It has been a bizarre case like no other ever seen here, the case of Havoc the pit bull who bit a chunk out of Teri Lynn Angel’s head, then disappeared the very day a hearing was held on whether the dog should be declared dangerous and put down.
City Judge Shannon Mitchell ruled that Havoc was dangerous in a 9-page ruling last week issued shortly after the dog was recovered at the home of its owner’s mother. He ordered the dog be put down, but owner Valina Jackson has 14 days to appeal to Circuit Court.
This is the judge’s order in the case, in his own words from his written ruling:
“The City of Guntersville filed a petition to declare dangerous dog and determine disposition against Valina Jackson concerning a September 17, 2021, attack by her dog “Havoc”, (“the Animal”), an adult pit bull mix, during which Teri Lynn Angel was injured.
“Under the law, the Animal must be impounded until this matter is concluded. According to the petition, when the city attempted to obtain custody of the animal for impound, Ms. Jackson refused and made multiple threats of suicide if the Animal was taken from her. The Animal was not impounded at that time, but Ms. Jackson was later informed she must be present at a hearing concerning the dog which would be held in Municipal Court the morning of October 6, 2021…..
“Upon realizing the Animal was, in fact, being taken from her, Ms. Jackson presented the court with a ‘Registration Information’ Page printed from USA Service Dog Registration, a company which operates a service dog registration website, and a letter dated two days earlier from Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Lisa Osborne of United Doctors Family Medical Center in Altoona, Alabama, stating she had prescribed Havoc as an assistance animal to aid Ms. Jackson in living with her disability. The Court explained to Ms. Jackson that neither a nurse’s prescribing a dog, nor a company’s registration of the dog on a website would prevent the impound which was occurring….
“Though Emily’s Law require that a dog be impounded upon filing of a Petition, it allows the owner of the dog an opportunity to choose a veterinarian to house the dog in lieu of the county pound or animal shelter, provided the full cost thereof is paid by that owner.
Defendant’s request that her veterinarian house the Animal during impoundment was granted and the court’s order on October 6, 2021, arranged transport of the Animal to Dr. Matt Bargo’s clinic at 1159 Wills Road, Boaz, where the Animal was to remain in impound. Subject to controls and conditions determined by Dr. Bargo, Ms. Jackson was allowed to visit with the Animal at the clinic.
“On October 14, 2021, Ms. Jackson’s attorney requested the Animal be transferred from Dr. Bargo’s office to the custody of Marshall County Animal control Officer Kevin Hooks to allow Mr. Hooks an opportunity to assess the Animal. The request was not opposed, and on October 15, 2021, an order was entered, providing that Mr. Hooks transport the Animal from the Bargo clinic directly to the Marshall County Animal Shelter, where Mr. Hooks was to retain continuous custody of the Animal in impound under the same conditions previously determined…..
Emily’s Law is named for 24-year-old Emily Colvin, who wsa killed in a December 2017 attack by neighbors’ dogs near her home in Section, Alabama. Only weeks before, 46-year-old Tracy Cornelius was similarly killed when attacked by dogs owned by neighbors in Guntersville. In early 2018, State Senators Livingston of Jackson County and Scofield of Marshall County co-sponsored a bill which became Emily’s Law, with the following legislative finding:
‘The Legislature finds that certain dogs are an increasingly serious and widespread threat to the safety and welfare of citizens of this state by virtue of their unjustified attacks on and associated injury to individuals; that these attacks are in part attributable to failure of owners to confine and properly train these dogs; and that it is therefore appropriate and necessary to impose a uniform set of state requirements on the owners of dangerous dogs.’
Emily’s Law defines the process through which an animal control officer or other party who claims a dog is dangerous may trigger an investigation by law enforcement. If the dangerous dog investigation leads law enforcement to believe he allegation is founded, a Petition may be filed with the Municipal or District Court to declare the dog dangerous, the dog is then impounded, and a hearing is scheduled where the presumption is in favor of the animal.
During the hearing, the court must determine whether the animal which has caused injury to a person is a Dangerous Dog….
If the Court determines the dog is dangerous and has caused Serious Physical inuury or death to a person, the court must order the dog be humanely euthanized by a licensed veterinarian or an authorized animal control officer.
A number of witnesses testified at the October 20th hearing, including but not limited to Ms. Angel, Ms. Jackson, members of Ms. Jackson’s family and Mr. Hooks.
The photographs of Ms. Angel’s injuries were disturbing, but equally disturbing was testimony offered by Ms. Jackson’ witnesses. More than one testified under oath that, in spite of the attack on Ms. Angel and the serious injuries she sustained, they would have no worry for the safety of an infant family family member being placed on the floor beside the Animal. Mr. Hooks testified that in his assessment process, the Animal passed the 4 tests which he administered, and was therefore not dangerous. He further testified that would not consider the dog dangerous unless it failed 3 of the 4 tests administered, regardless of the extent of injuries the dog had inflicted – unless, he said, the dog had killed the human.
To whatever degree other evidence may have been disputed, there is no question that Ms. Angel was bitten at least twice by the Animal, tearing away several inches of her scalp with the first bite, and then causing severe puncture wounds to her arm with the second… Though more than one witness speculated on why the Animal attacked Ms. Angel, only the Animal would know, and for that reason, there is substantial uncertainty and risk the Animal would attack a human again in the future.
- - -
Judge Mitchell then ruled Havoc “is a dangerous dog” as defined by the state law. He ordered it be held at Guntersville Animal Hospital in the custody of Dr. Chuck Young. Any privilege of visitation previously given to Ms. Jackson “has been forfeited by her. At no time shall Ms. Jackson or any other party visit or have any contact with the Animal while in impound, and the Animal shall not be released to any party unless specific advance written permission is granted by this Court or any other Court as may lawfully assume jurisdiction of this matter.”
The judge ordered that on November 29, the animal is to be humanely euthanized by a licensed veterinarian.