next Monday loaded down with facts. But I really think what I need to do is write a informational email to the Commission. What do you think?

  2. yes i would send out that email of info. and also email or call your county commissioner too to express your concerns.