Dog fight over vicious dog bill - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Dog fight over vicious dog bill

By Donna McCollum

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) -  When small children are killed by dogs, like what happened last month in Luling and San Antonio, people are wanting ways to prevent future attacks. A Texas legislator is proposing a bill that would put restrictions on vicious dogs. No argument there, until you start defining vicious. The vicious dog bill is pushed by Representative Trey Fischer of San Antonio. The bill would require vicious dogs as defined in the bill to be registered, insured for $100, and heavily restrained.  

So what's a vicious dog? Under the proposed bill a vicious dog is defined as capable of causing serious injury due to its 'physical nature'. Two large German shepherds and a golden retriever at Jean Witt's home might fit that definition. The bill further describes vicious as overly aggressive. Witt's dogs are barking. The bill says any dog that jumps at the fence is vicious.   Chain link clangs as Witt's dogs hit the fence. And the bill says a vicious dog makes people think it could attack. People unfamiliar with dogs may think Witt's dogs would tear them up. So are these dogs vicious? Witt says no way. "They're saying this is their house, their yard and what are you doing here and who are you?," interpreted Witt.

They're just being a dog says the trainer of more than 50 years. Territorial behavior quickly turns to docile, well mannered behavior. All the dogs sit quietly when she tells them everything is alright. "He's a good boy." Dixie and Jodie are also therapy dogs. They snuggle with children, allow older people to pet them and tolerate toddlers crawling over them. Witt says the proposed vicious dog bill would punish dog owners just because people might be afraid of a bark. "We take these dogs to nursing homes and rehab and hospitals and half the employees are terrified when we walk down the hallway with them," described Witt. "Just because the person feels threatened, doesn't mean the dog is being threatening to them."

There's also a provision requiring dogs that weigh more than 40 pounds be leashed at all times. And in some cases kept out of schools. Witt says this puts therapy dogs out of work. Witt calls that discrimination. "Just because they're big, don't mean they're bad."

Witt is sensitive to those horrible cases where people, particularly children, are hurt by dogs. She blames humans, not the animals. "I believe in responsible dog ownership. I certainly believe people with children have to be responsible too," said Witt. The challenge, she says, is not training the dog, but rather training the people how to act around animals and how to be responsible care takers.

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