Discussion: 33 Dogs Ordered Killed by Judge in AL

An 83 year old man in AL, Donald Thomas, was killed while checking his mail when 2 of his neighbor’s dogs attacked him on September 20.  Another neighbor, Justin Wallace, expressed his shock to the local TV news:

“I would have never thought in the world they would have done that. My dog has chased them out of this yard. They have never acted vicious to anybody,” Wallace said.

The 2 dogs responsible for the killing were shot to death by police at the scene when they behaved in a manner a police officer deemed threatening.  The owners’ other 33 dogs were hauled away on chokepoles by Birmingham Jefferson County Animal Control.

“We are in the process of evaluation of all 33 of the dogs. We have to do a mental and physical evaluation for the court system. We will have determination for each dog for investigators,” Richard Burgess with BJCAC said.

Burgess says the dogs are mostly Rottweilers or Rottweiler mixes. The evaluations will determine if the dogs are a threat to a community.

“We are looking for things as far as aggression goes. If the dogs remaining are aggressive if they are shutdown or socialized things of that sort,” Burgess said.

Burgess says some of the dogs appear to be socialized but a few appear to be aggressive. The evaluations will be turned over to Leeds investigators.

Fair enough.  Except I could find no reporting indicating that the evaluations, assuming they were conducted, were offered at the hearing to determine disposition of the 33 dogs on Tuesday.  The dogs’ owners did not attend the proceeding and have signed over the dogs to the county.   The only witness at the hearing was a local police detective named A.R. Holman who testified about the behavior of the dogs during the seizure:

“The dogs were constantly barking, lunging at the bars and trying to get out of the cages,” Holman said. She said they growled, snarled and bit at catch poles during the seizure, which she said took a total of about three hours.

Based upon the testimony of the sole witness, who is not a canine behaviorist, the judge agreed with the prosecutor’s request to have all 33 dogs killed.

Every dog deserves a fair evaluation, conducted by at least one qualified individual.  The judge was satisfied in this case to order that every dog be killed, despite any presentation of evidence that any of the dogs had ever bitten a person and apparently without consideration of individual behavioral evaluations.

The killing of 33 dogs not involved in the attack on Mr. Thomas seems like a knee-jerk reaction in the face of tragedy.  We’ve seen this scenario played out many times.  These dogs had no one advocating for their right to live or to be treated as individuals.  None of the 33 are accused of biting any person or animal, even when strangers came onto their property and spent 3 hours dragging them to cages with chokepoles.  The county says it spent $4000 caring for the dogs and there is no mention of anyone providing that care being bitten.

Is the community truly safer by putting all 33 of these dogs into the landfill?  With the owners, county animal control, police and the prosecutor all refusing to advocate for the dogs’ right to live, should that job have fallen to someone else?  Or do we need to clearly define within the law that every pet has a right to live, to be judged as an individual and not to be condemned solely by association with pets determined to be dangerous?

(Thanks Samantha for alerting me to this story.)

32 thoughts on “Discussion: 33 Dogs Ordered Killed by Judge in AL

  1. There are reports that neighbors had complained about this developing situation for ages and nothing was done. It is inside city limits. Killing these dogs in the wake of this tragedy is not the answer. It does not make it go away. The answer is to have them evaluated by experts, charge the owners criminally and then take a long, hard look at how this situation got so out of hand. I’ll never understand why people view dogs who attack as they do humans. As if the dogs had some form of intent or malice. The fault likes with the humans and I have encouraged an inside contact to seek to fight this by referring him to a dog aggression expert I interact with. This will happen again and again if the root causes are not addressed. Period.

  2. The evaluations were in fact conducted here and as far as we know were not used to make this determination. A petition has been filed by an attorney freezing the euthanasia of the dogs and we are happy to see that they may now have a fighting chance.

    1. THANK YOU for this update Richard. Please let us know if we can help. Everyone here believes in the right of dogs to be judged individually and I know many would be willing to help in the efforts to save any of these dogs if we can.

      Do you have copies of the evaluations performed? Since the judge did not consider them, I’d like to at least make them available for people to read. I can post them here if you want.

      1. My friend and fellow animal rescuer Rachel Nelson Thompson is lacing up her gloves for one hell of a fight to save the lives of the 33 Rotties at our shelter that have been sentenced to death by a local judge. Add her here, show your support, donate to the attorney fees and help be the voice for these defenseless babies! $297.00 is just the start to fight for the Alabama Rotties. This will be a HU
        GE expense for all involved. If you can spare any money to help start the fund for the Rotties please consider making a donation to Crossroads Animal Hospital! As many of us are aware this is the vet hospital that helps us rescue all our Southern dogs. If anyone is willing to help with this effort, please call them at Crossroads Animal Hospital at 205-640-4327 to donate. Thanks!

