States With Dangerous Dog Legislation Weigh Public Safety With Rights Of Dog Owners


Earlier this month, the state of Virgina established the online Virginia Dangerous Dog Registry. This site allows residents to find dogs in their county that have attacked a person or an animal, and that a judge has decided could cause injury again. Two pictures of the dog (front view and side view), address of the owner, and the incident are public information on the registry.

Officials in Virginia created this registry after dogs killed a toddler and an 82-year-old woman in separate incidents during the past two years. The registry was created for the state to deal with dogs deemed dangerous. 33 states and the District of Columbia hold owners legally liable if their dogs injure or kill.

Under Virginia’s new law, dogs must wear a special “dangerous dog” tag, and when he goes out in public, he must also wear an orange “danger” collar. The owner must also display a dangerous dog sign in the window of the house. Also, a $100,000 liability insurance policy on the dog must be bought. All of this is in effect “until proof of death of the animal.”

Amidst the growing legislations, lawmakers struggle to balance between the fine line of public safety without invading the privacy and property rights of dog owners. Many national dog owner and veterinarian associations say the specific breed bans are difficult to enforce and ineffective since, they say, if one breed is banned, dog owners seeking aggressive dogs will simply begin fostering fierceness in other breeds.

From New York Times: (registration required)

In 2006, Ohio became the first state to enact a breed ban, but it was later overturned. During the past several years, municipalities across the nation have been taking similar steps. They are targeting specific breeds especially pit bulls, Rottweilers, English bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers, and passing regulations that require owners to use muzzles or short leashes in public.

12 states prohibit local municipalities from passing breed-specific legislation.

Texas has responded to dangerous dogs by making it a felony with a possible 10-year prison sentence for anyone whose dog seriously injures a person while off its leash.

Counties in Florida and New York have also created public dangerous dog registries, and Hawaii is considering one. Opponents of the dangerous dog registries say that by putting home addresses of the dog owners, this allows for harassment and violates the privacy of the owner.

17 states have a “one bite rule” that protects dog owners from liability for the first attack.

“It seems a little unfair to single out a dog if they haven’t done something in the past,” said Jacqueline Short, 40, who lives in Newport News, Va. She is Bear’s owner and says the bicyclist was her pet’s first biting offense.

Now that Bear [pictured here] has been officially designated a dangerous dog, he must be muzzled and walked on a short leash when he is taken in public. But Ms. Short says the toughest requirement has been the $100,000 liability insurance that she now has to carry, which costs about $1,000 a year.

“Courts need to look at the dog’s history and the severity of the incident,” Ms. Short said, “and if the dogs haven’t shown aggression in the past then that should be taken into account before they are considered dangerous.”

Even with stiffer penalties, animal control departments are often understaffed and under-financed and therefore unable to apply the laws.

Each year, roughly 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs and about 800,000, half of them children, seek medical attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On average, a dozen people die each year from dog attacks, according to the center. In 2003, 32 people died from dog-related incidents.

20 Responses to “States With Dangerous Dog Legislation Weigh Public Safety With Rights Of Dog Owners”

  1. trucorgi says:

    “Amidst the growing legislations, lawmakers struggle to balance between the fine line of public safety without invading the privacy and property rights of dog owners.”

    BS!!!! Nothing could be further from the truth!

    As of July 1 there is a new law requiring all veterinarians that give a dog a rabies vaccine in Virginia to turn over private information to be entered into a database. This will include the owner’s name, address, phone, dog’s breed and reproductive status. All of this information will be available to anyone and everyone who requests it per the Freedom of Information Act.

    Armed with this information there is no doubt that animal rightist zealots, coincidently who’s Peta headquarters is located in Virginia, will harass citizens over having too many dogs or not sterilizing them.

    But more importantly, insurance companies will cancel the homeowner’s policies of people owning breeds like pit bulls, Rotweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds etc. This will make it simple for the insurance industry to blacklist people owning certain breeds or an intact dog of any breed.

    These databases may seem harmless to law abiding citizens on the surface, but it is nothing more than back door breed specific and mandatory spay/neuter legislation.

