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May 17, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATE STRENGTHENS DOG BITE PENALTIES

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Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls offers and amendment to Senator Shapleigh's bill to increase penalties for dog attacks in Texas.

(AUSTIN) -- Owners who let dangerous dogs roam free could face jail time if those dogs hurt someone under a bill passed by the Senate Thursday. El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh says that the current law, under which owners face only a misdemeanor charge, is out of proportion to the severity of the injuries dog mauling victims receive. Under his bill, owners would be criminally liable and face a third degree felony for a dog that attacks a person on public property, and a second degree felony if the dog kills someone.

The Senate also approved a bill Thursday that would require seatbelts in school buses. The bill, by Senator Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, would mandate that all school buses be equipped with three-point safety harnesses by September 1, 2010. It would also require that any buses chartered by a school be equipped with the harnesses, but that provision wouldn't go into effect until 2014. Lucio says kids should be as safe on buses as they are when they get into the family car. "It's time we stop sending our children mixed messages by requiring them to buckle up in a car but not in a school bus," he said. "This law is just common sense."

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Senator Eliot Shapleigh passed a bill today that would make it a third degree felony if a dog attacks another person through criminal negligence on the part of the owner.

The Texas version of Jessica's Law is headed to the Governor's desk. The Senate voted to approve the conference committee report on the bill, which reflects compromise language between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Little has changed between the version the Senate passed last month, by Greenville Senator Robert Deuell, and the version approved Thursday. Aggravated sexual offenses against children under 14 still carries a 25-year minimum sentence, and prosecutors could seek the death penalty for a second such offense. The major change in the new version would require local law enforcement officials to track sex offenses in their area, but they would not have to report those crimes biannually to the Legislature. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst applauded the Senate for approving the conference committee report. "From the beginning of this session, passing a 'Texas tough' Jessica's Law has been one of my top priorities to better protect the children of Texas from child predators and send a message to those monsters who want to hurt our children, 'not in Texas,' " Dewhurst said.

The Senate will reconvene Friday, May 18, at 10 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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