An Alabama Department of Public Health employee was trying to do her job. Following up on a report of a dog attack, the official went to talk to the owner of the dogs. But, the employee didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner or file her report. She was killed by the dogs she was there to investigate
Now the owner of the dogs faces manslaughter charges. How do Alabama and Florida laws handle a tragic situation like this, and what potential consequences will the owner of the dogs face?
A Dog Attack While Investigating a Dog Attack
Jacqueline Summer Beard, a 58-year-old environmental supervisor and Alabama Department of Public Health employee, had a job to do. Beard was following up on a case where a woman was attacked by a pack of dogs in northwestern Alabama. The dogs bit the woman and caused her to be hospitalized.
Beard’s job was to talk to the owner of the dog and investigate the attack. The health department follows up on animal bites to look for potential rabies risks. But, Beard didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner. Instead, she was attacked by the dogs and killed.
Authorities arrived on the scene after nearby residents called to report a suspicious vehicle. When police arrived, the dogs began attacking people on the scene. At least one dog was immediately euthanized. At that time, police found Beard’s vehicle and her body inside.
Beard had been trying to contact Brandy Dowdy, 39, the owner of the dogs. Beard never made contact with Dowdy. Now, Dowdy faces manslaughter charges for what happened to Beard.
The Dogs’ Owner Faces Criminal Charges in Alabama
Alabama has specific legislation that relates to dog attacks. The Dangerous Dog Law, often referred to as Emily’s Law, was created after Emily Colvin was killed outside of her home by a pack of dogs in Jackson County in 2017.
According to CBS News, Emily’s Law calls for felony and misdemeanor charges for dog attacks. An owner is said to be responsible if their animal attacks, injures, or kills a person. The consequences are more severe if the animal had previously been deemed dangerous.
“If a dog that has been previously declared dangerous kills or seriously injures a person, the owner could be charged with a Class B felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison.
If a dog that has not been previously declared dangerous kills or seriously injures a person, and the owner knew the dog had a propensity to be dangerous and recklessly disregarded that, the owner could be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years.”
It’s not clear whether Dowdy’s dogs, seven in total, had been previously declared dangerous, but her criminal charges mean she may face from one to twenty years in prison.
Related: Types of Personal Injury Cases: Do You Have a Claim?
Will the Dogs’ Owner Also Face Civil Charges?
At this time, the dog owner faces criminal charges from the state of Alabama. The owner may also face civil charges in the future.
Beard’s family may choose to sue for wrongful death. In that case, the family would sue Dowdy in civil court and attempt to seek damages. To prove fault in a personal injury or wrongful death case, the family would need to prove that the death was caused by the negligence of the owner.
At this time, no civil charges have been filed.
Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case?
What Are the Laws Regarding Dog Attacks in Florida?
In Florida, dangerous dog attacks are defined in Florida Statutes Chapter 767. Owners can be held liable for any injury their dog inflicts on a person, domestic animal, or livestock. There are some exceptions, such as if a victim’s negligence led to the attack or if there were signs present on private property warning people of the dog’s presence.
Like Alabama, Florida also has specific guidelines for dealing with incidents with dangerous dogs. A dog is deemed dangerous if it has:
“(a) Has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property;
(b) Has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or
(c) Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority.”
If a dog has been declared dangerous, the owner can face more severe charges if the dog attacks and causes injury or death. The owner could be charged with a third-degree felony and face up to five years in jail.
In Florida, a victim or their family can also pursue a civil case if they are involved in a dog attack. They can sue for wrongful death or personal injury.
Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney About Animal Attacks
If you or someone you know has been involved in an animal attack, you deserve justice. Whether or not the owner of the dog has been criminally charged, you may have an option to pursue civil charges. Talk to a personal injury attorney or a wrongful death attorney to share the details of your story and see if you have a case.
Talk to an attorney right away. Schedule your call with personal injury attorney, TJ Grimaldi. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.