Dangerous Dog Procedure Act to Become Law on June 1

May 30, 2018 Dog Bite,New Law

In 2017, there were 39 dog attack-related fatalities in the United States, and two of those tragic deaths occurred in Alabama. The most recent fatality occurred in December 2017, when Emily Colvin, a 24-year-old Jackson County resident, was killed by a pack of dogs right outside of her home.

In response to her tragic death, and the deaths of other Alabama residents in recent years, lawmakers have worked to pass a bill with the goal of reducing such serious and unwarranted dog attacks in the state of Alabama.

Lawmakers have found that dog owners could be at fault for not adequately confining and training their pets, which leads to unwarranted and serious attacks. They believe that current dog bite laws do not properly address this issue. Therefore, they have created the Dangerous Dog Procedure – Act 2018-182, which establishes a process by which a dog can be declared dangerous.

Under the new law, a court can decide if the dangerous dog should be humanely euthanized, or returned back to its owner, who must follow strict guidelines to keep others safe. If the owner does not properly follow the guidelines and the dog attacks, he or she could be charged with criminal felonies or misdemeanors.

The law will be passed on Friday, June 1, and will be called Emily’s Law, in honor of Emily Colvin.

How Can a Dog Be Declared as Dangerous?

Under the new act, a dog of any breed who has bitten, attacked or caused physical injury – whether minor, severe or fatal —without reason, can be declared as a dangerous dog.

The county attorney, city attorney or municipal prosecutor can file a petition in the district court of the municipal court to declare the dog as dangerous. This petition is to be served to the dog owner.

According to the act, a hearing should be conducted in court as soon as possible in which the court reviews the evidence and decides what should happen to the dog, based on the injuries the dog caused and the threat it poses to the community.

What Are the Potential Outcomes of the Court Case?

Essentially, there are three different outcomes. If the court decides that the dog is dangerous and has caused serious physical injury or death to a person, the court shall order the dog to be humanely euthanized.

If a dog is found by the court to be dangerous, but it has not caused serious physical injury or death to a person, the court can determine whether the dog will be likely to cause future serious physical injury or death.

If the court determines that it is highly likely that the dog could cause serious injury or death, the court may order the dog to be euthanized or the court may order the dog to be returned to the owner under certain conditions outlined in the act.

What Are the Conditions That Owners Must Follow?

If a dog is found to be dangerous, but the court decides it should be returned to the owner, there are a number of rules the owners must follow, as detailed in a previous blog post. If the owner fails to follow these rules aimed to prevent attacks, he or she could be charged with criminal offenses.

The act establishes seven new criminal offenses that can be charged against owners of dangerous dogs, which are detailed below.

What are the New Criminal Offenses Owners Could be Charged With?

1) If a dog that has previously been declared by a court to be dangerous, when unjustified, attacks and causes serious physical injury or death to a person, the owner of the dog shall be guilty of a Class B felony.

2) If a dog that has not been declared by a court to be dangerous, when unjustified, attacks and causes serious physical injury or death to a person, and the owner of the dog had prior knowledge of the dangerous propensities of the dog, yet demonstrated a reckless disregard of the propensities under the circumstances, the owner of the dog shall be guilty of a Class C felony.

3) If a dog that has previously been declared by a court to be dangerous, when unjustified, attacks and causes physical injury to a person, the owner of the dog shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

4) If a dog that has not been declared by a court to be dangerous, when unjustified, attacks and causes physical injury to a person, and the owner of the dog had prior knowledge of the dangerous propensities of the dog, yet demonstrated a reckless disregard of the propensities under the circumstances, the owner of the dog shall be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor

5) Failing to restrain a dangerous dog with a secure collar and leash, which is a Class C misdemeanor, except that a second or subsequent adjudication or conviction is a Class B misdemeanor.

6) Refusing to surrender a dog to animal control officer or law enforcement officer when an owner of a dog that is the subject of a dangerous dog investigation is a Class C misdemeanor.

7) Making a false report to an animal control officer or law enforcement officer that a dog is dangerous is a Class C misdemeanor.

Alabama dog owners should be aware of the new law’s provisions in order to help ensure they take the proper steps to prevent dog attacks. In light of recent, tragic events, the provisions of the law take a stricter stance, which owners need to fully understand.

If you or a loved one is seriously injured in a dog attack, call the experienced Alabama Dog Attack Lawyers at Floyd Hunter Injury Law at 334- 452-4000 for a free and confidential consultation.

Call Floyd Hunter Injury Law, because the right lawyers make a real difference.