By Alecia Reid

TURNERSVILLE, N.J. (CBS) — Dog owners are reacting to proposed legislation in New Jersey that would require the owners of large dogs to have a fenced-in yard or face stiff penalties. Animal advocates say if this becomes a law, it will force owners to give up their pets.

Animal advocates told Eyewitness News that this is an overreach from Trenton, and large dogs could suffer unfair consequences.

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Kathy McGuire and Karen Talbot dedicate their lives to saving animals and finding them loving homes, but they believe Bill No. A-2401 will tear families apart.

“People are going to say, you know what, I can’t afford that, I don’t want these officials here at my house every day, here my child, rip this dog away from my child,” McGuire said.

The Assembly Agriculture Committee says their proposed bill is needed to protect the public from unrestrained dogs. It will potentially require anyone in the state of New Jersey that owns a large dog to build a fence around their homes.

The bill also increases penalties to up to $2,000 for owners of violating pets and expands criminal liability for owners should their dogs injure or kill a person.

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It was passed out of committee on Tuesday. It’s a version of legislation that has been circulating for a number of years after an 8-year-old was attacked by a dog and dragged to a nearby river.

In March, two unregistered pit bulls dug under a neighbor’s fence and attacked and killed a 3-year-old.

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly resurrected the Responsible Dog Act Bill, saying in a statement, “To lose a child or anyone as a result of an unrestrained, unsupervised pet is unconscionable and must be prevented in every way we can in the future. A large breed dog can be a challenge for any average-sized adult to defend themselves against, let alone a child or an elderly person.”

But dog advocates believe this is targeted at large dogs when pet owners should be held accountable.

“It’s just a sad, sad day in the rescue world right now,” Talbot said.

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The bill still faces more Assembly and Senate votes before potentially becoming law.