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Vernon takes action to curb its vicious dog problem

New Jersey dog owners are responsible for the actions of their dogs. If your child is playing in a park, and a vicious dog bites him or her, the owner of the dog will likely be financially responsible for the costs associated with your child's medical care.

In addition to holding vicious dog owners financially accountable, one township in New Jersey wants to up the ante.

Vernon, New Jersey, is considering a proposed ordinance that would require the owners of "potentially dangerous" dogs to pay fees of up to $700 per vicious dog they own annually.

Proposal comes after a brutal mail carrier attack

In September 2016, a dog bit the tip off of the finger of a Vernon mail carrier, and the township has decided that enough is enough. The Township Council unanimously approved the measure to be decided by the Township Council last month.

The dangerous dog that bit the mail carrier was a 2-year-old dog owned by a police officer. A judge deemed the dog to be "vicious" and sentenced the animal to death by lethal injection. After appealing the decision, the owner made a plea deal that demoted the dog's status to "potentially dangerous," which will prevent the animal's death. The dog could return home, but the owner must care for it strictly to prevent further attacks.

The publicized incident resulted in township residents creating the proposed ordinance at issue. If approved, the owners of potentially dangerous dogs would need to pay $700.00 annually per dog, as opposed to the normal $14.00 dog license.

Dogs are "potentially dangerous" if they have caused severe injury to another person or another domesticated animal when unprovoked, and if the court believes the dog represents a continued threat. If handlers have encouraged or trained a dog to be aggressive, a court may also deem it to be "potentially dangerous."

Were you bitten by a dog? The owner is probably liable.

By charging the owners of dogs a high fee, it could dissuade New Jersey residents from owning dangerous dogs. This might, in turn, help curb instances of dangerous dog attacks in our state.

Common sense and a general concern for the welfare of fellow community members should be enough to get dog owners to prevent their animals from attacking. Nevertheless, accidents can still happen, and the owners of attacking dogs will be financially liable for the resulting financial damages.

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