When people think of dog attacks, the breed that most often comes to mind is the pit bull. The state of Oklahoma has gone through many discussions and changes in law regarding pit bulls over the last ten years. Those against laws that would ban pit bulls point out that bans would be very difficult to regulate, and that blame for animal aggression rests more with the owner than with a particular breed. Oklahoma residents who are in favor of pit bull bans argue that citizens have the right to determine what kinds of dogs should be allowed in a densely populated area. As a result of prior legislation, Oklahoma City placed stricter rules on dangerous dog ownership in 2017 after a local woman was attacked and killed by two pit bulls.
State Level Proposals
A proposal went before the Oklahoma state legislature in 2013 to ban ownership of dog breeds deemed to be dangerous. At the time, Senator Patrick Anderson argued in the Oklahoman that the people of Oklahoma deserved the right to choose what kinds of animals should or shouldn’t live in residential areas. An outright ban on pit bulls specifically failed to pass in 2006, but the state did impose stricter requirements for people who owned a dog known to be dangerous.
The opposition, Christy Counts of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, pointed out that most often aggressive behavior in dogs stems from being frequently chained or confined, with little to no socialization, and not from the breed itself.
The bill went through, giving a broad strokes law concerning ownership of dangerous dogs, allowing cities to interpret the law as needed.
Current Oklahoma City Laws
According to News 4, the Oklahoma City Council proposed an ordinance to keep records of dogs in the city who exhibited threatening behavior. The ordinance passed in response to the death of an 82-year-old woman by two pit bulls in Oklahoma City. The measure imposed further restrictions and punishments for dangerous dog owners in the event of an attack.
As the law currently stands, a dog will be registered as dangerous on city records if it growls or charges someone without provocation in a public area. A dog is also considered dangerous if he or she destroys private property in an attempt to attack.
When registering a dog each year, owners of dangerous dogs must pay an additional $12 fee. These fees cover microchipping and spaying/neutering fees in the event that a dangerous dog is impounded. Impounded dogs will only be returned when city officials have determined that the owner can successfully contain the dog.
This ordinance is built onto the existing state-level Dangerous Dog Laws. The Legal and Historical Animal Center explains that dangerous dogs are to be confined in a secure, fenced area when at home, and wear both a leash and muzzle when out in public. A dangerous dog owner must also take out an insurance policy for the dog in the amount of at least $50,000. If a dog owner does not abide by these terms, he or she faces losing the dog and possibly getting a one-year misdemeanor on their record.
If a Pit Bull or any dog bites or attacks a person in Oklahoma. The owner will be held responsible according to the state’s strict liability laws. According to Will Gosney, an Oklahoma City personal injury attorney, the victim of a dog bite could be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of consortium. If you are a victim of a Pit Bull attack, it is important to document your injuries, as well as any medical bills and communications with the owner and to seek legal advice.