Vicious Dog Bill Stirs up Controversy

Your dog could be labeled as vicious and taken away from you, even if it's never attacked anyone.

There is a new bill being discussed in Austin that would mean big changes for you and your family pet.

The State House committee is discussing a bill that would allow local animal control officers to label dogs as vicious. That's opposed to just dangerous, as current law allows.

He may be known as man's best friend, but he's not always that friendly. Representative Trey Martinez, (D) San Antonio, says, "I'm from San Antonio and in less than two weeks we've lost two young children. A seven month of child just last week to a vicious dog attack involving two pit bulls and a two year old little boy by another vicious dog."

In hopes of preventing future tragedies, he's proposed legislation that would allow dogs to be deemed vicious based on their physical nature and behavior.

That's in stark contrast to current law which requires a dog to act aggressively, unprovoked, before being labeled as dangerous.

Amarillo Animal Control's Shannon Barlow says while they support most animal safety laws, the fact that dogs are territorial by nature presents a problem. "For a passerby to just be threatened by that, although it might be warranted, in most cases it may not be and a very good family pet might come under some scrutiny."

If your dog is labeled as vicious, you will be forced to take out an insurance policy. Barlow says, "the state requires $100,000, the city of Amarillo requires $250,000."

Your dog will also be banned from parks, schools and going anywhere without a leash. If it passes and your vicious dog attacks an elderly person or someone younger than 15, you could face up to 20 years behind bars.

Amarillo currently has a leash law, which requires animals to be restrained and confined on the owner's property.