dog attack
A family is asking for answers after a woman in Ensley was killed in a suspected dog attack.

According to the Jefferson County Coroner, 63-year-old Sharon Portis was found lying on the ground last Thursday morning on 18th St. Ensley after she was killed in a dog attack. Birmingham police say there is no threat to the public after the incident.

Portis's family says she was leaving for work when she was attacked. They added that she did not live far away and that the attack happened maybe 100 yards away. Family members say they have unanswered questions.

"I don't see her walking into an area there that she was well familiar with and knowing what was lurking behind the bushes, in the darkness," said Albert Ford, Portis's brother. "She's walking, or biking, or whatever the route she normally takes, and she's attacked by dogs."

Birmingham police are investigating the incident, but Ford says he hasn't heard from them.

"No one from that agency has contacted any of her family. She has a mother, she has an 88-year-old mother, no one has contacted her mother or any of her family," said Ford.

He added that although police say there is not a threat to the public right now, they don't mention if the dog or dogs have been caught yet.

"The normal reaction for a dog, when they sense and smell blood or hear or sense other dogs, they go off. They bark, they howl, the do all sorts of things because they're sensing what's going on so why would those people in that home not have heard something. Somebody should have heard something," said Ford.

Neighbors in the area noted that it's not uncommon to see dogs out and about in this neighborhood.

Eric Johnson, who lives in the area, said he's known Portis for years.

"She'd ride her bicycle past here every day," said Johnson. "You see little loose dogs, but I never expected that."

If you get close you know they'll start barking and stuff. Like one time, I have a cat, and my cat is outside sometimes and it's plenty of times, they've tried to attack my cat.", said one woman who did not want to be identified.

WBRC FOX6 News reached out to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, who say they are always open to working with municipalities on addressing stray animal populations in the following statement:
"We were very sad to hear about the death of Ms. Portis. GBHS agrees that these incidents make our communities less safe and negatively impact participation in outdoor recreational use - - along with a host of other undesired outcomes.

We have attempted multiple times to address the issue with the City of Birmingham (and those neighborhoods within it) as well as the City of Bessemer. Each of these cities has their own separate Animal Control Division outside of GBHS Animal Care and Control, which means all calls from citizens are patched through to their dispatch and are triaged by their employees.

Sheriff Pettway of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department has a department solely committed to animal investigation and response. This has been enormously helpful with managing problems in the unincorporated Jefferson County jurisdiction.

GBHS has offered to pay for spay/neuters for the public, we have offered to have our officers enforce the tethering act (using that section of the Alabama Code that allows this), we have offered to manage licensing, but we cannot get traction on these offers of assistance.

GBHS does track data and we know why the issue of stray dogs, especially fractious stray dogs, is a problem and why these incidents are increasing. The question is whether municipalities within our county are willing to change current policies in order to address the problem?

We are open to meeting with anyone to share data, best practices, and policies that can decrease attacks, and unwanted dog/cat births, etc.

I can definitively tell you that the issue is not being caused by a large group of irresponsible pet owners located throughout the community. These animals (primarily dogs) come from hot spots, where there are illegal breeding operations that are in plain sight and are ignored. They are also caused by a few pet owners who refuse to safely and properly contain their unaltered dogs. Most pet owners do not allow their pets to run free unaltered, and most canine owners do not tie or chain their pets for a majority of a 24-hour period."