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Hoffspiegel Law Blog

July 22, 2022

Do I have a dangerous dog?  What if my dog bites my neighbor?  What if I am the neighbor who was attacked and injured?

Georgia law defines a dangerous dog as a dog that causes a substantial puncture of a person’s skin by teeth without causing serious injury.  The definition also includes a dog that aggressively attacks in a manner that causes a person to reasonably believe that the dog posed an imminent threat of serious injury, even though no such injury occurs. And it includes a dog that kills a pet while off the owner’s property. 

Further, if the animal is deemed either dangerous or vicious as a matter of law and it injures someone as a result of careless management, the owner is responsible for any injuries sustained.  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, and the animal was at the not at heel or on a leash at the time of the incident.

If you have a dog that has been deemed dangerous or vicious, be sure to be responsive to local government imposition of fees and other conditions or your animal may be euthanized.  And the penalties for failure to keep your vicious dog properly secured by an appropriate fenced structure or otherwise under appropriate control can end with the pet owner being held guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.

The practical effect of this upon people injured by someone else’s dog is that it can be difficult to prove the animal’s prior dangerous acts.  That is required to make a successful claim.  If the pet owner is totally irresponsible and the bane of the neighborhood, typically your neighbors will be helpful in proving your case.  It may be easier to take a look at your local ordinances to see if they have a leash law.  As stated above, a leash law violation will be sufficient to prove vicious propensity and the only question remaining would be evaluation of the damages caused by the dog bite.  They can of course range from minimal to quite significant and in some cases, death. 

Most homeowner’s insurance policies will cover you if your dog bites someone or conversely, offer protection to an injured party.  If you are harmed by someone’s pet because of the owner’s carelessness, you have a claim for bodily injury and you can seek compensation for damages.  Recovery would be contingent upon the nature of the incident, the injuries sustained, and the existence of an insurance policy that will cover the loss.