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Georgia Responsible Dog Ownership Law

While we often associate “dangerous” dogs with certain breeds of dogs, the truth is that every dog has the ability to cause serious injury if provoked, threatened, or sick. Georgia dog owners have a legal responsibility to train their pets and properly confine them to their property, especially if they have a violent past. When these owners fail to do so, they can face legal and financial consequences. 

If you have suffered from serious injury as a result of a dangerous or vicious dog, you may be able to sue the dog owner for compensation. The Sandy Springs dog bite accident lawyers at Ashenden & Associates are here to help you recover financially after a dog attack. Call an experienced Georgia dog bite lawyer at 770-394-8909 to discuss your potential dog bite case with a member of our legal team at no cost to you.  

georgia responsible dog ownership law

What is Considered a Dangerous Dog in Georgia?

In the state of Georgia, a dog can be classified as a “dangerous dog” if the:

  • Dog bites someone hard enough to puncture the skin (but not hard enough to cause serious injury);
  • Dog attacks in a way that reasonably causes a person to believe they are in danger of serious injury or
  • The animal kills another pet while off of the owner’s property.

To meet that first criterion, the dog has to bite someone hard enough to cause a substantial puncture in a person’s skin. It’s not enough for the dog to nip at the skin or scratch the person. Additionally, to meet the second criterion, the dog has to do more than bear its teeth or growl at the person. Even incessant barking isn’t enough to meet this criteria.

If a dog meets any one of these criteria, it is considered dangerous, and the owner of the dog will have to meet certain requirements in order to keep it. 

What is Considered a Vicious Dog in Georgia?

Georgia law also defines what a “vicious dog” is. A dog can be classified as vicious if it:

  • Seriously injures a person or
  • Causes serious injury to a person as a result of them fleeing from the attack.

For example, if a threatening dog chases a human into the street, and that person is hit by a car and is severely injured, the dog would still be considered vicious, even though it never actually attacked the victim.

As they are defined in Georgia law, vicious dogs are seen as more of a risk to society than dangerous dogs due to the severity of their past attack. While “dangerous” and “vicious” have two different legal definitions, vicious dog owners will also have to meet several requirements to keep their dogs. 

What is Georgia’s Responsible Dog Owner Act?

dog bite law georgia

Many states in the U.S. have dog ownership laws, Georgia included. Georgia’s Responsible Dog Owner Act outlines exactly what qualifies as a dangerous or vicious dog, as well as what dangerous dog owners and vicious dog owners must do in order to legally keep their dogs. 

The Responsible Dog Ownership law not only helps prevent people from interacting with potentially dangerous and vicious dogs, but it also helps keep dog owners liable for their actions. Some states have what is referred to as the “one-bite rule,” meaning that the first time a dog bites another person, the owner might not be held liable for the attack. 

In Georgia, if the dog has never bitten someone before, the owner cannot be expected to know that the dog is a danger to others. However, if the dog is classified as dangerous or vicious and it attacks someone, the owner may be held liable for the dog attack victim’s injuries, and the dog may be confiscated. 

The Definition of Ownership Under Georgia Dog Bite Laws

Under the Georgia dog bite laws, a person has legal ownership of a dog if they are a person or legal entity that:

  • Owns;
  • Possesses;
  • Harbors;
  • Keeps; or
  • Has custody or control of the dog.

If the dog is “owned” by a minor, then the assumed ownership falls on the child’s parents or legal guardians.

The Definition of Serious Injury Under Georgia Dog Bite Laws

Since injuries from dog attacks can range from mild to catastrophic, it’s important that there’s a legal distinction made between what injuries are considered “serious” and what injuries are not. 

In order for dog bite injuries to be classified as “serious” under Georgia’s dog bite law, the injury must either create a substantial risk of death, require plastic surgery or a trip to the hospital, or result in:

  • Death;
  • Broken bones;
  • Multiple stitches;
  • Disfiguring skin trauma or
  • Impairment of health or any bodily organ (usually from types of dog bite infections).

If a dog attacks you and results in a severe injury, you should contact a Sandy Springs dog bite lawyer or a Sandy Springs catastrophic injury lawyer at Ashenden & Associates as soon as possible. We can help ensure you receive maximum compensation for your injuries, allowing you to focus on rest and recovery rather than medical bills and expenses. 

Call us at 770-394-8909 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

Dangerous Dog Owner Requirements

georgia dog bite law

There are a number of responsibilities that a dangerous dog owner must fulfill in order to protect others from their dog and in order to protect themselves from legal repercussions and civil liability.  A dangerous dog owner must:

  • Register their dog and obtain a registration certificate;
  • Confine their dog to their property either indoors, within a secure fence, or in a locked crate, and
  • Post clear and visible warning signs at all entrances that warn of the dangerous dog.

Additionally, the dog cannot leave the dog owner’s property off-leash unless it is in a locked enclosure or if it is working as a hunting, herding, or predator-control dog. If the dog is on the loose, attacks someone, or is euthanized, the owner must report it to their dog control officer within 24 hours.

