The town of Killeen has reported 60 animal bites already this year. That frightening statistic includes several dog bites that have left local residents with serious personal injuries. Local residents and officers say they are concerned about the high number of animal bites. In the past year, more than 500 such attacks were logged in Bell County.

Authorities report that the most recent encounter occurred on April 14, when three dogs attacked two school-aged children and a 26-year-old woman. The trio’s injuries were not life-threatening, and officers shot one of the dogs before the other two escaped. This is just the latest in a string of dog bite incidents that have occurred in the area in recent months.

Dog owners in the area can be subject to criminal and civil penalties if their dogs attack an innocent person. Killeen does not use breed-specific legislation, so all dog owners are held responsible under state and local law. Before 2007, Texas was a “one bite free” state; that is, an animal could attack someone one time without consequences. That year, though, a bill was passed to increase criminal penalties. Unprovoked attacks can lead to felony charges if a victim is seriously injured or killed. A death can lead to up to 20 years’ prison time for the dog’s owner. Owners may also be held responsible for damages such as pain and suffering if a lawsuit is brought in civil court.

News reports have not indicated that the changed legislation has had a specific impact in Killeen, as dog bites continue to plague the community. A recent incident left a 2-year-old boy dead after a group of children was attacked by a bull mastiff. Another 2-year-old girl died after she was attacked by an aggressive dog in February. This is an epidemic problem in the Killeen community, and it is critical that dog owners step up in the interest of public safety.

Source:  KWTX, “Local Dog Attacks Leave Residents, Officials Worried ” Nick Delgado, Apr. 16, 2014