BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Charges in a deadly dog attack in Leeds are raising questions about the law. A husband and wife face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted. Jerry and Jacquline Lenton were arrested in the death of Donald Thomas, who was killed by the Lenton's two Rottweilers.
A local attorney says this case serves as a warning to some dog owners even more than others. If you own a dog the state classifies as a vicious breed, then you have a huge responsibility and you need to be very careful when it comes to your dog. What this case shows is that you can be held criminally accountable if your dog hurts or kills someone.
Matt Abbott is a civil attorney and has handled plenty of dog bite cases, which are usually settled out of court. In the fatal Leeds dog mauling case, he says for there to be criminal charges against the owners, the investigation had to reveal serious findings.
"Manslaughter, under criminal law, is the one you look at as reckless. You are aware of a precieved risk of harm; you neglect that risk of harm; your actions cause death of someone else," said Abbott.
Alabama law says Rottweilers have the propensity to attack and Abbott says that could be another reason why criminal charges were brought in this case. Police say Jerry and Jacqueline Lenton also had 33 other Rottweilers on thier property.
"I think if you look at, prior acts of dogs that owner knew of, perceived risk of harm and did nothing about it. They got out, caused the death of a human being. There needs to be responsiblity there," said Abbott.
Richard Burgess is with BJC Animal Control. He was shocked the owners were arrested for the fatal attack.
"A lot of times, you don't see the owners of animals held responsible," said Burgess.
Burgess also thinks it is a good thing the owners were charged and he thinks other dog owners should learn a lesson from this.
"If your dog is running loose, it's because you allwowed it. Or gets out, you allowed it. Take necessary steps to properly confine animals," said Burgess.
Burgess says it all goes back owner responsibilty.
In this case against the Lentons, Leeds Police Chief Byron Jackson says there was one complaint filed against the dogs after they chased someone. That was about a year and half ago.
FOX6 called the Lenton's attorney, Bill Myers, to get a comment, but phone calls have not been returned.