The Georgia Supreme Court narrowly construed a statute imposing liability for dogs with vicious propensities and held that it did not apply to a landlord who failed to keep the premises of a rental house in good repair. The landlord knew that the renters had dogs and failed to fix the latch to the back gate. The renters kept two pit bulls unattended in the back yard and closed the gate by tying a leash around the gate pole because the latch for the gate was broken, apparently for the majority of time that the pit bull owners were in the house.
As an initial matter, the law regarding liability of dog owners focuses on OCGA § 51-2-7 which states: 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.
In the Tyner case, In December of 2008, the pit bull owners began renting out the Stockbridge home. A few months later, the latch to a gate on the backyard fence was broken. The latch was never repaired, and the pit bull owners began securing the gate by tying a dog leash around it and putting weights and a cement block at the base of the gate.