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Dog bill likely to be ‘tweaked’

POSTED: February 4, 2013 8:45 p.m.

State legislators are expected to take another look at a law that has Effingham County in the spotlight.

The “dangerous dog” bill, passed by the state House of Representatives last March and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal on May 3, 2012, has led to a protracted legal entanglement for a dog accused of attacking an Effingham County child last summer.

Former state Rep. Ann Purcell had co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) that was later attached to a bill sponsored by Rep. Gene Maddox (R-Cairo) in the last session.

“His bill went into great detail with definitions,” Purcell said of Maddox’s bill. “When you have a big bill of that magnitude, there is something that needs to be re-addressed. That’s why we meet every year. Many times we pass legislation that we think is great at the time but when it’s implemented, it needs some correcting.”

Purcell’s original bill, HB 717, passed the House 119-24 after it was reconsidered. Maddox’s legislation, HB 685, passed the House 157-0 and went through the Senate by a 50-1 margin.

But an Effingham County pit bull, known as “Kno,” has been quartered at the Effingham County animal shelter since it attacked Wesley Frye last July. A hearing for the dog was scheduled to be held last month, but attorney Mickey Kicklighter, who is representing “Kno,” has asked to continue the case.

Under the provisions of HB 685, a dog control officer shall investigate if an animal accused of being vicious meets the criteria. If the officer determines that the dog in question is dangerous or vicious, the officer will mail a notice to the dog’s owner within three hours informing them of the decision. The notice will include a summary of the officer’s determination and will inform the owners they have 15 days to request a hearing.

Any hearing on the dog’s classification as vicious or dangerous is mandated to be held within 30 days after the dog’s owner requests a hearing. An owner can choose not to have a hearing, and the dog’s determination as vicious or dangerous will stand. At the hearing, the dog’s owner can present testimony and evidence to either modify or overrule the determination.

The owners, Larry and Grace Long, have filed with Effingham County Superior Court that they understand “Kno” has been classified as a dangerous dog. In court filings late last year, the Longs indicated they would not contest the county’s petition to have the dog put down. The county asked on Sept. 12, 2012, to have the dog euthanized.

“Kno” was surrendered to the animal shelter July 24, 2012, and the dog has remained there since.

“We had a real good bill,” Purcell said. “It’s still a good bill. But it needs some tweaking to correct the problem we’re seeing in Effingham County.”


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