Dog attacks lead to action – Ward to introduce dog bill during next session

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 7, 2004

State Rep. Cam Ward of Alabaster plans to introduce a &uot;Vicious Dog Attack Bill&uot; during the next regular legislative session.

Ward said he plans to pre-file the bill, which he will introduce in the session beginning this coming February.

&uot;This bill came about as a result of recent dog attacks on people in Shelby County,&uot; said Ward.

He said the most recent attack occurred when a pit bull attacked the young son of Southern Hills Christian Church senior minister Chris Frank in Alabaster.

According to Ward, under Alabama law there is no criminal penalty in a case like this.

The only punishment that the owner would suffer is a violation of a local leash ordinance.

&uot;Under my bill, these attacks would be a criminal misdemeanor by the owner where the owner acted with reckless negligence with the pet,&uot; Ward said.

He said an example of &uot;reckless negligence&uot; would be where the owner allows the dog to roam free and does not keep it on a leash.

Ward said the punishment under his bill would be a hefty fine and in extreme cases, could result in incarceration.

He also said following conviction, the owner would be saddled with a criminal record.

Frank alleges that the Friday after Thanksgiving his two sons were out riding a bicycle and skating when a large pit bull attacked the 10-year-old, Mathieu, who had been in-line skating.

While Frank said he did not see the attack, he said from the way it was described by his sons, the dog was &uot;not playing.&uot;

&uot;The dog was going for the kill,&uot; he said.

According to Frank, the alleged incident occurred about a block from his home. He said the dog went for his son’s face and grabbed his lip.

Frank said he grew up on a farm and he saw the way dogs killed cows. They would grab the lip, drag the animal down and crush the throat.

Frank said his other son, Nathan, a 9-year-old, took his bicycle helmet and swung at the dog. He said he believed the action of the younger son saved the life of the older.

Frank said the owner of the dog lives in a townhouse without a fence, and he claimed the owner did not have proof of inoculation for the dog. The owner had only the word of the person who had sold him the dog.

While Frank said a police report was filed, he said there were no charges which could be pressed. The only violation would be violation of a city ordinance leash law, which carries a fine.

Capt. Curtis Rigney of the Alabaster Police Department confirmed that the report of a dog bite was filed by Frank on Nov. 26.

Rigney said the owner was contacted and said she had difficulty keeping the dogs in and did not know they were out.

He confirmed that there is no law on the book other than the leash law, which carries a simple fine.

But Rigney said of Ward’s bill: &uot;We are excited about it. We need a law like this … some accountability other than a leash law.&uot;

Rigney said there needs to be some accountability on the part of the dog owner whose dog threatens a pedestrian who is riding a bicycle or a child who is playing in his yard.

Frank said he offered a gentlemen’s agreement to the owner … destroy the dog and pay his son’s medical bills and he would not press the matter further.

Frank said his son was bleeding profusely from the face and had been bitten on the arm.

At presstime, Frank had not heard from the owner of the animal and said he was keeping his options open.

The fine for violation of the leash law in Alabaster is $25 plus $147 court costs for the first offense and $50 plus court costs for the second offense