Last week, a 71-year-old Texas man, Freddy Garcia, was mauled to death by seven dogs while walking to the store. This week, the owner of those dogs is being held in county jail after being charged with the state’s “Lillian Law,” which holds dog owners liable for injuries their dogs cause while running loose. The dogs’ owner could face up to 20 years in prison. “Lillian’s Law” came about because of a similar 2005 mauling of a 76-year-old woman.
Garcia’s tragic and senseless death highlights the vital importance of enforcing animal control laws (which are first and foremost about protecting public health and safety) and fostering an environment of responsible pet ownership. It is exceedingly rare that something horrible like this simply happens out of the blue. After a serious attack, you can nearly always dig up complaints about strays running in packs, residents feeling unsafe walking through their own neighborhoods – even previous reports about incidents involving the same dogs. In this case, for example, it was initially assumed the dogs were simply strays, rather than owned, which speaks to the need for more outreach and enforcement. It is good to hold individuals legally accountable when their negligence in dog ownership harms others; it is far better to keep things from ever reaching that point at all.