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TX: House votes to add strength to "Lillian's" dangerous dog law
House votes to add strength to "Lillian's" dangerous dog law
Posted: May 04, 2011 6:03 PM EDT
by Mark Wiggins
WACO - It was November of 2005 when 76-year-old Thornton resident Lillian Stiles was literally torn apart by her neighbor's dogs, pitbull-rottweiler mixes that had escaped from it's yard.
Her daughter, Marilyn Stiles Shoemaker, spent the rest of her life fighting to hold owners responsible; passing away just weeks before the Texas House voted to give a law in her mother's name even more power.
"Little things will come up, make you think about your mom and you start crying," Shoemaker told News Channel 25 in February of 2006. "But I think when I get involved in this and I get involved in trying to make these laws right, it helps me."
In 2007, Texas passed "Lillian's Law" in her mother's name. The law made it a second degree felony for owners of dangerous dogs if their pets escape and kill someone, with the penalty up to 20 years in prison.
The proposed law H.B. 716 would make it a first degree felony if the person killed is a child or elderly person, raising the maximum penalty to the possibility of life in prison.
Lawmakers who authored the bill say the penalties in "Lillian's Law" were inadequate, and serious cases continued even after the law came into effect.
Two prominent cases in Rusk County in East Texas convinced State Representative Chuck Hopson, a pediatrician, that more had to be done. The death of 10-year-old Justin Clinton in 2009 and 2-year-old Kaden Muckleroy in 2010 led Hopson to team with Representative Mark Shelton to strengthen the penalties in cases where the victims of attacks are children or elderly.
Clayton Stewart, Chief of Staff to Rep. Shelton, says even with the tougher language, prosecutors would still have to clearly demonstrate that the dogs were known to be aggressive and owners neglected to properly look after them.
"A lot of it is about being a responsible owner, and this bill does not affect responsible dog owners who use common sense to take care of their pets."
The bill cleared the House after a third reading Wednesday afternoon, and will now head to the Texas Senate.
Marilyn Shoemaker, the driving force behind the original law, passed away in April. Her family says that she would have been pleased.
Re: TX: House votes to add strength to "Lillian's" dangerous dog law
I am a Texan and a second degree felony up to 20 years is enough of a punishment I believe. I base that on the fact that some people who kill kids dont even get 1st degree felonies, fact.
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