Sunday, March 1, 2009

The lobbying of One Person can make Law Makers Make Laws

Dogged lawmaker changes his mind
Friday, Feb 27 2009, 5:11 pm
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A state lawmaker is pulling a proposal to classify all pit bulls and rottweilers as dangerous dogs.

State Rep. John Heaton said Friday he's been persuaded by negative public reaction.

Heaton said he will offer a substitute bill, minus the breed specification, when the bill is scheduled for a House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee hearing Saturday.

Heaton, of Carlsbad, said the bill he introduced Feb. 9 cannot legally be changed until it is presented to committee.

Heaton's proposal sought to redefine the state's Dangerous Dog Act to specifically include rottweilers and pit bulls.

Under Heaton's original proposal, pit bulls and rottweilers would have been restricted to their own property except when receiving medical care. Owners also would have been required to submit to random property inspections and maintain $250,000 liability insurance coverage.

Public outcry and a change of heart by a constituent who initially lobbied him for legislation led to the planned retraction, Heaton said.

"Not every pit bull is a dangerous dog, there are a lot that are very gentle pets," he said.

An outcry over the proposed restrictions for pit bulls and rottweilers showed him, "people are very passionate about their pets."

Heaton said the bill was originally inspired by one of his constituents whose miniature horses were mauled by a pit bull while the dog's owners looked on.

The woman spent $63,000 to rehabilitate her horses, which are still suffering from the incident, and lobbied Heaton for legislation restricting dangerous dog breeds.

"I really didn't want to put breed specifications in there but my constituent wanted to and was insisting on it. I tried to talk her out of it," he said.

"My heart was never to put it in, but because she'd been through such a traumatic event, I let her instruct the bill."

Heaton said the substitute bill will still seek to require owners of dogs deemed dangerous by existing law to maintain $250,000 liability insurance, submit to property inspections and photographs or permanent marking of their pet.

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