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Judge wants Texas to revisit dangerous dog law

In Texas, a dog that attacks or kills an animal is not considered dangerous

HOUSTON — A Harris County judge wants Texas legislators to take another look at the state’s dangerous dog law.

Judge David Patronella called KHOU 11 Investigates after seeing our story about pet owners losing their beloved animals to vicious attacks by dogs running loose. Some of those owners took their cases to court, only to learn the law is not on their side.

“You certainly feel for someone who goes through the tragedy of losing an animal,” Patronella said. “When we (judges) put on the robe, we still bring all of our life experiences and a lot of us are animal lovers.”

In Texas, a dog that attacks or kills an animal is not considered dangerous. State law says a dog must injure a person to be declared dangerous.

That declaration can result in safety restrictions placed on the owner, such as muzzling the animal in public and obtaining a $100,000 liability insurance policy. It can also lead to court-ordered euthanization.

The law is different in 21 other states and the District of Columbia. Those statutes include language about injury to humans and animal-on-animal attacks, too.

“Without telling the legislature what to do, I think there probably needs to be a conversation on these types of cases,” Patronella said. “Having some remedy to the public that right now judges cannot render.”

In Texas, owners of pets injured or killed can file a civil lawsuit against the attacking dog’s owner. The damages, however, are limited to recovering veterinary bills and the cost of the pet, nothing for the loss of companionship.

Patronella said that loss has value under other state laws.

He hopes Texas will consider it, too.


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