By Kontji Anthony, WMC
The Tennessee State Legislature is considering a series of stricter dog ownership laws after two pit bulls mauled five people, leading to the death of an elderly Memphis man earlier this year.
Tennessee State Legislator GA Hardaway said he wants to beef up dog ownership law after the death of 71-yearold William Parker. He said four bills he is working to push through the Legislature address irresponsible behavior by dog owners.
"It's our responsibility in Article 1, Section 1 of our rights, that we have to address the safety issues," said Hardaway.
Hardaway spent time with the Parkers in July after two loose dogs mauled the family patriarch, his daughter, responders and another neighbor.
Investigators soon learned dog owner Bernard Humphrey was locked up for failing to update his sex offender registry. His brother's girlfriend, Sherry Wooten, had a stranger let the dogs out so a plumber could get in.
Since the attack, Parker's daughter, Gardenia Parker, has racked up enormous bills. One of Hardaway's bills would require owners of loose dogs deemed dangerous under current guidelines to carry at least $15,000 of liability insurance. Another bill would prohibit violent felons from owning a dog deemed dangerous.
"Those who've proven they have a propensity of violence and irresponsibility," said Hardaway. "Why is it they can't have a gun, but they can have a vicious animal? That's wrong, that's just not rational."
The third bill said if a felon wants a dog, the courts would have to pre-approve it.
"That's something that's going to be in the hands of the parole boards or probation," said Hardaway. "They'll be able to address the courts to get the OK to get the exception."
The last bill would increase the $50 leash law fine. Fines would start at $100 and increase if the dog injures someone. The highest fine would be $1,000 if the dog causes someone to die.
If a dog was previously deemed dangerous, the penalties would be even higher, ranging between $500 and $25,000.
"It's more than just the leash," said Hardaway. "It's about the ability to secure and confine that animal for the safety of the community."
None of the bills specified dog breed. The bills are currently under review in a state committee.