By KENNETH DEAN
Tyler attorney and former state district judge Cynthia Stevens Kent is asking two Texas legislators to push a bill outlawing the ownership of pit bulls and-or pit bull mixed dogs in Texas, and to make the possession of the breed a third-degree felony.
Mrs. Kent hopes Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Henderson, will sponsor the bill and put in front of the next legislative session. She wants the bill named Justin's Law, after 10-year-old Justin Clinton who was killed in 2009 by pit bulls in Rusk County.
“My client, Serenia Clinton of Rusk County, and I ask each of you to consider some type of legislation to ban pit bull dogs or to severely restrict the ability of individuals to own these inherently dangerous animals,” she wrote in a letter to Eltife and Hopson.
Mrs. Kent's request comes two days after 2-year-old Kaden Muckelroy was killed by his grandfather's pit bull in Henderson.
The boy's mother had stepped inside for a moment to get something when she heard a scream. She found her son being attacked by the dog that had somehow managed to get off of a chain and grab the child.
Despite being rushed to the hospital, Kaden died due to the massive injuries sustained in the attack.
Two weeks prior to Muckelroy's death, a Van girl was attacked by a pit bull. That child is still hospitalized in Children's Hospital in Dallas.
“It's hard to sit here and watch another child die. This is the last thing I can do for my son. I couldn't be there to help him that day, but I promised myself to get something done to outlaw these dogs,” Serenia Clinton said Friday.
Mrs. Clinton said those people who will argue that it is not the breed, but how the dog is raised, are wrong.
“The people who owned the dogs that attacked Justin were not fighting or being mean to those dogs. My son had even played with them many times before they jumped the fence that day and attacked him as he was riding his skateboard,” she said.
Mrs. Kent said more than 500 cities and most military bases have adopted breed-specific laws in order to address the attacks and injuries caused by pit bulls.
“I believe that the best action to stop this senseless loss of life and traumatic injury to people caused by pit bulls is to outright ban the breed. A loud and vocal minority will rise up and claim that their pit bulls are only loveable pets. However, the facts demonstrate that this breed of dog, more than any other breed of dog, is deadly and unreasonably dangerous,” she wrote to Hopson and Eltife.
Mrs. Kent offered two possible bills, the first to make it a crime to have a pit bull and the other to make perspective owners erect eight foot fences with locked gates and require the owner to carry insurance that would cover an attack.
Eltife said today he had not seen the proposed bills, but he was looking forward to working with Mrs. Kent on some type of legislation, because the stories of people being maimed and killed by pit bulls were becoming too numerous.
“These stories are heartbreaking and tragic and this is definitely a problem which needs to be addressed. I don't know what kind of legislation we can get passed, but I think something has to be done,” he said.
According to an extensive report by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, between September 1982 and Nov. 13, 2006 there were 2,209 victims across the nation who suffered bodily harm from a dog attack requiring medical attention.
Of those 2,209 attacks 1,110 were perpetrated by pit bulls or pit bull mixes in which 104 people lost their lives.
The next leading breed of dog causing death for the same time period, according to the site, is the Rottweiler with 58 deaths.
Merritt lists in his report that pit bull terriers are noteworthy for attacking adults as often as children.
“Pit bulls seem to differ behaviorally from other dogs in having far less inhibition about attacking people who are larger than they are. They are also notorious for attacking seemingly without warning…” he stated in his report.
Mrs. Clinton said she understood people love their animals but a bite from a Chihuahua is not going to kill someone, but a pit bull would.
“I think pit bulls should be in the zoo where all the other wild animals can be found,” she said. “Something needs to be done to protect people from these animals.”