Pit Bull Insurance Law Would Require Owners To Purchase Policies For Dangerous Dogs

Nathan Francis

A pit bull insurance law proposed in Tennessee would require owners of the controversial dogs to purchase a $25,000 policy for liability against possible attacks.

The proposal has brought controversy among those who work with and own pit bulls. Wendy Jackson, founder of East Tennessee Pit Bull Rescue, said pit bulls are given an unfair reputation and don't deserve to be targeted.

Much of the problem comes from the owners, Jackson said. Pit bulls tend to attract abusive owners drawn to the "thug mentality" and image, she said.

"Yes, this type of dog is a powerful dog and obviously if they were motivated to do harm they could," Jackson told WBIR in Tennessee. "The issue should be controlling people who control the dogs."

The Tennessee legislature will discuss the pit bull insurance law next week. The bill is sponsored by Representative Brenda Gilmore of Nashville, who is seeking to define "vicious dog" as any animal with a history of causing injury or death to another person, or any dog that "belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog."

Critics view the pit bull insurance law as a way to price poorer residents out of owning pit bulls.

"I don't think you can legislate these types of issues. What we really focus on is responsible ownership, pet owners who have trained animals, and owners who restrain their animals appropriately," said Jeff Ashin, CEO of the Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville. "Legislation often comes with unintended consequences."

The proposal comes in the wake of some high-profile pit bull attacks in the past week. In New Orleans, three dogs attacked a 54-year-old woman in her home, leaving her in critical condition after losing both arms, an ear, an eye, and part of her scalp.

A second attack took place in the Bronx where a pit bull mauled a young girl in an attack captured on surveillance video.

The pit bull insurance is not the only effort to legislate dangerous animals. In Indiana, a fatal pit bull attack on a 7-year-old boy has prompted local officials to try to overturn a state law and allow pit bulls to be banned in the city.