New Law Would Impose Felony Charges for Owners of Aggressive Dogs | Belt, Bruner & Barnett

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New Law Would Impose Felony Charges for Owners of Aggressive Dogs

Mar 22, 2018 | Dog Bites

In response to a recent series of fatal dog attacks, Alabama is considering toughening its dog bite laws. Under the proposed legislation, dog owners would be subject to felony charges after a serious attack, and streamlined procedures would be in place for the disposal of dangerous dogs. According to the bill’s sponsor, House Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter, “I think the message we’ve got to send to people across the state, if they’re going to have those type dogs, they need to take care of them.”

If you were injured in a dog attack, contact the dog bite attorneys of Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. today at (205) 933-1500 to schedule a free, initial case consultation.

Emily’s Law Aims to Punish Owners of Dangerous Dogs

Alabama Senate Bill (SB) 232 is named after Emily Colvin, a 24 year old woman who was mauled to death by five dogs near her home in Jackson County on December 7, 2017. One of the dogs was shot during the attack, and the four others were later euthanized by court order. In November of the same year, Guntersville resident Tracey Patterson Cornelius, 46, was also killed by dogs while trying to protect another woman. Although pit bulls were involved in both incidents, the new law does not cite any specific breeds.

The penalties proposed by Emily’s law depend on whether a judge has previously declared a dog to be dangerous. Emily’s Law defines a dangerous dog as any dog that has bitten, attacked, injured, or killed a person without provocation.

Emily’s Law allows dog owners to be charged with the following offenses:

  • Class B Felony (two to 20 years) – You may face this sentence if you have a dangerous dog that causes a serious injury or death without provocation and has been declared dangerous by the court in the past.
  • Class C Felony (One to 10 years) – If your dog has not previously been adjudicated as dangerous causes a serious injury or death, and the owner knew of but willfully disregarded the dog’s violent behavior, you face class C felony charges under SB 232.

When there is probable cause to believe a dog is dangerous, such as when it attacks someone, a law enforcement or animal control officer may immediately impound the dog. This is done at the owner’s expense. After the impoundment, the local prosecutor can open a court proceeding against the dog. Depending on the evidence and facts of the case, a judge may take the following actions:

  • Order euthanasia – When a dog is dangerous, and has caused a serious injury or death, the judge can order to have it euthanized.
  • Return to owner with conditions – When the evidence shows the dog is dangerous, but has not seriously injured anyone, the judge may order the dog owner to keep it in a locked and covered enclosure, and pay a surety bond to cover expenses that may result from another incident.

In the case of Emily Colvin, the decision to euthanize the dogs that attacked her took place months after her death. After a contested hearing, Judge Don Word decided to euthanize the dogs, and also ordered the dog owners to pay the expenses of impounding and caring for the animals in the months leading up to the hearing.

What Civil Remedies Are Available After a Dog Bite?

The owners of the dogs that killed Emily Colvin may face huge liabilities. Under Alabama Law, Emily’s family may sue them to recover compensation for emergency care, funeral expenses, loss of support, and their pain and suffering. The outcome of such a suit will depend on the available evidence about the dogs, where they were kept, their past behavior, and the circumstances of the attack.

Call Our Dog Bite Attorneys for Help Today

In many dog bite cases, dog owners often attempt to settle with the victims out of court. An experienced legal team can help maximize that settlement. The Alabama personal injury lawyers of Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. have a proven track record of obtaining compensation for dog bite victims. We will thoroughly investigate your case and advocate for you to get the compensation you deserve.

If you or a family member has been attacked by a dog, contact our dog bite attorneys today at (205) 933-1500 to schedule a free, initial case consultation.