    Responsible dog owners that do not want private information from their veterinary records made public have no other recourse than to cross state lines to vaccinate their dogs or give their own vaccines. Others will simply forgo the rabies vaccine, which creates a public safety concern.

    So don’t sugar coat this by saying “lawmakers struggle to balance between the fine line of public safety without invading the privacy and property rights of dog owners.” They know exactly what they are doing. Actions speak louder than words!

    Information is being collected and made public on every law abiding dog owner in the State of Virginia right now, not just those deemed dangerous by a judge. The latter is receiving attention here because it’s something the public can feel good about supporting.

    Pet Data, a private, for profit, animal licensing contractor and HSUS supporter, is gathering dog owner data one city and county at a time when these laws are enacted. The firm has no privacy policy. It is only a matter of time before the state of Virginia is burdened by this data collection and outsourcers it to Petdata.

    FROM THE PETDATA WEBSITE: “Reports: PetData prepares a monthly report of animals licensed detailed by species, STERILIZATION STATUS, cost and vendor. We can also furnish additional statistical reports as requested. Depending on the information requested, PetData can provide most reports in two to five business days.”

    They say they have already databanked information on 2 million residents across the nation. The website reads like a propaganda poster for mandatory spay/neuter.

    It’s never been more clear that yes, Big Brother IS watching you. It’s time to get serious about taking back our freedoms. Support pet owner’s rights. Don’t believe for one minute that the animal rights and insurance lobbies behind these laws care one bit about invading the privacy and property rights of dogs owners, when in fact that is their goal.

    Does anyone doubt what will happen when dog owners can not obtain or afford insurance? Record numbers of large breeds will be given up and then euphonized due to overcrowded shelters? This will be spun into more “pet overpopulation”, instead of what it really is, discrimination.

    Wake up and small the poop being shoveled out by these folks. It stinks!

  2. Captn' Carl says:

    Another manipulation attempt by Big Brother to gain additional control.

  3. Elaine Vigneault says:

    I considered blogging about this myself, and maybe I still will.

    My immediate thoughts were:
    Dangerous dog registration? What about dangerous teenage driver registration? They kill a lot more people each year than dogs do.

  4. Dog Training says:

    This is totally disgusting and is the nanny state in the extreme. What frightens me is that whatever happens in the US usually finds its way over the water to us in the UK. We dog owners are up in arms now about the new Animal Welfare Act section 6, Dog Control Order. Under this order local councils can now insist that dogs be kept on lead in ALL public areas which includes open countryside and forests. Dog owners are doing everything within their power to force councils to limit the restrictions and so far we are having some success. I have no issue with dogs being on lead in parks and play areas but my dogs have the right to run free when we are out in open country areas. How can you all accept this intrusion on your privacy. It is no ones business but your own whether you have your dog neutered or not. That vets are keeping such information on a database is unthinkable to me. This will just lead to all dog owners adopting a cloak of secrecy and not having their dogs vaccinated or neutered (both of which I am NOT in favour of) Come on all you dog owners. For goodness sake DO SOMETHING!!!

    Regards, Marion

  5. Radcliff, Allie, Luna, & Ozzie says:

    The cynic in us wonders how long it will be before there is a market for government-certified ‘dangerous dogs’. Why waste your time looking for a German Shepard or Staffordshire terrier you have to work to turn into an aggressive dog when you can just check the Dangerous Dog Registry?

  6. kaefamily says:

    How about a registry for dangerous pet owners?
    Umm, the doggie in the picture does NOT look happy with the muzzle :-(

  7. vida says:

    This is outrageous, we need some organization that stands up for pets and their people, or vice versa. Look at how the NRA stands up for gun owners, and a lot more people die of gun violence than from dog attack. Enough of this poking and prying into citzens private business already!

  8. wescott20 says:

    How about a registry for all of the animal abusers who get off with a slap on the wrist after torturing and maiming a neighbor’s pet? It seems like the true criminals have their undeserved rights protected by our “justice system”, while responsible pet owners are constantly harassed with increased legislation and big government intrusion…slowly but surely pet lover’s rights are being eroded away. If this was common knowledge the public would be outraged because any sensible person can see the far reaching implications of this trend, but notice that we don’t hear anything about this in the mainstream media?

