New legislative commission considers changing vicious dog laws
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) -- Two dogs brutally attacked a Pawtucket woman and her dog last month, leaving her injured and the dog dead.
Thursday those attacking dogs were officially deemed vicious.
But because it's their first offense, they can't be euthanized -- and that would be the case even if a human were killed.
"That gets people upset," said Rhode Island SPCA President Joseph Warzycha. "I've had people at hearings say, 'How can this be? It killed another dog,' and I explain to them that we're bound by the language in the law."
It's language that could soon change.
A new legislative commission at the State House took the first steps Thursday to reform the state's regulations on vicious dogs.
"There should be some intermediary level to address an incident before it arises to the level of a dog being deemed vicious, because the spectrum is so wide," Warzycha said. "You can have a dog that merely approaches someone aggressively, or a dog that inflicts serious injury, and they fall under the same category."
That's a concern the State Veterinarian Scott Marshall shares.
"We want to right–size it, I guess," Dr. Marshall said. "The dogs that are truly vicious, we want to be able to deal with them appropriately. We don't want to end up clogging the system with animals that could be minor bites, things that could be addressed on the local level."
Legislators say they want to make sure hearings for the most dangerous dogs are expedited.
"The entire reason for having the statute is around the public safety concern," said State Senator Dawn Euer, a Democrat representing District 13. "So we're trying to make sure that we're considering that perspective and making sure that the statute is as strong as possible to protect both the members of the public and the dog owners."
Legislators expect to continue hearings on reforming the law over the next few months.
© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019