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Dangerous dogs bill passes House

The Alabama House chambers. (FILE PHOTO)

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill holding dog owners criminally liable if their dog attacks, maims, or kills someone.

Senate Bill 232 was sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro.  The legislation is named “Emily’s Law” after Emily Colvin, 24, who was killed by a pack of dogs in the front yard of her home in Jackson County.

Emily’s law was carried by House Majority Leader Nathanial Ledbetter, R-Rainsville.  Ledbetter said that dangerous dogs have become a real problem in North Alabama.  There have been two fatalities in just the last several months.

The bill would make it a class B felony if your dog kills someone.  It also defines a dangerous dogs as a dog that has killed, maimed, or attacked someone without provocation.

The bill gives the court the authority to give the death penalty to a dangerous dog.  Owners may take a dangerous dog home with them, but if they do it must be housed in a locked enclosure with a concrete floor to keep the dangerous dog from escaping.

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said, that he had a problem with the bill’s definition of a dangerous dog.

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“I don’t know why you brought this bill,” Rogers said. “Who let the dogs out.”

Ledbetter said, “We have had two people killed by dogs in North Alabama in the last few months. We have had people killed by dogs in this state. This is not a laughing matter.”

Rogers said, “My dog is a bull mastiff.  She looks dangerous. I like dogs. She is not dangerous.”

Ledbetter and Rogers agreed to amend the bill to better define dangerous dogs.  The amended bill does not target dogs based on breed or type.

Ledbetter said that drug gangs use dangerous dogs to ward people away from their property so there is a growing problem with the proliferation of large potentially dangerous dogs across the state of Alabama.  People have been attacked by dogs and when they return from the hospital after treatment of their injuries the dog is there on its front porch.

Ledbetter said that he met with parents of a child, whose body was so badly mauled by a dog that they had to have a closed casket at her funeral.  They came here to advocate for the bill.

The amended bill passed the House 95-0.

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It has already passed the Senate.  The two houses must resolve the differences between the two passed pieces of legislation; either by the Senate concurring with the House or in a conference committee.  Then the bill will be transmitted on to the governor for her review.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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