Deanne Rhamatulla had begged her friend Emily Colvin to speak with her neighbors about their dogs. The pit bulls would “ambush” the two friends as they walked, barking and jumping, Rhamatulla told Heavy. But Emily told her friend she didn’t want to overreact.
Days later, Emily was dead.
Colvin was mauled to death by the five pit bulls on Dec. 7, 2017, police said. When a deputy came to the scene, he had to shoot one of the dogs when it tried to come for him too, Al.com reported.
Now, months later, the dogs’ owners Brian and Melody Garden have been arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide and failing to immunize their pets for rabies, reported AL.com.
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Sheriff Chuck Phillips told WHNT he had never received any major complaints about the animals before the incident.
“We received a call back some time ago, maybe these dogs and the victim's dog had killed llamas that were in a pasture nearby. That's the only complaint we have ever had on them,” he told the station.
Colvin’s death shocked the north Alabama community, which sits atop a plateau and has only around 1,000 residents.
“[Emily] had the biggest heart of anybody that you can ever meet. You may have just met her, but she could put a big smile on your face no matter what she said.” Colvin's friend Tiger Frazier told WAAY.
“She was literally the kind of person who would never instigate or provoke negativity with anyone,” Deanne Rhamatulla, another friend, told Heavy.
The other four dogs (one had been shot to death by a deputy) were impounded while a court decided if they should be euthanized. Prosecutors argued that the dogs were the cause of Colvin’s demise, while defense attorney Russell Crumbley said the dogs were “sweet” and “lovable” and stayed inside, reported WHNT.
The judge wasn’t convinced by the defense. The dogs were ordered to be killed in February.
Assistant District Attorney Brent Benson said in a statement after the dogs were put down that he hoped it “brings some amount of closure for the victims and their families so they can begin to heal from this horrible tragedy,” according to News Channel 9.
The brutal mauling also prompted major action at the state house, which passed a bill called “Emily’s Law” that authorizes local governments to more severely punish dog owners whose animals hurt or kill someone. It was signed into law in March.
Under the law, a dog can be declared dangerous, seized and killed if a court decided the dog had seriously hurt or killed someone for no reason.
Owners can keep their dogs if they follow a lengthy list of rules, including keeping the dog locked inside, allowing officers to inspect the dog’s enclosure at any time, obtaining a surety bond, paying a fee and more.
If the dog still attacks someone, the owner would face up to 20 years in jail. To compare, the owners of the dogs that allegedly killed Colvin are charged with misdemeanor criminal homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of one year.
“I think the message we've got to send to people across the state, if they're going to have those type dogs, they need to take care of them,” Alabama State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, who spearheaded the bill in his chamber, said, according to AL.com. “And they need to be responsible for them so they don't hurt their family or their neighbors. And hopefully, with putting these penalties on this bill, that will take place.”