New Alabama law increases penalties for dog attacks but does little to prevent them
WASHINGTON D.C.––Dog attacks, pit bull attacks in particular, were not on March 24, 2018 “March For Our Lives” agenda, but were indirectly part of the subject.
The “March For Our Lives” came one day before four-year-old Noah Treviño of Converse, Texas, became the 44th American to be killed by a pit bull in 15 months, and came five days after Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on March 19, 2018 signed “Emily’s Law,” which provides felony penalties for fatal dog attacks, but does little to prevent them.
“They’d lick you to death”
Indeed, “Emily’s Law” does nothing at all to preclude the breeding, sale, transfer, or adoption of pit bulls like the five who killed Emily Mae Colvin, 24, of Section, Alabama, on December 7, 2017, and the four who killed vegan blogger Tracey Patterson Cornelius, 46, in nearby Guntersville just eight days earlier, leaving fellow vegan blogger Valeria Hinojosa in critical condition.
“They never even used to snarl, bark, or nothing,” a neighbor insisted of the pit bulls who killed Colvin to Sydney Martin of WAAY TV 31 News.
“Those dogs were the most lovable of all dogs I’ve ever known,” the neighbor claimed. “If anything, they’d lick you to death.”
“March For Our Lives” messages
Five days after Ivey signed Emily’s Law, more than a million Americans in more than two dozen cities, led by survivors of the February 14, 2018 shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, refreshed two simple messages which together have been the foundations of the social contract between citizens and government since before civilization began:
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, be the issue gun violence, global warming, building an ark before the Biblical great flood––or keeping animals whose basic instincts and physical armament puts humans and other animals in jeopardy.
- The rights of individuals in a civilized society do not extend to putting others at imminent and avoidable physical risk. Those who claim “rights” as a pretext for risk-taking that puts others in danger must be restrained.
More than twice as many people as celebrated the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump turned out to deliver those messages: 800,000 in Washington D.C., 175,000 in New York City, 50,000 in Boston, 20,000 in Parkland, 15,000 in Chicago, 10,000 each in San Francisco and San Diego.
Many tens of thousands marched in other communities.
Along the way, deputy registrars from the League of Woman Voters enlisted many thousands of young first-time voters to help ensure that elected officials respond.
Guns don’t pull their own triggers
As a Fox News poll of previously registered voters recognized, 91% of the U.S. electorate favors universal criminal background checks as a condition of purchasing firearms; 84% favor including mental health checks as part of a mandatory background check; 72% favor raising the minimum age to buy firearms and ammunition to 21; and 60% would ban fast-firing guns with large-capacity magazines, commonly called “assault weapons.”
The Fox News poll results could also be read as 91% of the public recognizing that guns, unlike highly reactive dogs, do not pull their own triggers.
While 19% of the public appear to disagree to some extent over which elements of gun possession need to be controlled by background checks, more than two-thirds favor keeping guns out of the hands of youth, the most emotionally impulsive age group; more than 80% favor keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill; and nine out of 10 favor keeping guns out of the hands of convicted criminals.
“Ban the most dangerous”
Also, 60% of the public would prohibit possession of the most dangerous types of guns, used to kill at least 173 victims in U.S. mass shootings since 2007.
Pit bulls, about 5% of the U.S. dog population, during the same time frame have killed at least 293 Americans (68%), out of 428 killed by dogs. The runners-up over this time, by breed, are Rottweilers (40 deaths, 9% of the total), distantly followed by ancestral mixes of pit bull and mastiff such as bull mastiff and Presa Canario.
No gun leaps up unassisted to maul a family member, bursts through a door or out of a yard to kill a passer-by, or charges into a stranger’s home through a doggie-door or kitty entrance to dismember the occupants. Yet pit bulls, unlike any other dog breed, do all of these things astonishingly often, as Dog Bite Law attorney Kenneth Phillips emphasizes in a new video clip released on the eve of the “March For Our Lives” (https://www.facebook.com/DogBiteKing/videos/10157223585949951/).
