Tuesday, 02 April 2019 20:09

McInnis bill, named after girl attacked by pit bulls, would make maulings a criminal matter

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ROCKINGHAM — The owners of a dog or group of dogs that attack a person could face criminal charges if a bill filed by state Sen. Tom McInnis makes it through the General Assembly.

On Tuesday, McInnis introduced Senate Bill 482, called the Haiden Prevatte Act in recognition of the Richmond County 6-year-old who was attacked by two pit bulls after getting off the school bus earlier this year.

She received numerous lacerations on her torso and limbs and was eventually airlifted to the UNC Hosptials Trauma Center in Chapel Hill.

The dogs, a brown male pit bull named Buster and a brown female pit named Honey, were taken to the animal shelter for a 10-day rabies quarantine.

The owner, Mary Wilson, surrendered the dogs to the county and they were euthanized at the end of the quarantine.

“As an animal lover and dog owner, I am well aware of the responsibility I have to maintain the custody and control of my animal,” McInnis said in a statement. 

Wilson was cited for failing to have one of the dogs vaccinated, which comes with a $100 fine;  and for violating a county ordinance for having dogs at large, which resulted in two $50 fines, one for each dog.

With the case being a civil matter, Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said it would be up to the girl’s parent(s) to seek restitution from Wilson.

The senator said he was “greatly disturbed to find that there are no penalties to owners who are negligent in controlling their pets.” 

McInnis’ bill takes dog attacks out of the civil court and calls for owners to be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the victim is killed, the charge is upgraded to a Class I felony.

The bill also allows a local law enforcement officer to determine whether or not a dog can be labeled “potentially dangerous.”

“This law will not bring relief to Haiden or others who have already been seriously injured or killed by vicious animals not properly maintained,” McInnis said, “but hopefully it will bring about a greater sense of responsibility by owners and help to prevent such devastating incidences from happening in the future.”