Dog bite law in Atlanta, Georgia: What victims need to know

Dog bites can lead to serious injury. Remedies are available for victims.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reports that injuries from dog bites are a "demonstrated public health concern" in the state. Various laws are in place to help protect the public from dangerous dogs, and remedies are available for victims. Those who are the victims of a dog attack can benefit from having a basic understanding of applicable laws.

Dog bites and Georgia law

Georgia Code states:

A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on leash.

This law can be broken down into two elements: first, that the animal was dangerous or vicious and second, that the owner failed to act with care.

Animal: Dangerous or vicious

Generally, the victim must first establish that the animal that caused the injury was "vicious or dangerous" to move forward with a claim. A dangerous dog is defined as one that punctures a person’s skin, aggressively attacks in a way that causes a person to believe that he or she is in threat of serious injury even if no injury occurs, or kills a pet animal. A vicious dog is defined as one that has inflicted injury on a person or caused injury that resulted from reasonable attempts to escape from the dog’s attack.

It is important to note that there are exclusions to these definitions. For example, a nip or scratch does not satisfy a puncture and acts of barking, growling or showing teeth alone do not provide an imminent threat of serious injury. The law also provides that a dog shall not be considered dangerous or vicious if the injuries were committed against an individual that was trespassing, abusing the dog or committing another qualifying offense at the time of the attack.

Lack of care

The second element generally requires establishing that the owner either carelessly managed or allowed the animal to run at liberty. For example, dogs that are considered dangerous are required by law to be restrained by a leash no longer than six feet in length and under physical control by the person managing the leash. Dogs considered vicious must be both on a leash and muzzled.

Importance of legal counsel

Establishing these elements can require various pieces of evidence. As a result, it is wise for victims and their families to seek the counsel of an experienced Atlanta dog bite injury lawyer. This legal professional will review your case and work to better ensure your legal rights and any potential remedies are protected.