MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A new Tennessee bill would require pit bull owners to carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance. It's an effort to stop brutality against the dogs. Rescue groups say the bill unfairly targets pit bulls.
Currently Memphis City and Shelby County require pet owners to carry liability insurance for vicious dogs; those are dogs that have been used for fighting, dogs that have seriously attacked a person and dogs that have killed another animal. The state bill states that a pit bull, by nature, is vicious, and that's where animal activists like Alli Echlin have a problem. "The rescue world, and community, and animal advocates are in uproar over this because there's a misconception about being breed specific," Echlin says.
Echlin is the secretary for the Street Dog Foundation, a non-profit rescue group based in Memphis. She is also the proud owner of a pit bull. "There's not a specific breed that is vicious, dogs are products of their environment," she explains, "they are like children. Children are bullies or have anger problems because of the environment they're raised in and dogs are just like that."
Under the proposed legislation, one insurance company gave abc24.com a quote of nearly $600 more per month per animal. Echlin says this kind of bill won't stop bad dog owners, instead it punishes the good. "It's a huge concern for animal advocates that it's being breed specific and not made about the educating of owners that have dogs period, there are a lot of dogs that are vicious that could be a Maltese or a Chihuahua and it's not about breed it's about training the dog and training the owner of the dog."
Echlin says the state needs to focus on the core of the problem before it expands any legislation. "We already have a problem following our own animal laws, our own Memphis Animal Services has a problem following spay and neuter laws, we have a problem with regulating spay and neuter laws for our communities already. Who is regulating those? Who is going to be regulating this law?"
State Senator Reginald Tate, a Democrat from Memphis, is sponsoring the bill. He couldn’t be reached for comment. The bill will go before a committee on Wednesday.