Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Texas HB 1982, bringing back the stupid

And I mean that in the nicest way possible. I actually don't.

If you live in Texas and you have a dog that weighs 40 lbs or more, you should be concerned about HB 1982. If you have a dog of any weight that you know would bark, snarl, growl or potentially bite an unknown person trespassing in your backyard, you should be concerned about HB 1982. If you care about opposing stupid legislation that doesn't improve public safety, you should be concerned about HB 1982.

The bill, introduced by Representative Fischer, would add "vicious dog" to the Health and Safety statues covering dangerous dogs. It's apparently supposed to prevent people leaving their infant on the ground with two dogs or not figuring out if the chained, nursing dog out back might feel a bit unhappy with a grabby child.

How does it do that?

It defines a "vicious dog" as one that has the physical ability and "vicious nature" to cause serious harm or death to humans or property. Who are these dogs with physical ability and "vicious nature" to cause serious harm or death?

Is it this husky who killed in an infant? The Doxie mix who mauled his owner's face? The Golden Retriever-Chow mix who killed an infant (the Chow made the Golden do it?)? The starving 2-month old Lab puppy who killed a baby?

Dogs don't pop out into the world with a "vicious nature" stamped on their forehead. And if a dog has teeth, he has the ability to cause serious harm and death.

It also adds that a vicious dog is also one who "habitually" bites or attacks while on its own property...but only if the owner knew about it. It goes even further by defining a vicious dog as one who a person thinks is going to *maybe* act aggressively while on their own property. Seriously, it says:

Vicious dog means a dog that: (c) commits unprovoked acts while within the enclosure in which the dog is kept, and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person...

So if I trespass on your property and your dog charges or lunged or gives me the stink eye and I feel my trespassing personhood might possibly be violated....well then, sir, you may have yourself a vicious dog! I mean, really, what the hell is an "unprovoked act" anyways? Rhetorical question, folks.

Read Section 5. If you are a sane, logic-minded person, it will make your head spin.

It gets better. So, by now, half of you have discovered that your dog is, in fact, vicious. Maybe your dog barks at people passing by and your fence is 5' instead of 6' tall. Perhaps you discovered that your dog engages in unprovoked and rampant acts of something or other that might leads to an attack if x, y, z occur. Anyway, it doesn't matter, your dog is vicious.

This means you cannot walk your dog in a public park or on the sidewalk or, really, anywhere. You can't have your responsible 20-yr-old college-aged, on-the-wrestling-team, son walk the dog either (no one under the age of 21 can walk a zomg! vicious dog, easily defined as any dog over 40 lbs...but only if you live somewhere with a population of 1 million or more). Your dog will have to be registered as vicious, wearing a vicious dog tag. You have to notify animal control when you move, so they can let the next town know that your 42 lb muttskie is vicious.

I mean, can Fischer be serious? Is this really going to improve public safety? Will it really reduce the likelihood of one of the least likely deaths for people, death by dog? It's a waste of time and, if in the hopefully very-off-chance it's enacted, it will be a waste of money to "enforce" (with its current language, I can't imagine it's at all enforceable).

According to the Texas legislature's website, the bill is still in committee. Contact information here. Martinez Fischer's information here.

Texas has a lot more things to worry about than defining a territorial dog who nips a burglar as "vicious". This isn't going to improve public safety but it will criminalize the average dog owner and cause the unnecessary deaths of perfectly happy, healthy, normal dogs.

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