  9. trucorgi says:

    Dog Training says: July 24th, 2007 at 11:17 am
    “This is totally disgusting and is the nanny state in the extreme. What frightens me is that whatever happens in the US usually finds its way over the water to us in the UK.”

    And Vice versa. Tail docking bans are coming to the nanny states soon since it has been successful across the water.

    “How can you all accept this intrusion on your privacy.”
    “Come on all you dog owners. For goodness sake DO SOMETHING!!!”

    The California pet extinction act AB 1634 was a wake up call for many of us and PetPac was born.
    It is a Political Action Committee established specifically to fight bad animal legislation. It represents a broad constituency of dogs & cat owners, show and working animals, service and police dogs, mutts and purebreds, any animals and their owners targeted by onerous animal rights laws. PetPAC is new but its founders are experienced at fighting these battles. It became apparent that US pet owners needed a lobby to fight the many animal rights lobbies or we will legislate away our rights to have domestic pets and all be profiled in a database modeled for sex offenders.

  10. Captn' Carl says:

    How about the names and current addresses of all animal abusers so true justice could prevail for a change?

  11. catmom5 says:

    It’s not the breed, it’s the people who make them dangerous!

  12. mittens says:

    i can think of many people- convicted criminals, convicted of violent crimes and sex crimes who should be tagged with a ‘ ‘dangerous human’ collers and forced to wear , say, bright orange ‘ dangerous socipathic child raper’ vests in public.

    instead, we let them free because there’s’ no translater’ of their obscure alleged foreign language or because the state deems 5 years enough of one’s ‘life senetence’ to be let loose to hurt more people.

    more humans are viciously attacked by other humans than by pit bulls or akitas. what’s good for the dog is good for the ‘ masters’. if your particular dog is dangerously vicious, we put you down too. if YOU, unrelated to a pet, are dangerously vicious- one ‘ bite’ and you’re thrown into a muzzle and orange ‘dangerous’ clown suit. 2nd ‘bite’ and we put you out of your misery.

  13. Trudy Jackson says:

    Trucorgi, Everything you said is so true. and Va. is a terrible state for pets. And of course, PETAs’ headquarters. Did you know in V.a Beach thay[ the animal control] can come right in your house and take your pets? It’s true. I actually saw it happen. Va. SPCA is a bad place, Animal control is a bad place. Big Brother there wants you to have no pets!

  14. Jenny Bark says:

    Trucorgi, thanks for the information.

  15. Lynne says:

    Gee, why don’t they just put RFID chips in them? In the owners too. I’m more concerned about the RFID intrusion.

  16. Dogs Do The Darnedest Things » States Begin Vicious Dog Registry says:

    […] more about it here… Posted in General Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this […]

  17. Bears owner says:

    Bear was put to sleep early December 2007 due to a tumor on his spine. This tumor caused him to loose use of all four legs. We had no other choice but to put him down to rest. We will miss Bear and will never be able replace him. He was a beloved family member who was accused of crime he did not commit. It was obvious to us and friends and family members that knew Bear that he was not capable of biting and or jumping high enough to bite the upper part of the back thigh of someone on a bike. But because of the law and no other witnesses other than another dog he was the one blamed. Every dog that is on the registry has a responsible owner. If we weren’t, our dogs would not be alive to be on the site. It’s sad to think that all the dogs that truly belong on the site have been put to sleep. But the dogs that are family members and are owned by responsible people are subject to fines and prosecution and the embarrassment of people thinking that you are a BAD Dog owner.

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  19. Karen says:

    Can anyone in VA please tell me where to get the dog liability insurance?

  20. Supporter says:

    I’m glad VA has this. I actually support this one. I am a dog owner and keep my dog restrained. But I have been threatened many times by dogs coming after me because its owner won’t keep the dog on their property. The cost of registering the dog and paying for insurance is what it is going to take to make the irresponsible people wake up to the safety hazard that their current lack of action in properly restraining their dogs is causing. Numerous complaints have been made about the same dogs, and now if they manage to bite someone or cause a bicyclist or motorcyclist to wreck something can be done.

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