When Atlanta animal control officers respond to the scene of a dog bite, whether it is a dog biting another dog, or a dog biting a human being, they do not have the powers to impound the animal. All they can do is cite the owner of the dog for failing to control a vicious or dangerous animal. Obviously, it’s not uncommon to find victims of such dog bites become utterly frustrated at what they see as lack of punishment for the dog owner.
Last week, two pit bulls that were running loose at a home in Kennesaw in Cobb County managed to escape the yard, and get into the yard next door. There, they attacked the family pet, a hapless poodle, that had little chance against the pit bulls. The poodle’s owner and animal control officers who arrived at the scene, tried to pry the jaws of the dogs off the poodle, but were not successful. The poodle was seriously injured, and died.
Its owner is understandably heartbroken, and is shocked to learn that animal control officers don’t have the powers to take away a dog that is involved in an unprovoked attack on another dog or person.
As an Atlanta dog bite lawyer, I can understand the frustration of the Cobb County family here that has lost a beloved family pet. Atlanta dog bite attorneys are also bound to raise questions about the owner of the pit bulls here. The two dogs were apparently running around loose in their yard, and managed to sneak into the next home. It seems like there’s more than just a little negligent dog ownership going on here. It was the poodle this time, but it could have just as easily been a toddler or a child in the next yard, and the results could have been tragic.
The dogs are not “vicious dogs” and so, need not have been muzzled or leashed inside their yard, but the owner should have made sure that the dogs were secured, and unable to escape.
Georgia law provides for liability to pet owners who “knew or should have known of the [vicious] propensities.” O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7. While the commonly quoted “one bite rule”, i.e., every dog is entitled to its first bite without the owner being liable to the bitten victim, illustrates one way in which an owner would be held liable, it is not the only way. Even if a dog has never attacked or bitten someone before, the dog’s owner could be liable for damage caused by the dog if “the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city [or] county and the animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash.” Id. Most metro Atlanta, Georgia Counties, including but not limited to Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, and Gwinnett have leash laws that require the dog owner to have control over their dog at all times. The fact that the dog was able to attack someone in the neighborhood, proves that the leash law was violated and the owner is liable for all the damages caused by the dog’s attack.
Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.