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Pit Bulls & Texas Law

So just how dangerous are pit bulls? They’ve certainly been in the news a lot these days, mostly due to Michael Vick. Vick, who recently pled guilty to federal dog fighting charges, is scheduled to be sentenced on December 10, 2007, for breeding these viscous animals and gambling on fights to the death.

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But the Pit Bull headlines don’t end with Mr. Vick. A quick news search reveals a number of other articles:

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Pit Bulls also recently entered the home of a Washington state woman and attacked her in her sleep. Even after she picked up a gun and fired it at the dogs, the attack continued.

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When three Pit Bulls in North Carolina attacked a mother and child, the family’s Jack Russell Terrier stepped in the way and sacrificed its own life.

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A Las Angeles postman was attacked by a 100-pound Pit Bull that leapt over the homeowners 4 foot tall fence. The postman underwent surgery and was in serious condition, but is recovering.

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According to the American Kennel Club, the dogs are renowned for their intelligence and excellent guardianship. But the same aggressive temperament that makes them loyal guardians results in Pit Bulls being responsible for more bites and attacks than any other breed of dog. In a 2000 report, the Center for Disease Control found that Pit Bulls were responsible for 118 bite-related deaths between 1978 and 1998. Not only did Pit Bulls account for roughly one-third of all fatalities, but they accounted for three times as many deaths as the next breed, the Rottweiler, which accounted fro 67 deaths.

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As a result, several countries, including Australia, France, Norway, and the United Kingdom have gone so far as to ban ownership of the dog. A few American cities have followed suit, including Miami and Denver.

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Texas has a new law effective September 1, 2007 that seeks to impose greater sanctions on owners of dangerous dogs. Called “Lillian’s law,” the goal is to increase jail time for owners of dangerous dogs who fail to secure them.

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Unfortunately, the law does little for attack victims, leaving them to pay for their own medical bills. Texas still uses the one-bite law, which means that civil liability only attaches when (1) the owner knows the dog has bitten someone before, (2) the owner was negligent in handling the dog, (3) the accident was caused by a violation of a leash law, or (4) the injury resulted from some intentional command or handling of the dog.