Articles Posted in Dog Bites

Published on:

According to the CDC, approximately 4.7 million dog bite attacks occur in the United States each year, and 800,000 of those attacks result in medical care. The U.S. population is approximately 325.7 million people as of 2017. That means a dog bites 1 out of  every 70 people in America, and more troubling than that, dogs are attacking children at an increasingly high rate.

Most dog bites occur in or around the home or at public parks such as nature parks or dog parks. Why do dogs bite? With the rare exception, dogs bite because the are afraid. Most common situations which result in dog bites are:

  • Dogs bite as a reaction to a stressful situation.
Published on:

As a lawyer in Atlanta who has handled many cases involving dog attacks resulting in severe and permanent injuries in Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County, as recently reported, the following scenario is typical:

A Gwinnett resident on a walk after dinner attacked by two dogs and needing immediate surgery. A quick investigation turns up the fact that this attack is not isolated and, in fact, the client is one of three people seriously injured after being attacked by the dogs, who had gotten loose from a home  in Lawrenceville. After the attack, Gwinnett County Animal Welfare captured the dogs and cited their owners. The dogs were euthanized and tested negative for rabies.

The victim of the dog attack was walking home from a local park, minding his own business when the loose pack of dogs jumped on him and began ripping into his arms, legs and other body parts. The attack was  witnessed by others who stopped and began trying to pull the vicious dogs off the helpless victim. Other neighbors tried, in vain, to help the elderly man as he was being attacked by a number of pit bulls at the same time.

Published on:

Many arguments between dog owners and others start with the picking up of the dog feces. Where do they end? Well sometimes they end with a dog attack and serious injuries. In the City of Atlanta, dog owner have many duties when it comes to their dogs. One such duty is to clean up after them. The City code is as follows:
Sec. 18-9. – Removal of canine fecal matter.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person owning, possessing, harboring or having care, charge, control or custody of any dog not to remove any feces left by that dog on any sidewalk, gutter, street, lot or other public area. Dog waste shall be immediately removed by placing said matter in a closed or sealed container and thereafter disposing of it in a trash receptacle, sanitary disposal unit or other closed or sealed refuse container.

Published on:

There are many different jurisdictions in the metropolitan Atlanta area and many of these have different codes or statutes which impute liability to dog owners when there is a dog attack that results in personal injuries. One thing is for sure though, there is no longer the “one bite rule” in Georgia, or to be more specific, a dog does not have to have bitten someone before for the owner of that dog to be liable for damages caused by the attack. For instance, the rule of law in Cobb County, holds dog owners to an even higher standard.  Pursuant to Cobb County Code of Ordinance, § 10-11, “It shall be unlawful for the owner of any animal to permit such animal to be out of his immediate control and restraint… .” 10-11 (2) (b) defines restraint when off the owner’s premises as “…all animals shall at a minimum be maintained on an appropriate chain, leash, or tie not exceeding six feet in length, and in the hands of a person who possesses the ability to restrain the animal.”

It follows that liability to the owner attaches where the dogs are leashed in Cobb County (and other municipalities in and around Atlanta that have similar leash laws) if the victim of the dog bite can prove:  (1) that the dog was vicious; or (2) that the dog is a dangerous animal; or (3) a violation of heel or leash laws. Cobb county defines vicious and dangerous differently but, for purposes of this analysis, either can be proven in order to prevail against the defendant dog owner.

In Steagald v. Eason, (300 Ga. 717, 2017) the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that liability could attach to the dog owner under O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7, even if the attack took place in the dog owner’s home or fenced in yard. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7 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 conduct my be liable for damages to the injured person. In coming to its conclusion in the Steagald case, the Supreme Court of Georgia first noted that the rule [for liability] “does not literally require a first bite.” It then went on to discuss how, to show the requisite knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite, could be satisfied by a number of different incidences, not just from a previous bite. “If there is an incident or incidents which would put a prudent man on notice to anticipate the even which occurred” then the owner’s knowledge may be inferred. In doing so, the Supreme Court of Georgia made clear that, to the extent that the appellate court has ruled otherwise, they are overruled.

Published on:

Pit bull attacks continue to dominate the number of dog attack cases in Georgia, especially when it comes to fatal attacks on young children. Two pit bulls killed a 20-month-old boy at his grandmother’s house in Hart County, Georgia, and she is now faces criminal charges related to the attack, according to recent reports.

While it is rare that dog bite cases result in criminal charges beyond citations from animal control for failing to properly maintain control of the dog and allowing it to attack someone, civil actions are much more common, as this is the usual course of action to hold the dog owner liable for the damages inflicted by the dogs after an attack.

In addition to the leash laws related to the proper control of dogs that a Georgia homeowner owns or has in its custody of control, the Georgia Code of civil procedure provides as follows:

Published on:

With warm Georgia weather comes a rash of dog bite cases. This happens every year and this year is no different.

Georgia’s dog bite statute which is found at O.C.G.A § 51-2-7 provides:

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. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated fowl including roosters with spurs. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated livestock.

