Dog Bites & Animal Attacks

What happens if you suffer a dog bite or other animal attack in Georgia? 

We've heard a lot of conflicting — and mostly wrong — stories about Georgia dog bites, owner liability, and victims' rights. Let's take a moment and clear up the confusion.

Georgia has long had the "Dangerous Dog Control Law" (O.C.G.A. § 4-8-20, et seq) on the books. 

Georgia Law: The Difference Between Dangerous Dogs and Potentially Dangerous Dogs

Under this law, a “dangerous dog” refers to any dog that — according to the records of an appropriate governmental authority:

 (A) Inflicts a severe injury on a person without provocation on public or private property or 

(B) Aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans without provocation after the dog has been classified as a potentially dangerous dog and after the owner has been notified of such classification. 

A “potentially dangerous dog” refers to any dog that, without provocation, bites a human being on public or private property — as opposed to a dog that inflicts a severe injury on a person.

A dangerous dog must be contained in a “proper enclosure." This means, while on the owner's property, a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog must be kept in a secure enclosure, such as a locked pen, fence, or structure suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the dog from escaping. Such a structure must have secure sides and a secure top, and, if the dog is enclosed within a fence, all sides of the fence shall be of sufficient height and the bottom of the fence shall be constructed or secured in such a manner as to prevent the dog’s escape either from over or from under the fence. Any such enclosure shall also provide protection from the elements for the dog.

Dog Bites and Severe Injuries in Georgia

Under the law, a “severe injury” is 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.

Georgia’s Dangerous Dog Control Law also provides for a procedure that allows concerned citizens to have an owner’s dog classified as a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog. If an owner’s dog is classified as dangerous or potentially dangerous, they must procure a certificate of registration; otherwise it is illegal for them to continue ownership of the dog.

Owning a Dangerous Dog in Georgia

Further, to get a certificate of registration for a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous, the owner must provide evidence of: 

  • A proper enclosure to confine the dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog
  • Proper posting of the premises where the dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog is located with a clearly visible sign warning that there is a dangerous dog on the property. 
Also, the owner of a dangerous dog must present to the dog control officer evidence of a policy of insurance in the amount of at least $15,000.00, issued by an insurer authorized to transact business in this state insuring the owner of the dangerous dog against liability for any personal injuries inflicted by the dangerous dog.

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.

Details of the Georgia Dangerous Dog Control Law

4-8-21. (a) As used in this article, the term:

(a) As used in this article, the term:

(1) “Dangerous dog” means any dog that, according to the records of an appropriate authority:

(A) Inflicts a severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property at any time after March 31, 1989; or

(B) Aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans without provocation after the dog has been classified as a potentially dangerous dog and after the owner has been notified of such classification.

(2) “Dog control officer” means an individual selected by a local government pursuant to the provisions of subsection (c) of Code Section 4-8-22 to aid in the administration and enforcement of the provisions of this article.

(3) “Governing authority” means the governing body or official in which the legislative powers of a local government are vested.

(4) “Local government” means any county or municipality of this state.

(5) “Owner” means any natural person or any legal entity, including, but not limited to, a corporation, partnership, firm, or trust owning, possessing, harboring, keeping, or having custody or control of a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog within this state.

(6) “Potentially dangerous dog” means any dog that without provocation bites a human being on public or private property at any time after March 31, 1989.

(7) “Proper enclosure” means an enclosure for keeping a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog while on the owner’s property securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen, fence, or structure suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the dog from escaping. Any such pen or structure shall have secure sides and a secure top, and, if the dog is enclosed within a fence, all sides of the fence shall be of sufficient height and the bottom of the fence shall be constructed or secured in such a manner as to prevent the dog’s escape either from over or from under the fence. Any such enclosure shall also provide protection from the elements for the dog.

(8) “Records of an appropriate authority” means records of any state, county, or municipal law enforcement agency; records of any county or municipal animal control agency; records of any county board of health; records of any federal, state, or local court; or records of a dog control officer provided for in this article.

(9) “Severe injury” 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.

(b) A dog that inflicts an injury upon a person when the dog is being used by a law enforcement officer to carry out the law enforcement officer’s official duties shall not be a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog within the meaning of this article. A dog shall not be a dangerous dog or a potentially dangerous dog within the meaning of this article if the injury inflicted by the dog was sustained by a person who, at the time, was committing a willful trespass or other tort or was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog or had in the past been observed or reported to have tormented, abused, or assaulted the dog or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.

4-8-25. (a) It is unlawful for an owner to have or possess within this state….

(a) It is unlawful for an owner to have or possess within this state a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog without a certificate of registration issued in accordance with the provisions of this Code section.

(b) Subject to the additional requirements of subsection (c) of this Code section for dangerous dogs, the dog control officer of a local government in which an owner possesses a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog shall issue a certificate of registration to the owner of such dog if the owner presents to the dog control officer or the dog control officer otherwise finds sufficient evidence of:

(1) A proper enclosure to confine the dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog; and

(2)

(A) The posting of the premises where the dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog is located with a clearly visible sign warning that there is a dangerous dog on the property.

(B) The Department of Natural Resources shall design a uniform symbol for the purpose of implementing subparagraph (A) of this paragraph no later than July 1, 1989, and shall provide copies of the design to the governing authority of each county and municipality of this state. The sign required to be posted by subparagraph (A) of this paragraph shall conform substantially to the design provided by the Department of Natural Resources pursuant to this subparagraph.

(C) The requirement of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph shall become effective 60 days following the day the uniform design specified in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph is distributed to the governing authority of each county and municipality of the state.

(c) In addition to the requirements of subsection (b) of this Code section, the owner of a dangerous dog shall present to the dog control officer evidence of:

(1) A policy of insurance in the amount of at least $15,000.00 issued by an insurer authorized to transact business in this state insuring the owner of the dangerous dog against liability for any personal injuries inflicted by the dangerous dog; or

(2) A surety bond in the amount of $15,000.00 or more issued by a surety company authorized to transact business in this state payable to any person or persons injured by the dangerous dog.

Get Help with Your Atlanta Dog Bite Case Today

We hope that this information has been helpful and that you have a better understanding of laws pertaining to dog bites, animal attacks, and dangerous dogs in Georgia. If you have any questions or you believe you may have a claim for a dog bite or other animal attack, please don't hesitate to call McAleer Law today at 404-622-5337


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