Press Release from State Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis, April 29, 2010:
Legislation aims to keep violent animals out of the hands of gangs and violent felons
NASHVILLE – The State Senate passed 31-0 Thursday a bill cosponsored by State Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) to curb gang and drug-related violence by banning violent felons from owning potentially vicious dogs.
“This bill will help police cripple gangs that not only use vicious dogs to commit crimes, but also own these animals as part of a violent culture that promotes drug activity and animal abuse,” Tate said. “Law enforcement and community leaders will soon have another tool in our continued fight against crime in Memphis and Shelby County.”
The bill (SB0555) criminalizes the possession of a potentially vicious dog – one that bites unprovoked or has a history of menacing behavior – by convicted violent felons for a period of 10 years after they are released from prison. Those owners could keep such dogs only if the animals are microchipped and spayed or neutered.
Law enforcement officials have stated that 80 percent of dog bites on police officers come from unneutered animals. Such animals pose a health risk for officers and can help buy time for criminals to escape law enforcement.
The legislation is part of a five-year effort known as Operation: Safe Community to lower crime rates in Memphis and Shelby County. Since the plan was enacted in 2006, violent crime has dropped by one-third in Memphis.
The bill is expected to go soon to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature.
“Memphis lawmakers like myself have a responsibility to pass legislation that helps make Memphis and Shelby County safer,” Tate said. “This is a creative way to fight crime and gang violence in Memphis and throughout Tennessee, and I’m proud to have cosponsored it.”