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Attorneys want change for breed-specific dog laws

A segment of the American Bar Association recently voted on a subject that may create a debate: laws prohibiting certain breeds of dogs. The Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section of the ABA will begin urging state and local legislators to repeal breed-discriminating laws and replace them with breed-neutral laws.

Many dog bites have been met with animosity and contempt for certain breeds. In most cases, the breed that is focused on and considered to be extremely violent is the pit bull. In some states, certain breeds -- including the pit bull, Rottweiler, German shepherd, Akita and Doberman pinscher -- are required to wear a muzzle or are completely prohibited from being owned. Recently, Ohio repealed a law that made owning a pit bull illegal. In other states, owners of certain breeds must purchase insurance in case a dog bite occurs.

Pennsylvania is not one of these states. Currently, state law does not allow for any breed-discriminating legislation. Only 13 states have made such legislation illegal -- Massachusetts was the last to do so during August of this year. Advocates for this sort of prohibition believe that responsible pet owners should be allowed to own any breed that they want without worrying about having the animal removed.

The resolution from the section of the ABA means that 25,000 attorneys will be hoping for legislative changes to be made so that certain breeds of dog are not prejudiced against.

Instead of having breed-specific legislation, many experts are hoping to see stronger laws targeting irresponsible and reckless owners for allowing their dogs to become violent enough to attack a human. An official with an animal society said that she hopes to see laws that ensure repeat offenders from acquiring new dogs after having their previous pets taken away from them. What do you think is the right approach to protect innocent people from dog attacks?

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pet Tales: Lawyers go to bat for pit bulls," Linda Wilson Fuoco, Sept. 22, 2012

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Gregory R. Gifford
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