New Alabama Law Holds Dog Owners Responsible For Pets’ Actions

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A new law in Alabama means that owners of dogs who seriously injure or kill a person will now be subject to felony penalties.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill called Emily’s Law into legislation, and ensured that owners of dogs who seriously injure or kill humans will be held responsible for their dog’s actions. The law was named in memory of Emily Colvin, a woman who was killed by dogs outside of her home in Jackson County, Alabama last December.

In November, just a week earlier, dogs attacked and killed Tracey Patterson Cornelius in Guntersville, Alabama, and Emily’s family went to the State House to garner support for the legislative change.

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Senator Steve Livingston and Representatives Nathaniel Ledbetter and Tommy Hanes sponsored the bill, with Livingston saying that Alabamians need to be held accountable when their animals severely injure or kill another person.

The law allows a process for people to file their concern that a dog is dangerous that will then prompt an investigation by law enforcement and/or animal control. If the dog is found to be dangerous, the dog will be removed and if a court deems the dog is dangerous or has seriously injured or killed a person, the dog will be put down.

If the court should decide that a dog is dangerous, in the absence of the injury or death of another, the dog still may be ordered euthanized, but may also be returned to its owner with strict guidelines for return.

In the situation that a dog who has been declared dangerous but who had never killed or seriously injured eventually does so, the owner of the dog could face two to twenty years in prison, the punishment of a Class B Felony.

Under the law owners who are aware their dogs may be dangerous, but have not been previously declared dangerous, are liable if their dog kills or seriously injures anyone. Those owners could be charged with a Class felony, which could result in one to ten years of imprisonment.

Related: Missouri Legislator Proposes to Eliminate Breed-Specific Bans Across The State

The law is not breed-specific, and also dictates that the owners of dogs who cause injuries not as severe to humans could still be charged with misdemeanors.

We applaud Alabama for working to make sure dog owners maintain responsibility for their pet’s actions, though we hope that the law is not abused. So often dogs are accused of being ‘dangerous’ simply because of breed appearance, and we hope that this law will encourage pet owners to raise their dogs responsibly while not leading to unnecessary breed discrimination.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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