LEASH IT OR LOSE IT

by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm

photo of birmingham police car
The scene of the attack.

Dogs are known as man’s best friend, but as any person alive can agree, a friend can hurt you most when you least expect it. So, what happens when a furry friend turns out to be not so friendly? On Friday, July 12th, the mother of a four-year-old boy in Jefferson County found herself in the horrifying position to learn the answer. (https://www.wbrc.com/2019/07/12/year-old-boy-suffers-severe-injuries-after-dog-attack-jeffco/).

Police were summoned to a gas station off Highway 75 in the Palmerdale community around 11:30 am after a pitbull suddenly attacked a child in a truck. The mother of the boy and several onlookers struggled to tear the child away from the vicious dog. The boy’s injuries were so severe that he had to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital. Animal Control removed the dog from the scene and was retained in custody.

What does Alabama law say?

This unexpected attack brings safe maintenance of a dog, or any animal capable of inflicting harm, into question. It also requires the question of consequences to be answered. In the state of Alabama, the Code of Alabama lays out explicitly its dog bite laws. When a person is injured, by no fault of their own, the owner of the animal can be held liable for injuries and damages a person sustains from the bite or attack. The recognized ways for the owner of the animal to defend this claim would be:

  1. to provide evidence that the animal was leashed and under careful control,
  2. the injured person was not in a place they had a legal ability to be, or
  3. the owner had no reason or ability to know the animal had the capability to behave in a vicious way.

However, if an owner is aware that the animal has rabies at the time of the attack, the amount of monetary damages is doubled from that of an ordinary, healthy animal attack. (Ala. Code (1975) §§ 3-1-1 -6; 3-6-1 -4; 3-6A-1 -8; 3-7A-9).

City of Birmingham Ordinance

The City of Birmingham has drawn a stricter line on the control an owner must have over animals in their charge through the city’s Leash Ordinance. (07-103). According to the definitions in this ordinance, “at large” is broadened to include an animal that is not under the physical control of a competent person when the animal is not confined within an enclosure like a wall, fence, or vehicle. The penalty for a dog or cat found “at large” is impoundment by animal control. If the animal is not picked up within three days, humane disposal of the animal is permitted to Animal Control. When an animal is known to be vicious, this same ordinance requires that a sign be visibly posted over the confinement of the animal and it be leashed and muzzled when taken out.

Safe-keeping of animals is vital to the safe-keeping of people. Following the City Ordinance and leashing your animals can mean the difference between keeping and losing your four-legged friend.

If you find yourself or a loved one having been attacked or bitten by a dog, please consider contacting The Nomberg Law Firm. We are located in Birmingham, Alabama. Office number is 205-930-6900.  For further information, please visit our website: Nomberglaw.com.

Bernard D. Nomberg has been a lawyer for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. In 2018, Bernard was named a Super Lawyer for the 6th year in a row and he was recognized as one of the Top 50 Lawyers in Alabama.

Image credit: https://www.wbrc.com/2019/07/12/year-old-boy-suffers-severe-injuries-after-dog-attack-jeffco/

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