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Tenant's dog attacks pregnant woman outside her apartment building

Each day, around 16,000 people in the U.S., including in Georgia, receive emergency medical treatment for dog bites. Many such dog bites occur on rental properties. This may be because the tenants live in close proximity to one another and their pets.

The law concerning landlords and tenants who own vicious dogs and the people who live in apartment buildings is in a state of flux. Previously, animal attack victims in or around apartment buildings were dependent upon the dog owner carrying renter's insurance. More recently, however, courts appear to be willing to hold not only the dog owners financially liable for attacks, but also the owners of the rental property, under the theory of premises liability.

For example, in a recent decision a high court was willing to hold a landlord liable if a tenant's dog attacked in or on the landlord's property. The court reasoned that if the landlord allowed the tenant to keep the dog on the premises, then the landlord could be deemed the owner of the dog and be held responsible for injuries caused by a dog bite.

Premises liability would then depend upon the geographical location of the animal attack. If an attack occurs outside of the leased premises, then the landlord may not be held liable.

In a very recent incident, two Pit Bulls were unattended and unleashed in a fenced in common area on the landlord's premises near the trash receptacle. A 30-year-old pregnant woman who lives in the same apartment complex as the dogs was attacked by one of the Pit Bulls while she was emptying the trash.

Practically speaking, if the tenant who owns the Pit Bull does not have insurance to pay for injuries caused by their dog, then in this case, the landlord may be held ultimately liable because the dog bite took place on the landlord's property.

Source: Opposing Views, "Pit Bull in San Diego Apt. Complex Bites Pregnant Woman as Courts Debate Landlord Liability," Denise A. Justin, Aug. 3, 2012

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