      2. We cannot make those evaluations public due to the case being reopened. If the goes the direction we are hoping we will be able to do the evaluations again and Doc Nelson will be on the stand to speak on behalf of these pups. On initial intake we ruled a handful of them to have some aggression issues, but those evals were conducted withing 24 hours of seizure. 5 had to be sedated to complete evals, but one week later we did weekly checks and did not have to sedate them. Even the ones that showed aggression initially have started to come around. Fingers crossed

    2. Thanks for posting this, Richard. I’m with Shirley on this. Keep us posted if there’s anything folks can do to help. It is tragic a man is dead. I get that. But killing these dogs does not balance that tragedy.

    1. Please contact me directly concerning Southern States Rescued Rottweilers and any possible assistance we might be able to provide. I can be contacted directly at rotownersrus@yahoo.com or info@southernstatesrescuedrottweilers.org.

      It is very sad an individual was killed due to the neglect and irresponsibility of an owner. With BSL around every corner, incidents such as this inflame the public and they want to see all the ‘vicious’ dogs killed. It is unfair to the breed and the individual dog(s) who are judged unfairly. Unfortunately, until ‘man’ is held accountable attacks by all breeds of dogs will continue and innocent family dogs will die.

  3. Shhesh, even my 10 pound fluffies might bite or fight if grabbed by a catch pole, or were shoved into a cage…or were in a strange and frightening place. GOD BLESS you Richard Burgess and others who are giving these dogs a chance!!!!!!!!! Will try to send something to help on pay day!

  4. I blame the county, entirely, for this. They did nothing with the numerous complaints. Did nothing about ahow many dogs he was allowed to own. Did nothing. I also blame the owner, who even allowed this to happen. Undoubtedly, the were all inbred, which questions the dog’s mental stability. Each dog should have been evaluated separately. I can imagine that the very young and puppies would pass with flying colors. As usual, politicians care about their paychecks, first…their jobs, second.

  5. In Sonoma County 70 dogs were taken off a property in August. They were all healthy according to the Dept. of Health Because of that stupid raid, 60 dogs that were already in the Shelter were killed. This kind of crap happens over and over again. It makes me sick! Oh and the woman that had the 70 dogs…They also confiscated her own personal dogs. She was a rescue that got in over her head, which she admits. What did the stupid Shelter do to her own dogs? They killed them. So the dogs were safer in the Shelter? No. They were safer on her property. They were loved, fed and sheltered. Now they are dead. You don’t come back from dead.

    By the way, the Shelter couldn’t be bothered to tell this woman they had killed her personal dogs….I did. I don’t know the woman, but she asked me to find out for her. No Kill Sonoma County

  6. Once again, man’s decisions to kill without question verifies my lack of faith in the human race.

    With each report of killing without conscience by authorities, I lose a little more hope for mankind’s future.

  7. So sad. I hope Richard, Rachel and whoever else can do whatever they can to save these poor pups. A knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy like this is not the answer. It was probably a typical stereotypical reaction since they were rottweilers.

  8. I do not like the unnessary killing of animals any more than the next person. It is upsetting when it happens. I could not bare to sit there and watch someone kill a poor innocent animal. I would have nightmares.

  9. The dogs apparently have a temporary reprieve but someone with legal standing has to try to intervene. I’m still not clear on how a district court judge could decide the fate of these dogs based on the opinion of people not qualified to evaluate the dogs. If I understand correctly, it was based on the opinion of a single person and then supported by an ADA. Any time I’ve known of a similar case closer to me, there has been an evidentiary hearing during which testimony is given by people who evaluated the dogs and by a veterinarian. How this happened so fast just makes me wonder what’s at work here. I understand a man died. That is tragic and this whole thing was avoidable. It makes no sense to take a pound of flesh in the form of the lives of these dogs. If any good is to come from this, these dogs must be treated as individuals and not summarily destroyed due to human irresponsibility. Richard says 30 of them are adoptable and I fully believe that.

  10. This is more great coverage of The Leeds 33. I don’t know what this judge will do. Judges are asked to reconsider rulings all the time and often do not change their minds simply because it can make them look bad. My hope is this judge will admit he ruled without considering all the evidence and that the district attorney’s office will admit they pushed for that to happen. These dogs look sweet and happy. Even those who had to be sedated originally (no doubt due to trauma) don’t look the least bit dangerous to even the casual observer. Dr. Rachel Nelson, a DVM in Moody, is trying to fight this and I know Richard is doing all he can from within the shelter to save these dogs. If they are destroyed, it will be a travesty.

