The Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office won't pursue charges against the owner of a pit bull that mauled to death his 5-year-old nephew, Pablo Lopez aka Pablo Hernandez. Investigators said they found no signs of negligence. They say this was a "tragic accident." (Click here to read the article.)
Last year the Texas legislature, reacting to the fact that their state leads the nation in fatal dog attacks, passed "Lilian's Law." Named after Lilian Stiles, who was brutally killed by pit bulls, the law was touted as eliminating the loopholes that enabled the owners of dangerous dogs to escape punishment. I lobbied against the law, saying among other things that it preserved the criminal negligence requirement and therefore was a sham. I pointed out that the owner of the dogs that killed Lilian herself used the lack-of-negligence defense, which led the jury to find him "not guilty." (See Texas-the New Dog Laws.)
This week, a little boy has died, the police cannot establish negligence, and the message to the owners of dangerous dogs in Texas is the same: the law protects you, not us. There is a right to bite in Texas.
"A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint."