Failure to Properly Restrain Dogs Can Result in Georgia Civil and Criminal Liability


June 27, 2013

While dogs are an intrinsic part of many families and have earned their moniker as “Man’s Best Friend,” they are still animals with behavior that is not always predictable.  The decision to own a dog comes with certain responsibilities for the safety of others by properly fencing in a dog or restraining it on a leash in a public place.  Dog mauling incidents are sometimes an accident waiting to happen, because dog owners fail to adequately socialize their dog, or train the dog to be aggressive toward other animals and people.

A recent fatal dog mauling in another state shows how serious the consequences can be when people elect not to be responsible dog owners.  Four pit bulls fatally mauled a female jogger in a brutal attack that included between 150 to 200 separate dog bites.  While the family may elect to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they reportedly haven't done so yet.

Fatal dog attacks are relatively rare with about three dozen occurring nationally each year.  It is not uncommon to see criminal charges filed, with the evidence and findings used in the criminal case being utilized to pursue a civil recovery in a subsequent personal injury or wrongful death case.  Georgia has been the site of at least one fatal mauling that resulted in criminal charges of murder.

If you or someone close to you is injured in a dog mauling in DeKalb County or anywhere in the the state  of Georgia, it is important to seek prompt legal advice.  While Georgia law imposes a significant duty on property owners to protect others from injuries by dogs and other animals, dog owners are not necessarily strictly liable for injuries caused by their canine. 

Georgia is a state that still imposes a “scienter” (knowledge) requirement in many dog bite cases.  While a dog owner may be liable for injuries caused by his or her dog without proving negligence, the dog mauling victim must establish that the dog owner “knew or had reason to know” that his or her dog had vicious propensities.  This principle is sometimes called the “one bite rule” although the rule does not require that the dog be shown to have bitten someone previously.  It is enough that the evidence shows the dog has engaged in other aggressive acts like lunging, charging or attempting to bite.  This knowledge requirement may also be met by referencing other types of evidence like “Beware of Dog” signs, muzzled dogs and similar facts that suggest the dog owner knew the dog could be aggressive.  When scienter must be established, it is important to promptly engage a knowledgeable law firm so that evidence can be gathered and other steps taken to protect your legal rights.

The scienter requirement may be waived when the dog owner has been negligent or fails to comply with a local leash law.  The dog owner may be careless about repairing a broken fence board so that the dog escapes the backyard.  Alternatively, the dog owner may have the animal out in public but not on a leash.  In either situation, it may not be necessary to prove the owner should have known that the dog could be vicious.

The Georgia personal injury attorneys at Montlick & Associates have been helping injured people get the compensation they deserve for over 30 years. Our Atlanta & Georgia dog bite attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast.  No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you.

Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.