    1. Can animal control be the legal entity to force something to happen (ie real evaluations of each dog)? It’s just sad when these animals are killed because someone can’t “lose face” to the public or won’t get re-elected or whatever the concern is. To me, someone who re-evaluates a position or decision made on incomplete evidence is much wiser and more capable than someone who holds the line.
      Is there a rottie rescue involved? They might be able to actually provide “experts” who understand the breed and can give a fair evaluation of these dogs.

      1. The shelter where the animals are being housed is pushing to have the dogs evaluated. In the end, it’s a property matter as cold as that sounds. The owners surrendered their property and the dogs belong to the county. The shelter is an operation which contracts with the county but is not part of the county. The hope is that the media attention will somehow help a legal fight to get the judge to reconsider his initial ruling and allow the dogs to be fully evaluated by an expert prior to condemning them all to death for the acts of 2. I’ve donated to the cause and while throwing money at this won’t solve it, it’s about all I can do from afar to try to help. I did ask a long-time contact at Best Friends to weigh in and don’t know if she can even help. Rescue is already arranged and it’s just a matter of getting the judge to change his ruling.

  11. When you say rescue is arranged does that mean you have a place for all the rotties that pass eval and “if” allowed to live? Is this with ARC?

    Richard, what can SSRR do to help?

    1. Sue, Richard told me rescue was lined up. I’m in another city and am an outsider to this. As just a thought, have you called the office of the vet who’s leading the charge? Perhaps there is some way you can help in an expert type capacity (in terms of a show of support). Dr. Rachel Nelson Thompson, Crossroads Animal Hospital, Moody, AL. Sorry if me posting caused confusion. I’m frustrated as we wait to see what happens and as I fear it will be less than we expect.

  12. When I saw the title of this conversation..I felt like I just couldn’t read, so I didn’t until now. I’m glad I waited. And I hoping to read some good news.soon. I just can bear the thought of all those dogs being murdered when they didn’t do a thing wrong.. Ignorant Judge!

  13. Rachel Nelson Thompson, the DVM trying to help The Leeds 33, posted this on her Facebook page on Friday.

    “Here is the latest on the Rotti’s as I know it: As of today, none have been euthanized. The motion that was filed by my attorney Wednesday pm was denied on Thursday because I did not have standing in the case. Only BJC Animal Control, the District Attorney or the original owner has standing. Yesterday I reached an agreement with Animal Control in order for them to file a petition to have the dogs evaluated individually. One of the conditions was that I would assume financial responsibility for the dogs (at least $250 per day) beginning Thursday. They would also like for me to find a bona fide animal behavioralist to evaluate the animals. The behavioralist would have to be approved by BJC’s attorney and owner. I would also be financially responsible for any costs of the behavioralist. My attorney drafted a motion and presented it to BJC’s attorney for approval and filing. No motion was filed today therefore, the judge did not make any decisions in this case today.”

    1. Bless her heart. I’m hoping that she has the financial support to do this. It simply is the right thing for these dogs. I remember all those who were willing to help Lennox, the dog in N Ireland. Perhaps if the word gets out folks will support this vet. And hopefully, keep that police detective out of the picture. Sounds as if his mind has been made up – and he believes the dogs need to be killed.
      Thanks for keeping us posted.

      1. I understand the intelligence, attitude, loyalty, playfullness, bravery, loving character and passive aggression Rottweilers may have. They are among the top intelligent dogs. What I can’t understand is other Rottweilers attacking people for little or no reason. I know it happens, but mine has shown no aggressiveness whatsoever.

        It breaks my heart to think 30 of these great souls would die for one man’s uninformed knee-jerk decision. I hope everyone will drum up media attention & chip-in more than once. It’s another “Lennox” situation, but this time maybe we can help.

  14. BREAKING: St. Clair County Judge Allen Furr has decided the remaining 28 Rottweilers seized from a home in Leeds can live. [5 were destroyed after it was determined by an expert that they presented a genuine danger to people] Birmingham Jefferson County Animal Control will be responsible for placing the dogs in homes and determining what happens to the dogs on an individual basis. Judge Furr said today he realized some of the dogs were safe after watching the dogs lick WBRC Christy Hutchings’s face when she did a story on the efforts to save the dogs.


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