“The law is not breed-specific”
“Emily’s Law,” summarized Alabama Media Group reporter Mike Cason, as well as creating “new penalties for owners of dogs who cause injuries, sets up a process for people to file a sworn statement that a dog is dangerous, prompting an investigation by an animal control or law enforcement officer. If the investigator finds that the dog is dangerous, the dog will be impounded pending a decision by a municipal or district court.
“If a court determines that a dog is dangerous and has seriously injured or killed a person, the dog will be euthanized.
“If a court determines that a dog that has not seriously injured a person but is still dangerous, the court could order the dog to be euthanized or to be returned to its owner under strict conditions, including that the dog is microchipped, spayed or neutered and that the owner pay a $100 annual fee, post a $100,000 surety bond and keep the dog in a secure enclosure.
“The law is not breed-specific.”
Slave state legacy
“Emily’s Law,” in short, does little more than bring Alabama law up to the “one free bite” standard prevailing in almost every other state since animal control legislation came into existence, usually even before the state was admitted to statehood.
That Alabama law lacked even a procedure for dealing with dangerous dogs before they seriously injure someone appears to reflect the history of Alabama as a slave state, where pit bull ancestors called “Cuban bloodhounds” were used to hunt fugitive slaves before the U.S. Civil War. After the Civil War, “Cuban bloodhounds” and eventually pit bulls as we know them today were used by the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate and sometimes lynch black citizens.
(See Why the Second Amendment does not protect hunting animals, SHARK fights pigeon shooters where black man was hunted for sport and A black-and-white issue that the humane community has yet to face.)
Meanwhile, on March 23, 2018, the November 29, 2017 pit bull attack death of Tracey Patterson Cornelius moved toward a semblance of justice when Marshall County deputies arrested her brother, Doyle Simpson Patterson Jr., 47, and Amanda Dawn Albright, 40, after a grand jury indicted both on charges of manslaughter and second-degree assault.
“Both posted a $20,000 bond and have since been released,” ABC affiliate WAAY-31 reported.
Sentencing in Quebec
On the same day, following three days of Quebec National Assembly hearings on Bill 128, which would enable the province to ban pit bulls and any other dog breed establishing a record as exceptionally dangerous, Quebec judge Pierre Belisle sentenced former pit bull owner Karim Jean Gilles to serve four years in prison for criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection with a September 2015 attack on then-seven-year-old Vanessa Biron at Marquise Park in Brossard, a Montreal suburb.
“Biron suffered facial injuries, a fractured skull and an injured hand,” recounted Canadian Press. “The muscles and nerves on one side of her face were crushed and a bone in her cheek was broken into seven pieces. She suffered paralysis in her face, a torn ear canal, and her salivary glands were removed.”
Judge Belisle stipulated that Gilles’ new four-year prison term is not to start until he completes a 28-month sentence he is now serving for assaulting two police officers who served him with a summons to appear in court after the Biron attack.
Sentence affirmed in San Antonio
On March 19, 2018, the same day that Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed “Emily’s Law,” and in the same jurisdiction where four-year-old Noah Treviño was killed six days later, San Antonio District Court Judge Joey Contreras affirmed that defendant Stanyelle Miles McCloud is to serve 90 days in jail, followed by ten years on probation, for her part in a March 2017 pit bull attack that cost former neighbor Doris Mixon Smith, 73, her left arm and facial disfigurement.
Judge Contreras “also told Miles McCloud that she ‘will never own a 4-legged dog’ while under his supervision,” reported KABB-TV of San Antonio.
Stanyelle Miles McCloud’s husband Alphonso McCloud was sentenced to four years in prison in January 2018 for his role in the same attack.
The McClouds earlier violated both a court order and bail bond conditions that they should not keep any dogs while the charges against them were pending by relocating and acquiring two more pit bulls, after the pit bull who injured Smith was euthanized.