Georgia’s Dog Bite Law — O.C.G.A. 51-2-7, Explained

Anybody who has suffered a dog attack feels justified in wanting all dogs to be properly kept away from innocent others. Interestingly, especially in the past, the law in Georgia tends to give the dog the benefit of the doubt, taking the position that dogs are generally harmless.

Prior to July 1, 1985, a dog’s previous biting or aggressive behavior had to be proven. That is, the owner’s knowledge of that behavior usually had to be firmly established before the dog’s owner could be held liable for damages done by the dog.

Then, in July of 1985 Georgia’s dog bite statute O.C.G.A. 51-2-7 was amended so that allowing a dog to be unrestrained in violation of a city, County, or consolidated government ordinance was also sufficient to demonstrate a dog’s vicious propensity, provided the owner’s careless management of the dog caused the violation. This made a personal injury lawyer’s burden of proof much easier in cases where the owner claims not to have known the animal’s aggressive nature, as the statute now presumes that a dog is dangerous or vicious if and when it escapes its owner’s control as a result of negligence.

With all of that said, it is well known that Georgia’s dog-bite laws can still be difficult to navigate in court. Here’s an example.

In the case of Fields v. Thompson, 190 Ga. App. 177 (1989) lawyers for a dog owner were granted their motion for summary judgment (ie., the case was dismissed and thrown out of court) because they had no knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities. When the plaintiffs appealed, the appellate court overturned the trial court’s ruling.

Because the Cobb County animal ordinance holds that the animal had to be at heel or on a leash, which it was not, the plaintiffs enjoyed a reversal of the summary judgment and were allowed to plead their case to a Jury.

It is unwise to go to court in a personal injury case without the help of a personal injury lawyer. To do this is not unlike allowing your general practitioner to do delicate neurosurgery on your brain. There are just some situations that require the expertise of a specialist.

At The Millar Law Firm, we only take personal injury cases. We specialize in dog bite cases and know our way around those aforementioned complicated statutes. That’s how we earned a reputation as being among the premier dog-bite attorneys in Georgia.

If you have been attacked by a dog, allow us to review the facts in your case. We will evaluate those facts and advise you of what we believe to be the best way to precede. An educated opinion is one that’s worth its weight in gold. Get ours free.