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Although always “man’s best friend,” dogs have become more intertwined with every aspect of our lives. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see business owners bring their pets to work, travelers carrying “emotional support” dogs on airplanes, or “dog friendly” restaurants and social venues around town.
This rise in dog and human interaction has, unsurprisingly, resulted in a significant increase in dog-related injuries. Most of these injuries arise from unexpected dog attacks or dog bites and usually result in significant lacerations, puncture wounds, fractures, and sometimes amputation. The emotional scars left from the attacks are often just as prominent as the physical wounds.
View Case Results For:Dog Bites
Alabama dog bite laws are based on torts. Torts are wrongful acts that result in loss or harm to a person. The tort of negligence may provide relief to a dog attack victim. Alabama law defines negligence as follows:
“A person’s conduct is negligent when he/she either does something that a reasonably prudent person would not do in a similar situation, or he/she fails to do something that a reasonably prudent person would have done in a similar situation.”
In the context of a dog case, a showing of negligence is a case-by-case evaluation that must take into account a number of factors concerning the dog, the dog’s history, and the owner’s actions towards their dog or the injured party (i.e., failure to warn an individual about a dog’s vicious characteristics).
The tort of wantonness may also provide an avenue of relief to an individual harmed by a dog. Alabama law defines wantonness as:
“A person’s conscious act or failure to act with a reckless or conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others, and the person is aware that harm will likely or probably result.”
Much like negligence, every fact of the case must be considered when evaluating a potential claim for wantonness. Discovery should be focused on the dog owner’s actual knowledge or constructive knowledge of the dog, the environment, and the circumstances leading up to a bite or attack. In addition to compensatory damages, an injured party may be allowed to recover punitive damages if he or she proves the owner or landlord acted with wantonness.
Under this code provision, a dog owner can be liable for injuries caused by his failure to properly restrain a vicious or dangerous animal. The specific law reads as follows:
“When any person owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and, as a result of his careless management of the same or his allowing the same to go at liberty, and another person, without fault on his part, is injured thereby, such owner or keeper shall be liable in damages for such injury.”
As you can see from the language of this section, this provision is not limited to dogs but instead applies to any vicious or dangerous animal. Whether or not an animal is “vicious or dangerous” often times requires investigation into the animal’s past, whether or not the animal has previously shown signs of aggression (even if there has not been a previous attack or bite), and the breed of animal. Our Birmingham dog bite lawyers employ a number of investigative tactics to uncover this evidence such as investigating the dog’s breeding history, vet records, witness or neighbor’s experiences with the animal, and the testimony of witnesses with expertise in the field.
Every person owning or having in charge any dog or dogs shall at all times confine such dog or dogs to the limits of his own premises or the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Nothing in this section shall prevent the owner of any dog or dogs or other person or persons having such dog or dogs in his or their charge from allowing such dog or dogs to accompany such owner or other person or persons elsewhere than on the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $2.00 nor more than $50.00.
This code provision often referred to as the “leash law,” requires dog owners to take steps to confine their dogs to their property in order to prevent them from roaming at large and possibly injuring others. Like other Alabama dog laws, liability may be imposed based on a violation of this statute in instances where a dog causes injury even if it does not bite someone. Examples would include a dog roaming off property of an owner and causing a bicyclist or motorcyclist to crash and sustain injury.
This code section, nicknamed the “Mailman Law,” governs situations when a person is injured by another’s dog when the victim is legally on the property of the dog owner. The provision also provides that if the dog chases an individual off the owner’s property and then attacks, the owner can be liable for that off-premises attack. The specific law reads as follows:
“If any dog shall, without provocation, bite or injure any person who is at the time at a place where he or she has a legal right to be, the owner of such dog shall be liable in damages to the person so bitten or injured, but such liability shall arise only when the person so bitten or injured is upon property owned or controlled by the owner of such dog at the time such bite or injury occurs or when such person has been immediately prior to such time on such property and has been pursued therefrom by such dog.”
Alabama Code § 3-6-2 provides the definition of “legal right to be” for the previous code section as follows:
“For the purpose of this chapter a person shall be considered to be lawfully upon the private property of the owner of such dog when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws of the United States or the postal laws and regulations of the United States, when reading meters, when delivering milk, when making repairs to any public utility or service upon said premises or when on such property upon the invitation, either expressed or implied, of the owner or lessee of such property.”
When these two provisions are read in combination, it is easier to see why the law is nicknamed the “Mailman law,” given the specific example of a postal worker being bitten when delivering mail to a home. However, this law provides protection for anyone legally on the premises of a dog owner. Unlike Ala. Code § 3-1-3, the Mailman law applies to any dog and does not require any showing that the dog had a “vicious or dangerous” characteristic.
In addition to the animal and dog laws enacted by the Alabama legislature, many local municipalities have enacted additional ordinances that may apply to a dog attack and call for financial responsibility for one’s injuries. Some cities require registration and licenses for owners to harbor certain breeds within city limits. Many Alabama towns have enacted “vicious dog laws” that apply to a number of specific breeds. Some local laws presume that breeds such as pit bulls, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and Rottweilers are inherently “vicious” breeds. Other breeds, however, may also fall into general catchall provisions of “vicious dogs” under local laws.
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Below is a list of local dog laws available online. Click on the link for your town to read more information about your local law or check with your city clerk for a copy of any potential dog and animal ordinance.
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If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog or other animal, you should immediately seek medical help. As soon as possible, contact an experienced Birmingham dog bite lawyer who can help you navigate the complex Alabama legal system to recover compensation for your injuries. Call Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. today at 205-933-1500 to find out how we can help you.