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Alabama Dog Laws: Rabies, Dog Bites, Abandonment, and Cruelty – DogTime

By Darby McNally
What are the dog laws in Alabama? Does Alabama have dog laws? If you live in this state, you might be wondering what the law says about issues like rabies vaccination, dog bites, dog abandonment, or dog cruelty.
Read on for more information about dog laws in Alabama.
Dog owners in Alabama are required to vaccinate their dogs against rabies. It is illegal to “own, maintain, sell, or trade any canidae or felidae for which there is no USDA licensed rabies vaccine” in the state of Alabama. This includes an initial rabies shot as well as any additional shots required by a veterinarian throughout the life of the dog.
Dog owners in Alabama are held liable for damages if their dog bites an individual “without provocation … at the time at a place where he or she has a legal right to be.” This means that a dog owner isn’t liable for injuries from dog bites if the individual bitten was trespassing or otherwise not legally on the dog’s property.
In March of 2018, Alabama passed Emily’s Law, which legalized humane euthanasia for dogs who kill or seriously hurt someone. An investigation must take place in order for a dog to be deemed dangerous.
Before a dog is investigated, an individual must make a sworn statement claiming that a dog is dangerous. If an animal control officer finds the allegation credible, they then begin their investigation by first impounding the dog in question. The dog’s owner may board the dog at a veterinarian of their choosing in lieu of sending the dog to the county pound. In extreme cases, a dog owner may choose to humanely euthanize their pet instead of going through with an investigation.
After investigation, the animal control officer makes the determination that the allegations were either founded or unfounded. If it is the latter, the dog is returned and the investigation is concluded. However, if the animal control officer finds the allegations to be founded, a trial is held in municipal court to determine if the dog is dangerous.
If the court finds a dog to be dangerous and the dog has also caused serious physical injury or death, the dog is humanely euthanized. If the court finds the dog to be dangerous but the dog has not caused serious physical injury or death, the court must also determine if the dog has the propensity to do so in the future. Should the court determine this to be true, the dog’s owner is presented with two options:
If the dog’s owner opts to keep the dog, they are required to comply with all court orders before the impounded dog is released. Court orders include:
Should the dog’s owner not comply with all court orders within 30 days of the decision, the dog is humanely euthanized. Again, Emily’s law does not apply to dogs who caused bodily injury during trespassing or home invasion.
In Alabama, an individual is considered to have abandoned their dog if they “neglect or refuse to provide or perform the legal obligations for care and support.” If a third party (e.g., a vet or Good Samaritan) takes on care of the dog due to abandonment, the owning party is still financially liable for the dog.
In the state of Alabama, subjecting any dog to cruelty, regardless of ownership, is a crime. In Alabama, “a person commits the crime of cruelty to a dog in the second degree if he or she, in a cruel manner, overloads, overdrives, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, injuries, mutilates, or causes the same to be done.”
Cruelty to a dog in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor. Upon first conviction, it is punishable by a fine up to $3000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. Second and third violations increase minimum fines to $500 and $1000, respectively; the other terms remain the same.
In Alabama, an individual commits the crime of cruelty to a dog in the first degree if they “intentionally tortures any dog or cat or skins a domestic dog or cat or offers for sale or exchange or offers to buy or exchange the fur, hide, or pelt of a domestic dog or cat.”
Cruelty to a dog in the first degree is a Class C felony, punishable by at least one year and up to ten years in prison.
In 2020, the Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance that prevents dogs and other animals from being inhumanely tethered. Inhuman tethering includes:
The City of Tuscaloosa passed a similar ordinance in 2006.
According to the 2021 U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report, Alabama is considered the fourth worst state for animal protection laws. Although the state implements some animal protection laws, the study cites several areas for major improvement, including:
Overall, Alabama’s dog laws do not provide adequate protection. However, there is always room for improvement.
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