Couple attacked by dogs lobby for leash law

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Maggie and Posey Givens remain steadfast in their opinion that the county needs to impose a leash law.

The couple resides in the Timberlake subdivision and said they’ve been attacked multiple times by a pack of five mixed breed dogs. They said they’ve watched as the group, which appears to be a bulldog mix, has charged neighbors – including an 82-year-old woman who recently had knee surgery.

“We love to walk,” said Maggie, who was bitten by one of the dogs during an afternoon stroll around the neighborhood. “It’s so bad that we don’t feel safe, and when that happens, that’s a sure sign that something needs to be done and needs to be done quickly.”

Maggie said deputies have been called at least twice to deal with the animal problem, including a time when she had to defend herself with a steel pipe for 20 minutes after the animals cornered her at the end of a road.

“What if it’d been our 82-year-old neighbor or a child? What then?” she asked. “I can tell you right now, if I get bit again, or Heaven, help us a child is attacked, then there’ll be the biggest lawsuit you’ve ever seen.”

But, county law enforcement’s hands are tied when dealing with the issue of animals. In municipalities such as Andalusia, Opp and Florala, ordinances are in place outlining regulations for animal control.

The county has no such regulation in place.

At its first meeting in June, commissioners instructed county attorney Julie Moody to research if and how the county could impose a leash law on county residents. At last week’s meeting, Moody informed the public she’d given the information to commissioners, but the meeting ended with no action or discussion on the measure by commissioners. The same could not be said for audience members, when Dunns Bridge Road resident Harry Peacock and Red Level’s Mignon Page spoke about the need for a leash law.

Under Alabama Code 3-1-3, the owner is liable if the dog is known to be vicious and causes harm; additionally, 3-1-5 (a) states that, “Every person owning or having in charge any dog or dogs shall at all times confine such dog or dogs to the limits of his own premises or the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $2 nor more than $50.” However, that same section of Code also requires the county commission to adopt the section as policy before it can become enforceable.

The law does give counties the ability to employ an animal control officer, if they choose to not let deputies enforce the regulation.

Attempts to reach Chairman Lynn Sasser and commissioners Harold Elmore and Carl Turman for comments were unsuccessful.