The Legislature is going to close shop a little earlier than originally scheduled this year. The Speaker and senators have agreed that they can end the 2009 Session on May 29 instead of June 4 and still accomplish the State's business. A lot has been done this session. Around fifty some bills will be carried over to next year, which is about half the number of bills normally carried over to a short session. With fewer bills introduced and more efficiency on the floor we will be able to quit early.
This week I wanted to talk to you about a bill introduced by Sen. Beau McCoy, Legislative Bill 494, which changes Nebraska's dangerous dog statutes. It passed in the Legislature on May 18 with almost a unanimous vote of 48-0-1.
LB 494 more narrowly defines the term "medical treatment," which is used in the definition of a "dangerous dog" and "potentially dangerous dog." Instead of medical treatment meaning any treatment administered by a physician or other health care professional from an attack by a dangerous dog, the victim will had to have received sutures, surgery, or treatment for broken bones for it to be called medical treatment.
However, a new section, and the heart of the bill, sets out new penalties for an owner whose dangerous dog's attack causes "serious bodily injury" to another person. This new term, "serious bodily injury," was added to the dangerous dog law to provide stiffer penalties for more serious attacks.
Serious bodily injury is defined to mean, bodily injury which involves a substantial risk of death, or which involves substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body.
The owner of a dangerous dog that causes these types of injuries will be guilty of a Class I Misdemeanor for the first violation. If there is a second or subsequent violation, which causes serious bodily injury, the owner is guilty of a Class IV Felony, whether it was the same dog or a different dog.
There is a provision for a dog owner whose dangerous dog was under direct control of someone other than the owner or an immediate family member, when his or her dog attacked and caused serious bodily injury.
I voted for LB 494, I believe the higher standard, and greater responsibility on owners for vicious attacks by their dangerous dogs is necessary.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with comments, concerns, or questions.