Dangerous dog bill re-introduced

State House Rep. John Galloway (D., Bucks) has re-introduced legislation that would allow municipalities to pass ordinances restricting so-called "dangerous" dogs.

Galloway first introduced the bill last spring after a pit bull that escaped from its yard attacked a beagle being walked by a 5-year-old girl in his Bristol district. The girl was uninjured but the beagle's injuries required $2,000 in veterinary care.

Galloway said at the time that his bill did not target a specific breed of dog. "My bill would simply give local residents and their local elected officials the ability to craft regulations that work best in their local communities," he said. He said Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, in 2007,  received 1,407 reports of dog bites.

The bill did not move out of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee and before the session ended last November.

Galloway's new bill  HB 671 has also been referred to the agriculture committee.

Such "breed specific" legislation has been widely opposed nationally by animal welfare groups and breeders. The Utah-based group Best Friends Animal Society says the following about bills that target certain breeds, namely pit bulls and Rottweilers: The problem of dangerous dogs is not remedied by the quick fix of breed-discriminatory laws. All dogs can bite. Dogs are individuals and should not be judged by their appearance, but by their temperament.

The group cites a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that looked at human fatalities from dog bites, noted many other factors beyond a dog’s breed may affect a dog’s tendency toward aggression – things such as reproductive status, heredity, sex, early experience, and socialization and training.

An  attempt last year by the City of Reading to enact its own local dog ordinance was overturned by Commonwealth Court, which ruled that state dog law supersedes local laws. In February 2008, the court threw out an ordinance that placed restrictions on owners of "aggressive" dog breeds, which were defined as those responsible for a certain percentage of dog bites in a year. Owners of aggressive dogs had to pay $500 a year for permits for unsterilized dogs and use muzzles and heavy leashes on dogs in public.