‘Dangerous Dog Law’ to be considered in Madison County

Amendment on November’s ballot could create tougher laws dealing with “dangerous dogs”

Published: Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 7:50 AM      8:02 AM

Victoria Cumbow, The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, AL — State Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, is asking for a “yes” vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would affect dog owners in Madison County.

The proposed amendment would give the Madison County Commission the authority to determine what dogs are labeled dangerous and require owners outside city limits to keep them fenced in.

The amendment would also allow the County Commission to set civil penalties against the owner of the dog if it attacks someone.

Hinshaw decided to seek stronger rules on dogs in the county after an attack in Toney on 2-year-old Jace Rhinehart by a family member’s pit bull.

The boy’s mother, Donna Roberts, left her son unattended in the car when she ran into the house for something, she said Monday at a news conference in the Madison County Legislative Delegation Office. Rhinehart and his 4-year-old sister got out of the car and Rhinehart wandered into a pen where the dog was chained up, Roberts said. She and her daughter pulled the dog off Rhinehart, but only after he had suffered serious injuries.

Roberts said the dog viciously attacked Jace’s face before she could free him. She carried him to a roadway where someone stopped and called 911.

Jace has undergone several surgeries and has several ahead of him, Roberts said. If it were up to her, she said, pit bulls and a few other breeds often considered aggressive would not even be allowed in the county.

“I’m all for getting them banned and out of here,” she said.

She called the attack “horrible” and “traumatic.”

Hinshaw said banning dogs altogether isn’t necessarily the right answer, but tougher laws are.

“I set out with two goals with this legislation,” he said. “I wanted owners to be held responsible and containment issues addressed.”

Hinshaw said his primary concern is for larger dogs that can “cause serious injuries or harm or even death.”

The new amendment leaves the details up to the County Commission about what dogs fall into the category of dangerous and the penalties owners could face.

The amendment, which passed the House and Senate, must be voted on by county residents before it can go into effect.

Hinshaw said his main focus is on subdivisions and neighborhoods outside city limits.

“We used to be a rural county, but we’re moving to a suburban county,” Hinshaw said.

If passed in November, he said, he hopes the legislation will allow the commission to keep rural subdivisions as safe as ones in Huntsville, where a leash law is in effect.

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What part do you think the mother played in what happened to her son?

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About V A Nichols
photographer, wanderer, seeker of beauty and truth, animal protectionist, educator, facilitator, interferer

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