July 4, 2007
Rex, a black German Shepherd in Lynchburg, was among the first dogs on the state's new Dangerous Dog Registry.
The Dangerous Dog Registry stems from legislation passed last year, in the wake of a Sposylvania County woman being killed by a dog in 2005.
it works much like a sex offender database. Any dog considered dangerous by a court must now be registered online, and it's visible to anyone.
"I think it's pretty much fair to know if they have any violent dogs in the neighborhood, especially if they have kids around," said Mazi Ochayon, who owns two dogs of her own.
The site allows visitors to search by county or zip code. Profiles for dogs that are registered include photos of the animal, the breed or mix, and what the animal did to wind up on the registry in the first place.
But while most say the intention of the site is good, it may go a bit too far in some cases.
"I think it depends where you're living, possibly if you're out on a farm maybe it wouldn't be as necessary," said Laura Granito, who was walking her two small dogs on the downtown mall Wednesday.
Along with the registry, dangerous dog owners will have to post signs on their property about the dog, and must also carry $100,000 in liability insurance. The pet will also have to wear a special dangerous dog tag.
But critics of the site point out that there's no way to specifically search for dogs that have attacked people, as opposed to dogs that have attacked other animals.
And some say there are numerous responsibilities that can't be taught through and online database.
"I think it's a combination of parents teaching their children how to approach a dog, and also the pet owners responsibility as far as what they allow their pet to do, and what kind of contact they allow them to have with the public as well," said Granito.
Owners also have to pay $100 to the state to register the dog. Then each year there's a $35 annual renewal fee.
Owners who don't follow the rules, could face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The state hopes to have all the dangerous dogs in Virginia registered and on the web site by October.