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Atlanta, Georgia Dog Bite Attorneys

Recovering from a Negligent Owner for a Dog Bite

Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend, but, especially in recent years, it has also been shown that dogs can become viciously unfriendly to men, women, and children. Every year, people of all ages become the victims of dog attacks. According to statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, roughly 4.5 million people, or about 1.5% of the total population, are bitten by dogs annually; each day, about 1,000 U.S. citizens require emergency care treatment for dog bite injury. Most dog bite injuries—roughly three-quarters—are perpetrated by the pets of family or friends, and half of all dog attacks occur on the dog owner’s own property. Frequently, young children and elderly victims are affected the most, since they are less likely to be able to fend off a dog attack.

Prior to 2000, there were about 17 dog-bite incidents that proved fatal every year. After 2000, the number jumped to about 26 per year. In 2010, this number jumped up to 36. Some dogs may have certain traits or propensities that can lead to more serious injuries—that is, even if any type of dog may bite, some dogs, such as Rottweilers and pit bulls, have stronger jaws and refuse to back down. As a result, when these types of dogs become aggressive, their bites are more likely to lead to serious or even fatal injuries.

Even when a dog attack is not itself fatal, dog-bite injuries can have serious consequences. If a dog is carrying a disease like parvovirus or rabies, even a relatively minor bite will need medical treatment immediately in order to avoid serious medical consequences, and if a serious bite goes untreated, it can lead to infections, such as osteomyelitis (a bacterial infection of the bone). Dog-attacks can cause disfigurement, maiming, and permanent scarring, as well as emotional injuries from the trauma of being the victim of a vicious dog attack.

While the some dog-lovers assert the motto “blame the owner, not the breed,” many states and localities have passed statutes and ordinances that address not only owner responsibilities, but restrictions on certain breeds. These types of laws are referred to as “Breed-Specific Legislation”, or BSL, and are often met with strong opposition from dog owners. Nonetheless, many localities have felt compelled to adopt these Preventative or precautionary measures in the face of serious dog-bite incidents. When dog owners are found to be repeatedly remiss in their treatment of dogs—by neglecting or mistreating their animals, or by failing to train or properly confine them—local governments often conclude, either as a result of a serious incident or as a precaution prior to waiting for the inevitable dog attack, that they have little choice but to ban certain types of dogs that have the capacity to seriously injure or kill.

Georgia’s “Dog-Bite” Law

The statistics cited above on dog bites demonstrate quite clearly that dog-bite injuries are no small matter, and, because dog-attacks often get wide publicity, many people are quite naturally wary of dogs, especially certain large breeds that historically have been bred for aggressive traits. Georgia’s general statute relating to dogs (and other animals) is Georgia Code Section 51-2-7, which provides:

A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. 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 the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash. [. . .]

While this statute may clearly be understood to hold the owners of dogs responsible for the injuries caused by their pets, the statute limits liability to those who “keep a vicious or dangerous animal”—and, as a general matter, dogs are not classified as “vicious or dangerous.” Consequently, with respect to a dog, the “vicious or dangerous” trait must be shown by additional evidence.

As the second portion of the statute indicates, under Georgia law, one way that a plaintiff may provide additional evidence to meet the “vicious or dangerous” aspect is by showing that, at the time of the dog attack, the animal’s owner was not conforming to local laws regarding the keeping of pets, such as the dog was not on a leash or was not properly confined. Georgia cases have held that this requirement creates strict liability—that is, merely violating the local ordinance is sufficient to find that an animal is “vicious or dangerous” without anything more. As a result, it is important to know local ordinances regarding the keeping of dogs. For example, Catoosa County, Georgia, has special ordinances relating to vicious dogs that require posting signs and retaining special insurance. When evaluating a potential dog-bite case, then, it is important for an Atlanta dog bite attorney to thoroughly research and understand the local ordinances and cases that may enhance or limit liability in a dog-bite personal injury case.

Another way to show that a dog is “vicious and dangerous” is to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious propensities. While traditionally this latter test has been known as the “one free bite” rule—that is, the first time a dog bites a person, the owner is not liable because he may not have known of his dog’s vicious propensities but, after that, he or she is on notice and therefore may be held liable—Georgia cases have shown that it is not necessary to prove that another person has actually been bitten in order to attribute to the owner knowledge that his dog may possess vicious tendencies. It may be sufficient to show that the owner was aware that the dog had exhibited some other aggressive behavior, such as snarling, growling and showing bared teeth, which would indicate to a reasonable dog owner that his dog poses a danger to other people.

Sammons & Carpenter, P.C. Can Help Dog Bite Victims Recover Damages

If you or someone close to you has been the victim of a dog attack that caused serious injury, the Atlanta, Georgia, dog bite lawyers at Sammons & Carpenter can help you. We can provide you with the research and information you need to understand whether your injury creates a valid legal claim against a dog owner. You may call us directly at (404) 991-5950, or use the confidential online case evaluation form on this site. The consultation is completely free of charge, and, if we agree to represent you, we will not charge you any fees until we recover damages. Your consultation is strictly confidential, and you are not obliged to retain our firm even if we conclude that you may have a valid case. If you need help with a dog-bite case anywhere in the State of Georgia, contact Sammons & Carpenter today.

Also, be sure to visit our Georgia Learning Center Page where we have assembled a number Articles and Videos specific to Dog Bite Claims such as:

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