"We're going to protect our children...we can do that by banning pit bulls"

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

HENDERSON, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas county has passed a brand new leash law in response to the death of a local 10-year-old boy who was killed by a pit bull last month. Justin Clinton was attacked and killed by two pit bulls on June 15 in Leverett's Chapel, after he went over to his friend's house to play.

Family and friends of Justin Clinton released 10 balloons in his memory outside the Rusk County courthouse. Then, went inside to state their case in preventing any other pit bull attacks.

"[We] look at this issue and say we're going to protect our children," said Cynthia Kent, the Clinton family's attorney. "We can do that by banning pit bulls. We can do that by making people be responsible for vicious animals."

"You're responsible for your children and your dogs," said Precinct 4 Commissioner Harold Howell. "Think of your babies and grandbabies."

In a packed courtroom where many were wearing t-shirts honoring Justin, commissioners heard the call for action.

"We hope to finish up by getting them outlawed completely," said Kent.

Commissioners approved a leash law for the Elderville community of Airport Garden Ranchettes, which is next to the East Texas Regional Airport.

To a packed house in Commissioners Court, there were cheers all around when the leash law was approved, but some wanted much more.

"I feel like they ought to be banned in the State of Texas because more deaths occur in Texas than any other state with pit bulls," said Becky Long.

Some called for a total ban on pit bulls.

"Justice for Justin is nothing less than banning pit bulls," said Kent. "Get rid of these dogs!"

But, pit bull owners think it's a matter of training.

"That bothers me because pit bulls are like raising a child," said Hillary Smith, a pit bull owner. "They need constant training."

Deferring on the ban issue, the family hopes justice for Justin will happen one day.

"We'd like to have them outlawed," said Ann Clinton, Justin's grandmother. "People buy them to sell. They buy them to fight. My baby is gone from these dogs."

Commissioners said the leash law will go into effect in the next 30 days. A public hearing will be scheduled in the coming weeks for a leash law for the community of Leverett's Chapel, where Justin was attacked and killed.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.