Published on:

There are now almost 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. each year and with the rise in dog bites is a corresponding rise in the payouts by liability insurers such as State Farm, Allstate and other large insurers who write homeowner’s insurance policies in the U.S.

Sadly, most of the attacks involve children and pit bulls, although there are other breeds that have a higher incidence of attacking such as the German Shepard, Chow, Akita, and Sharpei.

Most payouts are made to the injured dog bite victim from the dog owners insurer, and most times, the insurer is the insurance company who wrote the owner’s homeowner’s policy or (much less often) renter’s policy. Because of this, it is important that you determine the owner’s identity and residence as soon as you can, if you are bitten someone else’s dog.

Published on:

I have noticed a marked increase in declaratory judgment actions being filed by insurers of defendants in personal injury, premises liability, wrongful death and dog bite cases. The usual basis for the declaratory judgment action is that the insurer asserts in its pleadings that there is no insurance for the event that caused the injury, most often claiming that an exclusion in the policy applies. It has been my experience that most declaratory judgment actions are mere posturing by the defendant’s insurer and any response to a declaratory judgment actions should not concede any issues that are in contention. Below is a sample response to a declaratory judgment action. Similar responses have been filed in other cases. Obviously, every case is different and the following is solely as sample and should not be used for anything but educational purposes or for a new lawyer to familiarize herself with what a response might look like before drafting her own response to a motion for declaratory judgment.



Published on:

As recently reported by the AJC, the Supreme court of Georgia, has recently weighed in on the subject dog bite cases. What it was important for the court to address this issue, the court did nothing more than make clear what the law has always been, or at least should have been construed. Under Georgia law, a person who owns a vicious dog can be found liable if the animal gets free and attacks someone. But the law does not presume that dogs are vicious; in fact, they are considered to be “a harmless species.” For dog-bite victims to prevail, the plaintiff must show the dog owner knew that his dog had a propensity for violence. In the past, Georgia’s courts have cited the “first bite rule” — that the dog had previously bitten someone and the owner knew about it. But, what about if the dog had gotten away in the past and had  viciously attacked other dogs but not people or had shown a vicious propensity but had not actually bitten other people before the attack in question. The Georgia Court of Appeals had previously dismissed the plaintiff’s suit, finding that the prior incidents of defendant’s dog snapping at family members of the Plaintiffs amounted to “merely menacing behavior,” particularly with no evidence the dog had previously attacked anyone. Since the litigants in this case are neighbors, the decision certainly has potential for a far-reaching impact on litigation that occurs quite often in Georgia, i.e., one neighbor being bitten by another neighbors dog or dogs.

On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned that ruling and said a jury should decide whether the defendants had reason to know that their family dog was vicious. According to the well-written opinion, “a rational finder of fact could infer reasonably, we think, that [defendant’s dog] snapping at [Plaintiff’s family] amounted to the dog attempting to bite [],” Justice Keith Blackwell wrote. “An attempt to bite in the absence of provocation most certainly may be proof of a propensity to bite without provocation.”

In the past, Georgia’s courts have cited the “first bite rule” — that the dog had previously bitten someone and the owner knew about it. However, as I have written many times in the past, this is not really the law in Georgia (it applies in only very few circumstances) and, now the Georgia Supreme Court has made clear that this is no longer the case.
Published on:

As we reported earlier, a City of Atlanta boy was the victim of a pit bull mauling and he unfortunately lost his life due to this senseless attack within the City of Atlanta city limits. Now, Fulton County leaders are apparently getting set to ask the City of Atlanta for funding to add 3 more animal control officers.

What many people, even those living in the City of Atlanta, don’t realize is that the City does not perform animal control services itself, but contracts with Fulton County (and presumably Clayton and DeKalb Counties in portions of the City that are in those two counties) to perform these services. Some higher-ups in Fulton County have mused about whether it would be better for the City of Atlanta to perform these services themselves. Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know this: whoever is performing these services now (by all accounts it is Fulton County) is doing a horrible job, and maybe the City of Atlanta can provide a better service by doing it directly.

As an Atlanta personal injury attorney who handles dog bite cases on a regular basis, I believe more should be done to punish those who allow their dogs to run free. This should be in the form of civil (i.e., a lawsuit brought by the victim of the attack or their family to recover all of the damages caused by the attack) and criminal (i.e., a proceeding brought by the city or county in which the attack took place) penalties. I also think that pit bulls should be banned from the City and county as they are, in my opinion, inordinately involved in attacks, and certainly inordinately involved in the more vicious attacks. Most, if not all of, the dog bite cases that I have been involved with have involved pit bulls. The scenario is all too often played out like this. The owners of the pit bulls leave them unattended in the yard, all day in many cases. The dogs escape through a hole in the fence or an open gate and run the neighborhood (usually in packs of 2, 3 or 4) and devastate anyone or anything in their path. This kind of destruction can take the form of attacks on other dogs, cats, property, adults, or even usually in the most tragic cases, helpless little boys and girls who cannot fend off these pit bull dogs who, in many cases, are bred to kill.