By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – City officials took only 28 days to fill a loophole in a Texas law that allowed a pitbull that killed John Morales' Pekingese, "Woogies," to be returned to its owners with only a citation.
The Harker Heights council voted unanimously for what Councilman Bobby Hoxworth aptly called "Woogies' Law."
On Dec. 31, a pitbull jumped a four-foot fence into
Morales' yard on West Robin Lane in Harker Heights and killed Woogies. The dog was captured, but later returned to its owners because there was no law regarding dogs that attack dogs.
Instead of just being able to cite an attacking animal dog-at-large, Harker Heights Animal Control can now have that dog considered "a dangerous dog," through a hearing with the police chief.
Previously, under state law, the classification of dangerous dogs only applied to dogs that attack people. A dangerous-dog ruling can be appealed in the city's court. Before a hearing takes place, the dog must be turned over to animal control or a veterinarian.
Dangerous animals can then be destroyed, removed from the city or returned to the owner. If returned, it must meet a long list of requirements, including microchipping, vaccinations, visible warning signs and labels declaring the dog dangerous, and general liability insurance covering damage and injury caused by the dog. The dog must also be kept in a housing that is inescapable and not accessible to children.
If that dog attacks again, it would result in an up to $2,000 fine for the owner, the ordinance states.
"It's a good idea. It's got some teeth to it," City Manager Steve Carpenter said before the meeting.
"It will help us control animals that citizens can't control themselves," Lt. Loretta Fox said.
Hoxworth, speaking as an animal lover, said he felt naming the law after Woogies wouldn't make up for Morales' loss, but would show that something positive came from Woogies' death.
Harker Heights also added an ordinance to stop emotional owners from fighting animal control officers to stop them from seizing their pet, Fox said.
Heights also clarified the state's animal restraint ordinances to include specific instructions that animal leashing not be greater than one-eighth the dog's weight or to prevent it from moving freely.
In a letter to council and Chief of Police Mike Gentry, Burk Roberts, city attorney, noted that chaining causes "aggressive, antisocial behavior" in dogs when it restricts their movement. The current state law made enforcement and prosecution for hazardous restraint methods, Fox said.
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468