Tuscaloosa County judges are preparing to decide the fate of five "dangerous dogs" who are believed to have attacked people in the area this year.

Deputy Martha Hocutt, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office's animal control officer, said four "Emily's Law" cases were filed in Tuscaloosa County Wednesday and a fifth is soon to follow.

These civil suits are filed after a dog leaves its owner's property and bites another person. They were made possible by legislation passed in 2018 and named after Emily Colvin, who was fatally mauled by dogs in Northeast Alabama in December 2017.

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Here's how it works: after a dog bite is reported, an animal control officer is dispatched to begin a "dangerous dog investigation." In Tuscaloosa County, that almost always means Deputy Hocutt.

If the criteria outlined in Emily's law are met and the animal meets the definition of a "dangerous dog," they are either immediately seized by the sheriff's office and held at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter or their owners must pay out of pocket to have the canine quarantined with a veterinarian until a judge decides how to handle the case.

The cases filed this week concern four dog bites reported this year, one each in February, March, April and May. Three of the cases were reported in Tuscaloosa and another originated in Northport.

Hocutt said a district judge will docket the cases then decide what is to become of the pets in question -- a husky, a beagle, a pit bull and a mixed breed dog.

District Judge Jeanne Jannick will hear one of the cases. The other three that have already filed will be heard by Judge James Gentry.

Hocutt said if the judges determine the dogs are dangerous, they can rule to either have the animals humanely euthanized or return them to their owners with extremely strict rules in place that dictate how the dog should be housed, mandate liability insurance policies and more.

If a dog who is returned to its owner goes on to attack another person or if the first attack is a fatal one, the owner can face criminal charges ranging from Class C misdemeanors to Class B felonies, which ca

Hearing dates have not yet been set for the cases that were filed this week.

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