How Atlanta’s Dog Bite Laws Protect Bite And Attack Victims

  • Although Georgia law establishes comprehensive guidelines for dog-related incidents, Fulton County, the city of Atlanta, and its surrounding municipalities also have specific ordinances designed to promote public safety and responsible dog ownership. 
  • If there is evidence that the dog owner violated local or state laws governing pet responsibility, it can significantly strengthen your dog bite legal claim. 
  • Though Atlanta ordinances establish certain requirements designed to keep people safe from dog attacks, a dog bite does not automatically equate to a violation. 
  • In Atlanta, animal control officers primarily enforce dog ordinances, and animal control officers have the authority to decide whether a dog should be classified as dangerous or vicious. 

Dog owners in Atlanta have a responsibility to ensure that their dogs behave and interact safely with other people and pets in the community. Unfortunately, many dog owners do not take steps to keep others safe, which can lead to serious or catastrophic injuries for innocent victims of dog bites. To protect the public from injury or death caused by attacks, both the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta have laws in place that govern the conduct of dogs and dog owners. 

How Might Atlanta Laws Apply to my Dog Bite Injury Claim or Case? 

To win a personal injury claim, you must show that you were attacked because the dog owner was negligent, meaning they failed to exercise due care. If there is evidence that the dog owner violated a local Atlanta ordinance governing pet responsibility, this could significantly strengthen your legal claim because the violation may demonstrate automatic negligence (negligence per se). 

Are Dog Always Bites A Violation of Atlanta Law? 

Not always. Though Atlanta ordinances establish certain requirements designed to keep people safe from dog attacks, a dog bite does not automatically equate to a violation. For example, there are some defenses — a dog might bite someone because the person provoked the attack, whether by trespassing on the owner’s property or by acting in a threatening manner toward the owner or the dog. Under local and state law, the dog owner is often not at fault when the attack was provoked. 

Additionally, if the owner was not aware of the dog’s potential for aggression, meaning it had never bitten or attacked anyone previously, the owner may not be held responsible for the first bite. On the other hand, if the owner violated Atlanta’s leash ordinances (Atlanta leash law) by allowing their dog to run loose in public, failing to keep the dog under control or at heel, or failing to restrain a dog that has been classified as dangerous or vicious, it is likely that the dog owner may be held responsible if their dog attacks someone. 

Do Any Atlanta Dog Bite Laws Overlap with Georgia State Laws? 

Georgia’s “Responsible Dog Ownership Law,” outlined in O.C.G.A. §§ 4-8-21 through 4-8-33, was enacted to protect people and their pets from injuries and death caused by dog attacks. This state law sets the minimum standards for the control and regulation of dogs and establishes state crimes for violating these minimum standards. Anyone living in Atlanta (or any other city in Georgia) who violates these state laws are subject to criminal penalties. 

However, the state law specifically does not prohibit local governments from adopting and enforcing ordinances that provide more restrictive control and regulation of dogs than the state’s minimum standards. That means that cities and counties within Georgia may not enact laws to lessen the state’s standards but are free to enact laws with higher standards. In other words, everyone is subject to state law, but you are also subject to additional laws if you live in the city of Atlanta or one of its surrounding municipalities. 

For example, state law puts no restrictions on specific breeds of dog, but several local municipalities in the Metro area (not the city of Atlanta) have implemented restrictions on certain breeds frequently involved in dog bites or attacks. College Park, which borders the city of Atlanta, has ordinances that classify pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermann Pinschers, and German Shepards as potentially dangerous breeds. Other municipalities in the Metro area also classify one or more of these breeds as potentially dangerous, dangerous, or vicious by ordinance.  

Similarly, Georgia does not have a statewide leash requirement unless your dog has been classified as dangerous or vicious, but most counties and local municipalities in the Metro area (including the city of Atlanta) have ordinances that require all dogs to be leashed on public property. These ordinances do not conflict with state law. 

