Dogged lawmaker changes his mind

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.”

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.