Virginia Seeks to Toughen Dog-Attack Laws

Lawmakers want to hold owners responsible for pets behavior following fatal mauling.

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Fatal dog attacks in Virginia could become a felony under new legislation to be proposed in January, less than a month after state prosecutors set a precedent by convicting a woman for a fatal mauling.

The Dorothy Sullivan Memorial Bill named after the 82-year-old woman who was attacked and killed by three dogs is gaining support through an online petition and will be introduced by Senator Edd Houck when the Virginia General Assembly convenes on Jan. 11.

The new law would establish penalties ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, making owners responsible for the actions of his or her dog. The legislation would also create a dangerous-dog registry and provide other regulations for owners of dogs classified as dangerous.

The changes were prompted after Virginia prosecutors charged Deanna Large with involuntary manslaughter, which is rarely seen in court. Large, 37, was convicted on Dec. 22 and sentenced to three years in prison. Prosecutors used circumstantial evidence to show that the three dogs involved in the March 9 mauling belonged to Large.

Posted: Jan. 6, 2006, 5 a.m. EST

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