Atlanta Animal Control and Police Reports Arising From Dog Bites and Attacks

Both animal control and the police have authority to determine if a law was broken following a dog attack in Georgia. In Atlanta, animal control officers primarily enforce dog ordinances, and animal control officers have the authority to decide whether a dog should be classified as dangerous or vicious. If officers determine that an ordinance was violated, they will issue a citation to the dog owner. If animal control officers respond to an incident, they will document it in a report and keep the records on file.  

If the incident involves serious legal or safety issues, the police may handle the case. While animal control officers issue citations and fines, ensuring compliance with local ordinances, police involvement or judicial proceedings are required for severe penalties. Any time a person suffers a serious injury from a dog attack, it is important to call the police.  

State law violations will create a state criminal record, which follows the dog owner and is easier for attorneys and prosecutors to find during an investigation. In addition, state law violations have tougher penalties, including a range of jail time and high fines depending on whether the owner is charged with a misdemeanor or felony. If police officers respond to a dog incident, they will document it in a police report. 

Atlanta’s Dog Bite Laws and Ordinances – Summarized:

Although Georgia law establishes comprehensive guidelines for dog-related incidents, Fulton County, the city of Atlanta, and its surrounding municipalities also have specific ordinances designed to promote public safety and responsible dog ownership. Examples of ordinances in Atlanta’s municipal code include the following: 

  • No dog is permitted to run at large in the city of Atlanta. §18-124(a) 
  • All dogs must be leashed in the city of Atlanta unless they are on the premises of their owner or other person having custody of the dog. §18-124(b)(1) 
  • Leashes must be no longer than six feet and under the control of a competent person. §18-124(b)(1) 
  • Dogs must be restrained on the owner’s property by means of a fence, wall, or other enclosure. §18-124(b)(1) 
  • An electronic fence is considered an acceptable enclosure when the equipment is properly maintained and in continuous working order and the animal to be contained within wears the appropriate electronic collar when it is within the system perimeters. §18-124(b)(2) 
  • If an animal has been classified as a dangerous or vicious dog, or is in training or has been trained to be a guard dog, an electronic fence may not be used as either the primary or secondary enclosure. §18-124(b)(3) 
  • If a dog has been classified as dangerous or vicious, the owner must post conspicuous warning signs on the premises. §18-170(g) 
  • A dangerous dog shall be immediately impounded by any animal control officer or law enforcement officer if the owner does not secure the required liability insurance/surety bond, does not properly register the dog, or does not maintain the dog in a proper enclosure. §18-190(g) 
  • Dogs must be leashed in parks unless the area of the park is explicitly designated as an off-leash dog area. §110-70(a) 
  • Dogs are not allowed in public amphitheaters, swimming pools and pool areas, tennis courts, golf courses, ball fields, zoos, and lakes. §110-70(c) 
  • Dog owners are responsible for monitoring their dog’s behavior in off-leash areas of public parks. If a dog displays aggressive behavior, the owner must control or remove the dog immediately. §110-70(f)(3) 
  • Any person who violates these ordinances is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $500 and/or jail time not to exceed 60 days. §18-116(a) 
  • Any person who violates ordinances that pertain to a “potentially dangerous” dog will be fined not less than $150 for a second conviction and not less than $300 for a third conviction. §18-116(b)  
  • Any person who violates ordinances that pertain to a dangerous dog shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature and fined not less than $500 for a second conviction and not less than $750 for a third conviction. §18-116(c) 

Is It Against the Law for a Dog Owner to Leave the Scene of the Attack? 

Unfortunately, we have seen many cases where a dog owner flees or runs away from the scene of an attack in an attempt to try to avoid criminal penalties and liability. Just as one should not leave the scene of a car accident (which is illegal in Georgia), a responsible owner should stay at the scene of a dog attack to render aid to the victim and provide information to the responding officer.  

While there is no specific state or local law making it illegal to leave the scene of a dog attack, doing so can result in serious consequences for a negligent owner. For example, leaving the scene can be an aggravating factor that may cause a jury to award punitive damages and potentially a claim for attorney’s fees for causing the victim unnecessary trouble and expense—especially if the victim was forced to hire a lawyer or file a lawsuit to find the dog owner or recover medical expenses. 

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