Dog Bite Laws
Georgia has long had on the books O.C.G.A. § 4-8-20, et seq, which is called the “Dangerous Dog Control Law.”
Under this law, a “Dangerous dog” means any dog that, if documented by a governmental authority either severely injures a person in a situation when the dog is not provoked and is on public or private property or when the dog, without provocation and in an aggressive manner attacks, bites, or otherwise endangers the safety of a person after the dog was previously classified as potentially dangerous and after the owner of the dog has been put on notice of this classification. A “Potentially dangerous dog” is simply a dog that bites a person, without provocation, on public or private property. In other words, a dog does not have to severely injure a person to be classified as a potentially dangerous dog.
A “Severe injury” under this law means any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery or a physical injury that results in death.
Once classified as a potentially dangerous dog, that dog must be contained in a “Proper enclosure” which is an enclosure that must be designed to keep the dog secure while on its owner’s property. Keeping such a dog indoors qualifies as a proper enclosure. IF outside, the dangerous dog must be confined behind a locked structure (such as a pen, fenced in area, etc.) that is built in such a manner as to prevent not only the escape fo the animal but must also be capable of keeping out young children. This enclosure must have secure walls or sides and also a secure top. If this area is a fenced area, all sides of the fence must be high enough to prevent escape or entrance and the bottom of the fence must be secured so that the dog cannot escape. This proper enclosure must also meet the humane purpose of providing protection from the elements for the animal.
Georgia’s Dangerous Dog Control Law also provides for a procedure that allows concerned citizens to have an owner’s dog classified as dangerous dogs or potentially dangerous dogs. If an owner’s dog is classified as dangerous or potentially dangerous dog, it is illegal for the owner to have or possess a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog without a certificate of registration.
To qualify for a certificate of registration for a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog, the owner prove that he has a proper enclosure for confining the dog as described above, his property must be properly posted with visible warnings so that visitors can clearly see that that there is a dangerous dog on the property. Also, the owner of a dangerous dog must prove to an animal control officer that he has insurance in the amount of at least $15,000.00 issued by an insurer authorized insurer in the State of Georgia and that this insurance provides liability protection for the benefit of potential victims of an attack by the dangerous or potentially dangerous animal.
The law also provides that it is illegal for an owner of a dangerous dog to permit the dog to be outside a proper enclosure unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and is under the physical restraint of a responsible person.
For more information, please refer to O.C.G.A. § 4-8-21, and O.C.G.A. § 4-8-25.