Man Sues City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama Over Seizure, Euthanasia of Pet Dog
A Tuscaloosa resident is suing the city and its animal control supervisor over the seizure and euthanasia of his pet dog, who was put down late last year at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter.
In a complaint filed Friday, the plaintiff, Caleb O'Connor, said that on December 8th, his dog got into a fight with another dog on his property on Queen City Avenue.
The second animal was allegedly injured in the altercation and the city of Tuscaloosa dispatched a civilian animal control officer and their supervisor to the property.
The supervisor reportedly told O'Connor that they would be taking his dog under the rules of Emily's Law, legislation passed in 2018 and named after Emily Colvin, who was fatally mauled by dogs in Northeast Alabama in December 2017.
O'Connor was told his dog would be quarantined at the animal shelter until a judge could decide its fate -- after an attack, a judge can rule that a "dangerous dog" should be euthanized or order its owner to take specific measures to ensure it does not hurt anyone else.
"This was an intentional representation as "Emily's Law," Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure § 3-6A-1 et. seq. only involves incidents where a dog has bitten or has been dangerous to a human," O'Connor said in his lawsuit.
He's right -- according to a Tuscaloosa County animal control officer not affiliated with the city, there are three criteria that must be met for Emily's Law to apply to a case. The dog must be on property other than its owner's, the attack must be unprovoked and there must be a human injury.
The complaint does not dive into the details of the altercation between the two animals, but if the fight happened on O'Connor's property and no human was injured, Emily's Law would not apply, the county animal control officer said.
After O'Connor's dog was taken away, it was placed in the Tuscaloosa County Metro Animal Shelter, but the city's animal control supervisor allegedly did not provide the shelter with O'Connor's contact information or any other details besides the fact that the dog had injured another dog.
In the lawsuit, O'Connor said he made several attempts to contact the shelter and finally got through to them on Monday, December 18th -- 10 days after the original incident.
He was then informed that the shelter doesn't quarantine "dangerous dogs," and instead keeps canines for six days while waiting for their owner to claim them before either putting them up for adoption or euthanizing them if they were brought in after harming another animal.
The shelter told O'Connor that his dog had been put down on Friday, December 15th.
Now O'Connor is suing the city of Tuscaloosa and the supervisor who took his dog away, whose name will not be published here.
The five-count lawsuit claims the city did not adequately train the supervisor on Emily's Law, that the supervisor made fraudulent claims to O'Connor, that the supervisor failed to disclose the high likelihood that the dog would be euthanized and more.
O'Connor and his attorney, Birmingham's Craig L. Lowell, are asking for a jury trial and for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
In a Tuesday phone call with the Tuscaloosa Thread, Lowell said he plans to let the case speak for itself and to allow a jury to determine how O'Connor should be compensated if the city and supervisor are found liable.
A spokesperson for the city declined to comment, citing municipal policy concerning active litigation.
Stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for updates on this case as they become available.