- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

From combined dispatches

RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, yesterday signed into law a measure that establishes stiffer penalties for dog owners who don’t control their dangerous dogs.

The law establishes a definition of dangerous dogs as those that have bitten, attacked or injured a person and those that have injured or killed a companion animal.

It excludes dog attacks on people or animals on the dog owner’s property.

Several similar bills were submitted in the last legislative session in response to the mauling deaths of Dorothy Sullivan, 82, and her dog, Buttons. Both were mauled by three pit bulls in Spotsylvania County last year.

The pit bulls’ owner, Deanna Large of Partlow, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in December for Mrs. Sullivan’s death and was sentenced to three years in prison in March.

The case marked the first time in Virginia that a person has been convicted of manslaughter for the actions of his or her pets.

Mrs. Sullivan’s death sparked outrage in her rural community, where residents said they had long been terrorized by aggressive, roaming dogs.

The Sullivan family collected thousands of signatures on a petition urging stricter dog laws, and the Republican-led General Assembly passed legislation imposing tough penalties on dog owners whose pets seriously injure others.

During the trial, several witnesses testified that Large’s pit bulls had menaced the rural neighborhood where she lived.

Animal control officers had taken two of her pit bulls away in August 2004 after they had killed a kitten.

At one point, Large had 13 pit bulls living in her doublewide trailer, a detective testified.

The new law allows any law-enforcement officer to petition a magistrate to issue a summons for a dog owner to appear in court for a hearing to determine if his or her dog is dangerous, and establishes penalties up to a felony for owners whose dogs attack.

It also establishes a dangerous dog registry that requires owners of dangerous dogs to register their animals for an annual fee and provide details about their attacks.


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