- Associated Press - Friday, April 3, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Felons could face criminal charges for owning vicious dogs under a bill introduced recently by a Wisconsin lawmaker.

Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, said Green Bay police are seeing an increase in dogfighting cases and dogs attacking officers.

Sharon Hensen, Green Bay animal control officer, said Friday that she’s sought similar legislation for five years.

“If you have felons who can’t own guns, why would you give them a weapon like a dog?” Hensen said.

Jacque said the bill doesn’t target a certain breed of dog but instead calls for police to weigh the dog’s behavior and determine whether it’s vicious. The bill says a dog that causes physical harm or leads an officer to believe it poses a significant threat could be considered vicious.

“This isn’t to keep people from owning a dog,” Jacque said, “this is to keep people from owning dogs that are a threat to the community.”

And Hensen said police have seen more breeds of dogs trained to be vicious.

“You can make a Cocker Spaniel nasty. You can make a collie nasty. It just has to do with making a dog nasty enough to scare people,” Hensen said.

Felons found in possession of a vicious dog could face up to $10,000 in fines and six years in prison.

The Assembly committee on criminal justice and public safety is expected to consider the bill this month. Jacque said the measure has bipartisan support.

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