What Alabama law does about dangerous dogs

A dog attack can cause serious harm, especially to children. Aggressive dogs have even been known to kill people in Birmingham. Unlike their human owners, dogs cannot be held responsible for their actions in civil court. But Alabama law does have procedures for dealing with dangerous dogs.

The investigation

To be designated “dangerous,” a dog must first be investigated. This starts with someone making a sworn statement to a magistrate or sheriff claiming that a particular dog is dangerous. The person making the statement usually is someone bitten by the dog or the victim’s parents. If the complaint involves a death or serious physical injury, the statute requires a police officer to investigate. Otherwise, an animal control officer will investigate the complaint.

If the investigator determines there is merit to the complaint, they must issue a summons to the dog’s owner, if their identity is known, and have the dog impounded. The dog will be kept at a county animal pound unless the owner chooses to have it kept at a veterinarian clinic. Meanwhile, the investigator must send a report to the applicable prosecutor’s office. Prosecutors then can choose whether to file a petition in district or municipal court to have the dog declared legally dangerous, which requires a court hearing to determine.

The hearing

If the judge rules that the dog is dangerous and caused serious harm or killed someone, the law requires the judge to order the dog euthanized. If no serious or fatal attacks occurred, but the judge determines that the dog has a “propensity” to commit such an attack, it can order the dog euthanized or returned to its owner with several conditions. For example, the judge can order the owner to have the dog spayed or neutered, pay all costs associated with the investigation, and have the dog vaccinated for rabies.

Keeping an animal from harming others after a dog bite attack is just part of how the law can help victims. You can also seek compensation from the owner for your medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages. Dog owners are legally responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent their pet from attacking people.

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