Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Contrary to the ruling of a trial judge in Fannin County, Section 822.005(a)(1) of the Texas Health and Safety Code, which makes it a crime to fail to secure your dog, is not unconstitutionally vague, says the 6th District Court of Appeals (Texarkana).

In State v. Taylor, the defendant (dog owner) moved to quash the indictment against him, which alleged that he was criminally negligent in failing to secure his dog when it attacked a woman, arguing that the statute was unconstitutional for failing to require a culpable mental state.  Not so says the appellate court.  Beginning its analysis with the plain reading of the statute, the court pointed out that the law clearly requires the dog owner to act with "criminal negligence" as defined by Section 6.03 of the Texas Penal Code. 
Section 822.005(a) requires a dog owner to secure its dog under certain circumstances.  This duty also exists in the common law, as a consequence of the general duty of a dog owner to exercise reasonable care to avoid foreseeable injury to others.  However, it is only when a dog owner acts with criminal negligence in failing to secure his or her dog, and the dog causes serious bodily injury to another (while not on the owner’s property) can the owner be called to account under Section 822.005(a) of the Texas Health & Safety Code.
Moreover, the Court emphasized, the duty to act does not apply to "every living person in the universe" (like Seinfeld's Good Samaritan Law);  it only applies to the dog owner.  Accordingly, the Court reversed the order quashing the indictment and remanded the case to the trial court.