Florence dog attack leads to first “Emily’s Law” investigation

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FLORENCE, Alabama – A tragic 2017 dog attack in Jackson County changed the way Alabama’s court system punishes vicious pet owners. “Emily’s Law” was passed by the state legislature in the last session and came into effect on June 1.st. The first investigation under this new law is currently taking place in Florence.

Late last week, police said Rose Holt was in her yard when two pit bulls attacked her. Investigators say they escaped from their enclosure just two houses away.

Captain Brad Holmes

“This is something that we law enforcement have dealt with for a number of years, and our response before ‘Emily’s Law’ is that as a rule, a dog bite or a vicious attack is a civil matter, ”said Captain Brad Holmes of the Florence Police Department.

According to Captain Holmes, they are leading the first “dangerous dog investigation” in the state.

“Emily’s Law now sets a clear path for us to prosecute; so that we can determine whether an animal is dangerous or not before an attack occurs.

Holmes says if a citizen does not feel safe after contact with an animal, Emily’s Law allows police to investigate even before an attack occurs. They then present their findings to a judge.

“The court has one of two options,” Holmes said. “The court can decide that the animal is not dangerous and return it to its owner, or and that is before an attack, a court can determine that the animal is dangerous and if the court decides that, then there is has a number of things the owner must do.

These guidelines are expressly set out in the law:

  • The dog must be spayed or neutered.
  • The dog must be microchipped.
  • The dog should be kept in a locked enclosure that not only has four sides, but a concrete top and bottom (or a fence that extends at least 2 feet into the ground).
  • The owner must pay an annual dangerous dog registration fee of $ 100.
  • The owner must obtain a $ 100,000 bond that covers dog bites, injuries or death caused by the dog.

Captain Holmes went on to say, “If during or before the matter goes to court the owner signs a discharge to Animal Services, the matter stops and the animals are humanely euthanized. This set of events does not prevent the victim (s) from seeking civil action against the owner of the dog.

Under the new law, criminal charges only apply after a judge has deemed the animal a danger and attacks, or the owner is aware of the animal’s tendencies and has not taken the necessary precautions to keep it confined. Both incidents can lead to felony charges.

Rose Holt is still recovering in hospital after numerous bites.

Holmes added: “This specific case involves two dogs, one of the animals is in the care of the Florence / Lauderdale Animal Shelter. The second animal that was shot in the attack by a passerby has been transported out of our county for treatment and efforts will be made to transfer this animal to our care once the treatment is complete.

No date has yet been set for a hearing with the dog’s owners.

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