A St. Clair County judge ordered the destruction of 33 Rottweilers after two dogs attacked and killed an 83-year-old man in Leeds late last month.
The victim, Donald Thomas, was a neighbor. Neither he nor his wife was able to fight off the 100-pound animals. A police officer shot and killed both dogs. Investigators later found 26 dogs at the neighbor’s home. A veterinarian who assessed the dogs said most did not show outward or abnormal signs of aggression.
The Birmingham News reported that the prosecutor’s office has still not decided whether to file criminal charges.
Our Birmingham injury lawyers know whether criminal charges are filed is a separate matter from whether or not a victim can file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit for damages in the wake of a dog attack.
Alabama dog bite law holds owners accountable for the behavior of their animals through special statute, as well as the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter and intentional tort. The law includes dog bites or any other injuries caused by the dog.
Scienter means a victim knew or should have known that a dog was dangerous. Negligence per se typically means an owner was negligent by means of violating other laws, like leash laws or animal control laws. Landlords may also be held liable through premises liability in cases where a property owner or manager knew or should have known about the vicious tendencies of a tenant’s dog. The law applies whether a victim was bitten on public property, a dog owner’s property or immediately upon leaving a dog owner’s property, provided the victim was there legally.
Unfortunately, dog bites are increasingly common. The Humane Society of the United States reports there are nearly 80 million owned dogs in the United States. Government health statistics indicate 4 million people are bitten each year, about 1 million will receive medical treatment and more than 30,000 will undergo reconstructive surgery in the wake of a dog attack each year.
Children ages 5 to 9 are most at risk and autumn and the year-end holidays are the most dangerous time of the year. Halloween — scary strangers carrying treats — increases the risk for dog attacks, as does bringing a new dog into the home during the holidays.
Birmingham Dog Safety Tips:
-Spend some time determining the best breed for your household. And spend some time with your chosen pet before inviting it into your home. Some breeds may not be suitable for households with children or other pets.
-Never play aggressive games with your dog and supervise interaction with young children. Teach your dog to rollover as well as other submissive behaviors. Proper social training and obedience training make for a great pet.
-Do not ignore aggressive behaviors in your dog — seek the immediate advice of a veterinarian, breeder or trainer.
-Do not approach unfamiliar dogs. Do not run, scream or make other sudden noises.
-Remain motionless if approached. If knocked down, roll into a ball, protect your neck and head and lie still.
-Never disturb a dog eating, sleeping or caring for pups.
-Report stray dogs.
33 dogs ordered put to death after fatal attack on Leeds man, By Mike Cason, Birmingham News, Oct. 2, 2012.
Expert says most Rottweilers in group showed no sign of abnormal aggression,By Mike Cason, Oct. 11, 2012.