H. B. 2757
(By Delegates Sponaugle, Hartman, Lynch, Skinner,
Evans, A., Espinosa, Reynolds, Azinger, Stowers,
Phillips R. and Andes)
[Introduced February 27, 2013; referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by
adding thereto a new article, designated §19-20C-1, §19-20C-2,
§19-20C-3 and §19-20C-4, all relating to the creation of a
civil cause of action in magistrate court for the purpose of
seeking euthanization of a violent dog; elements of action;
proceeding; attorney fees; limitations of action; and order of
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended
by adding thereto a new article, designated §19-20C-1, §19-20C-2,
§19-20C-3 and §19-20C-4, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 20C. FELICITY'S LAW.
§19-20C-1. Short Title.
_____This article may be known and cited as "Felicity's Law".
_____The purpose of this article is to protect the public by providing a private cause of action seeking euthanasia of a dog in
magistrate court to a person who has been attacked and injured by
the dog causing damages in the amount of $1,000 or greater or who
has been attacked by the dog and the dog had attacked a person
causing injury within the previous twenty-four months.
§19-20C-3. Procedure; petition to magistrate court; elements of
action; burden of proof; attorney fees; limitation
_____(a) A person seeking relief under this article may apply to
the magistrate court in the county where the dog owner resides, or
the county where the injury occurred, by verified petition setting
forth and affirming the following:
_____(1) That the owner of the dog resides in the county where the
petition is filed or the attack giving rise to the action occurred
in the county where the petition is filed;
_____(2) That the petitioner was:
_____(A) Attacked by the dog and the attack resulted in injuries
and damages in the amount of $1,000 or greater; or
_____(B) Attacked by the dog and the dog had engaged in a separate
attack causing injury within the previous twenty-four months; and
_____(3) That the petitioner was not at fault in the attack.
_____(b) The petition and summons shall be served on the respondent
in the manner set forth in Rule 4 of the West Virginia Rules of
_____(c) The petitioner must prove the allegations in the petition
by clear and convincing evidence.
_____(d) The prevailing party is entitled to an award of reasonable
attorney fees and costs.
_____(e) The limitations of the cause of action in this article are
_____(1) Jurisdiction is exclusively in magistrate court;
_____(2) The magistrate serves as the trier of fact;
_____(3) The disposition by the magistrate court is final and
_____(4) Relief, other than attorney fees and costs in subsection
(d) of this article, is limited to an order directing that the
owner of the dog have the dog euthanized; and
_____(5) The cause of action provided by this article does not
establish statutory liability nor does it supplant a common law
negligence cause of action.
§19-20C-4. Order of the magistrate court.
_____(a) If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that
the dog who is the subject of the action under this article has
attacked the petitioner and caused damages in the amount of $1,000
or greater or that the dog attacked the petitioner and within the
twenty-four month period prior to the attack had engaged in a
separate attack causing injury, then the court shall order the
owner of the dog to have the dog euthanized.
_____(b) The magistrate court shall issue and file a written order
that sets forth the following:
_____(1) Findings of fact and conclusions of law; and
_____(2) If the court orders euthanasia, a specific date upon which
the owner of the dog must have the euthanasia performed and a
direction that documentation be mailed to the petitioner and filed
with the court by a specific date showing that the procedure was
_____(c) If the court does not order euthanasia, the order shall
dismiss the petition with prejudice.
_____(d) The magistrate court may award reasonable attorney fees
and costs to the prevailing party.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to protect the public by
providing a private cause of action seeking euthanasia of a dog
that has attacked a person and caused damages in an amount of
$1,000 or greater or has attacked a person and, within the previous
twenty-four months, had engaged in a separate attack. The bills
also provides a magistrate the discretion to award attorney fees
and costs. The bill is titled "Felicity's Law" because Felicity
was the two year old victim of a vicious dog attack whose parents
sought judicial relief under §19-20-20, a statute providing for the
destruction of vicious dogs. The West Virginia Supreme Court, in
a 2012 decision, denied the relief sought by Felicity's parents,
holding that §19-20-20 allows the destruction of a dog as a result
of a criminal proceeding and does not authorize a private cause of
This article is new; therefore, it has been completely