Vicious Dog Owner Requirements

A vicious dog owner must also follow the same requirements as dangerous dog owners, along with some additional requirements. The owner must:

  • Register their dog and obtain a registration certificate;
  • Confine their dog to their property either indoors, within a secure yard or in a locked crate;
  • Post clear and visible warning signs at all entrances that warn;
  • Microchip their dog and
  • Maintain liability insurance of at least $50,000.

Georgia’s leash laws also prohibit these dogs from leaving the owner’s property unless it is on a leash and is muzzled or in an enclosed, locked crate. Additionally, the dog cannot be left unattended with a minor, even if the minor is a member of the same household as the dog.

Vicious dogs can also not be owned by anyone who:

  • Already has a vicious dog;
  • Has previously violated two or more of the ownership requirements listed above or
  • Has committed a serious violent felony or a felony involving dogfighting, animal cruelty, or drug trafficking.

Those convicted of felonies can own a vicious dog after two years from the date they completed their sentence, but until then, they cannot own a vicious dog, and no one in their home can own a vicious dog. Additionally, these dogs cannot be transferred, given, or sold to another person unless it is being surrendered to the state or to a veterinarian to be euthanized.

Dog Attack Penalties in Georgia

georgia dangerous dog law

Georgia’s Responsible Dog Owner Act is designed to limit the number of dog attacks. It’s meant to protect people and other animals from dogs that have previously displayed violent or threatening behavior. When people violate the conditions of this act, they can face criminal penalties. 

Generally, any violation of the Responsible Dog Ownership law can result in misdemeanor charges, but certain violations can lead to high and aggravated misdemeanors or felony charges. 

A vicious dog’s owner can be charged with a high and aggravated misdemeanor if they do not keep their dog properly confined to their property or if they violate Georgia’s leash law for vicious dogs. A vicious or dangerous dog’s owner can be charged with a felony if their dog has been classified as dangerous or vicious and it attacks someone, causing bodily injury.

Below are the legal penalties for misdemeanor, high and aggravated misdemeanor, and felony charges related to vicious and dangerous dogs:

  • Misdemeanor – up to 1 year in jail, up to $1,000 in fees, or both
  • High and aggravated misdemeanor – up to 1 year in jail, up to $5,000 in fees, or both
  • Felony – 1 to 10 years in jail, $5,000 to $10,000 in fees, or both

It’s important to note that different local municipalities may have their own leash laws for dogs within their jurisdiction, so check with your local government to ensure that you’re not violating these ordinances.

Dog Euthanasia in Georgia

A Georgia court can order that a dog should be euthanized if the dog has seriously injured a human, or it presents a danger to humans and cannot be controlled, and if:

  • The owner has been convicted of a crime related to the dog or
  • A local governmental agency has filed a civil motion to request that the dog be euthanized. 

Dog Impoundment, Confiscation, and Recovery In Georgia

Georgia law enforcement may order that any dog be impounded if it is an imminent threat to the public. This helps prevent potentially dangerous dogs from causing severe injury without the need for euthanasia.

When are Georgia Dog Owners Liable for Damages?

dog laws in Georgia 2024

After a dog has been classified as dangerous or vicious, if it attacks a person unprovoked, the owner may be sued for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Dog bite victims should immediately document the attack and the conditions that led to the attack, like an open fence or a lack of a leash, and exchange information with witnesses. This can help them sue the dog owner and prove that the owner was negligent in keeping the dog. 

Potential Dog Bite Damages

If you have suffered from a dog bite injury, a Sandy Springs personal injury attorney can help you sue the dog’s owner for damages such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Property damage
  • Permanent scarring or disfigurement from things like limb or digit amputation (a Sandy Springs amputation attorney can inform you of your legal rights);
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Funeral and burial expenses, in the case of a wrongful death. To learn more about the types of damages you could recover in a wrongful death lawsuit, schedule a free consultation with a Sandy Springs wrongful death attorney today.

What a Georgia Dog Bite Lawyer Can Do For a Dog Bite Victim

Experienced personal injury attorneys, especially those with experience handling dog bite cases, will know exactly how to prove negligence and help victims recover compensation for their dog attack injuries. They will also be able to answer the question: what rights do you have after a dog bites you in Georgia?

Additionally, our attorneys will be able to gather evidence from the scene of the accident and obtain witness testimonies. By doing this, they can prove that the dog attacked the victim unprovoked and that the owner was negligent in the handling of their own dog. 

They’ll be able to calculate the cost of all past and future damages like medical care, lost wages, and property damage, ensuring the injured victim receives the compensation they deserve.

If your child was bitten in Atlanta or the Sandy Springs area, our Sandy Springs child injury lawyer team can do the same for them!

Sandy Springs Dog Bite Lawyer

dog bite law in georgia

Georgia law has clear and reasonable requirements for anyone who owns a vicious or dangerous dog. When dog owners violate these requirements, they leave themselves vulnerable to criminal charges and personal liability claims. Not only that, but they run the risk of their dog causing serious, life-altering injuries to a person. 

If you or a loved one has suffered from severe bodily injury as a result of a dog attack, the liability lawyers at Ashenden & Associates are here for you. We have over 50 years of combined experience handling personal injury cases in Georgia, and we’re ready to provide you with the legal representation you deserve.

Call us at 770-394-8909 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys regarding your dog bite case.