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Putting Some Bite Into the Law

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On a recent flight from Houston to Dallas, my plane-ride banter took a grisly turn when I learned why the woman next to me was coming home to Big D. She lives in Maryland, and the day before, her brother’s Labrador mauled their elderly mother, leaving both of her hands riddled with puncture wounds and nearly taking off her right little finger. The poor woman, in her 70s, spent a day getting sutures at the emergency room and was ordered to return each day to ensure the wounds wouldn’t get infected.

I’d never heard of a Lab attacking anyone, but apparently, they do, especially if they’re not cared for properly; apparently, the woman’s brother, who owned the dog, is a raging alcoholic, so who knows if he was even feeding the poor dog. The story reminded me of the time a few years ago when a neighbor’s infant was attacked and killed by an Alaskan malamute. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

So, you gotta hand it to the legislature for finally passing Lillian’s Law in May, and to the governor for signing it last month.

The measure, which was co-sponsored by State Rep. Rafael Anchia and takes effect Sept. 1, will charge owners with a third-degree felony if a dog causes serious bodily injury in an unprovoked attack. That means irresponsible owners could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Lillian's Law, named after an elderly woman who was mauled to death in 2002 by a pack of pit bulls while mowing her lawn, reverses the "first bite" rule, which fails to hold owners accountable for an attack if their dog wasn't already considered dangerous. Responsibility -- what a concept. Since Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan can’t be everywhere at once, at least when attacks aren’t prevented, someone will face the consequences, and not just the neglected animal who’s put to sleep. --Megan Feldman

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