What is the Alabama Dangerous Dog Law? This law is commonly referred to as Emily’s law. SB232 was signed into law on March 8, 2018, and took effect in June of that same year. Emily’s law provides a method to humanely euthanize a dangerous dog that has killed or seriously injured someone without justification.
This law also imposes potential criminal liability for dog owners who allow their aggressive or dangerous dog to roam about and cause harm.
Why is it called Emily’s Law?
The statute gets its namesake from Emily Colvin, Emily was a 24-year-old who died in December of 2017 after being attacked by a pack of dogs in her front yard. The pack of dogs had injured another woman during the attack. Upon police arriving at the scene, one of the dogs attempted to attack a deputy and was shot. The other four dogs that were involved in the attacks were captured.
State Representative Tommy Hanes of Scottsboro stated, “no family should have to suffer the pain and loss that Emily Colvin’s family has felt … most dog owners are responsible people, but we should throw the book at lazy and irresponsible dog owners who knowingly allow aggressive and dangerous dogs to roam about endangering people.”
What does the dangerous dog act cover?
A person or an animal control officer may initiate the dangerous dog investigation by providing a sworn statement as to who the owner of the dog is and why they think the dog is dangerous. If the officer conducting the investigation believes the allegation that the dog is dangerous is founded then all of the following shall occur:
1. Officer files a summons for the owner in municipal or district court.
2. Dog in question shall be impounded at the county pound.
3. Animal control officer shall send the investigation report to the county or municipal attorney/prosecutor.
If the owner chooses to do so, they can waive the investigation and consent to have the dog humanely euthanized. If the investigation continues there will be a hearing where there will be a determination made as to whether the dog is dangerous based on evidence that the dog bit, attacked, or caused physical injury without prior justification.
If the Court determines the dog is dangerous and caused serious physical injury or death the dog will be humanely euthanized. If the dog is dangerous but has not caused a death or serious physical injury then the court may either order the dog humanely euthanized based on the potential of future harm or may return the dog to its owner pursuant to conditions.
Can a dog owner be charged with a crime if their dog bites someone?
Under Emily’s law a dog owner may be held criminally liable for their dogs’ actions if the owner knew of the dangerous propensity prior to he harm taking place. The severity of the criminal offense depends on whether a Court has previously declared the dog dangerous, and the severity of the injuries caused by the dog. So, keeping a dog after it has bitten someone in the past can result in serious consequences. Here are the potential charges:
If the dog has previously been declared dangerous and then unjustifiably causes serious physical injury or death to another person, the owner shall be guilty of a class B felony.
If the dog has not been previously declared dangerous and causes serious physical injury or death and the owner had prior knowledge of the dangerous propensity of the dog and recklessly disregarded the propensity, then the owner shall be guilty of a class C felony.
If the dog has been previously declared dangerous and causes physical injury the owner shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
If the dog has not been previously declared dangerous and causes physical injury and the owner had prior knowledge of dangerous propensity of the dog yet recklessly disregarded said propensity then the owner shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
What is a dangerous dog?
Emily’s Law defines a “dangerous dog” as “a dog regardless of its breed, that has bitten, attacked, or caused physical injury, serious physical injury, or death to a person without justification, except a dog that is a police animal as defined by Section 13A-11-260, Code of Alabama 1975, used by law enforcement officials for legitimate law enforcement purposes.”
Can a person bring a civil case for injuries?
While Emily's Law does not address the topic of civil law cases for injuries, yes a person can bring a civil action for injuries suffered as a result of a dog bite. The civil case would not be based upon Emily's Law, but instead would be based on the tort of negligence or recklessness. Click here for more information on dog bite injury cases in Alabama.