Georgia’s Dog Bite Laws
Below are the current Dog Bite statutes in Georgia. These laws span a number of different chapters within the Official Code of Georgia and do not include the Georgia Leash Law.
Georgia does not have a statewide leash law. Instead, most Georgia counties, or sometimes even Georgia cities, have local laws or ordinances that govern how and when a dog must be restrained (i.e., on a leash).
O.C.G.A. § 4-8-21 – Definitions
(a) As used in this article, the term:
(1) “Classified dog” means any dog that has been classified as either a dangerous dog or vicious dog pursuant to this article.
(2) “Dangerous dog” means any dog that:
(A) Causes a substantial puncture of a person’s skin by teeth without causing serious injury; provided, however, that a nip, scratch, or abrasion shall not be sufficient to classify a dog as dangerous under this subparagraph;
(B) Aggressively attacks in a manner that causes a person to reasonably believe that the dog posed an imminent threat of serious injury to such person or another person although no such injury occurs; provided, however, that the acts of barking, growling, or showing of teeth by a dog shall not be sufficient to classify a dog as dangerous under this subparagraph; or
(C) While off the owner’s property, kills a pet animal; provided, however, that this subparagraph shall not apply where the death of such pet animal is caused by a dog that is working or training as a hunting dog, herding dog, or predator control dog.
(3) “Local government” means any county or municipality of this state.
(4) “Owner” means any natural person or any legal entity, including, but not limited to, a corporation, partnership, firm, or trust owning, possessing, harboring, keeping, or having custody or control of a dog. In the case of a dog owned by a minor, the term “owner” includes the parents or person in loco parentis with custody of the minor.
(5) “Serious injury” means any physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death; results in death, broken or dislocated bones, lacerations requiring multiple sutures, or disfiguring avulsions; requires plastic surgery or admission to a hospital; or results in protracted impairment of health, including transmission of an infection or contagious disease, or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
(6) “Vicious dog” means a dog that inflicts serious injury on a person or causes serious injury to a person resulting from reasonable attempts to escape from the dog’s attack.
(b) No dog shall be classified as a dangerous dog or vicious dog for actions that occur while the dog is being used by a law enforcement or military officer to carry out the law enforcement or military officer’s official duties. No dog shall be classified as a dangerous dog or a vicious dog if the person injured by such dog was a person who, at the time, was committing a trespass, was abusing the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit an offense under Chapter 5 of Title 16.
O.C.G.A. § 4-8-23 – Classification of vicious or dangerous dog; notice; hearing; judicial review
(a) For purposes of this Code section, the term:
(1) “Animal shelter” shall have the same meaning as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 4-14-2.
(2) “Authority” means an animal control board or local board of health, as determined by the governing authority of a local government.
(3) “Mail” means to send by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery to the recipient’s last known address.
(b) Upon receiving a report of a dog believed to be subject to classification as a dangerous dog or vicious dog within a dog control officer’s jurisdiction, the dog control officer shall make such investigations as necessary to determine whether such dog is subject to classification as a dangerous dog or vicious dog.
(c) When a dog control officer determines that a dog is subject to classification as a dangerous dog or vicious dog, the dog control officer shall mail a dated notice to the dog’s owner within 72 hours. Such notice shall include a summary of the dog control officer’s determination and shall state that the owner has a right to request a hearing from the authority on the dog control officer’s determination within seven days after the date shown on the notice; provided, however, that if an authority has not been established for the jurisdiction, the owner shall be informed of the right to request a hearing from the probate court for such jurisdiction where the dog was found or confiscated within seven days after the date shown on the notice. The notice shall provide a form for requesting the hearing and shall state that if a hearing is not requested within the allotted time, the dog control officer’s determination shall become effective for all purposes under this article. If an owner cannot be located within ten days of a dog control officer’s determination that a dog is subject to classification as a dangerous dog or vicious dog, such dog may be released to an animal shelter or humanely euthanized, as determined by the dog control officer.
(d) When a hearing is requested by a dog owner in accordance with subsection (c) of this Code section, such hearing shall be scheduled within 30 days after the request is received; provided, however, that such hearing may be continued by the authority or probate court for good cause shown. At least ten days prior to the hearing, the authority or probate court conducting the hearing shall mail to the dog owner written notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing. At the hearing, the dog owner shall be given the opportunity to testify and present evidence and the authority or probate court conducting the hearing shall receive other evidence and testimony as may be reasonably necessary to sustain, modify, or overrule the dog control officer’s determination.
(e) Within ten days after the hearing, the authority or probate court which conducted the hearing shall mail written notice to the dog owner of its determination on the matter. If such determination is that the dog is a dangerous dog or a vicious dog, the notice of classification shall specify the date upon which that determination shall be effective. If the determination is that the dog is to be euthanized pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 4-8-26, the notice shall specify the date by which the euthanasia shall occur.
(f) Judicial review of the authority’s final decision may be had in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 15-9-30.9. Judicial review of a probate court’s final decision shall be in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 5-3-2 and costs shall be paid as provided in O.C.G.A. § 5-3-22.
O.C.G.A. § 4-8-29 – Unlawful acts by owner of a dangerous or vicious dog; violations
(a) It shall be unlawful for an owner of a dangerous dog to permit the dog to be off the owner’s property unless:
(1) The dog is restrained by a leash not to exceed six feet in length and is under the immediate physical control of a person capable of preventing the dog from engaging any other human or animal when necessary;
(2) The dog is contained in a closed and locked cage or crate; or
(3) The dog is working or training as a hunting dog, herding dog, or predator control dog.
(b) It shall be unlawful for an owner of a vicious dog to permit the dog to be:
(1) Outside an enclosure designed to securely confine the vicious dog while on the owner’s property or outside a securely locked and enclosed pen, fence, or structure suitable to prevent the vicious dog from leaving such property unless:
(A) The dog is muzzled and restrained by a leash not to exceed six feet in length and is under the immediate physical control of a person capable of preventing the dog from engaging any other human or animal when necessary; or
(B) The dog is contained in a closed and locked cage or crate; or
(2) Unattended with minors.
(c) A person who violates subsection (b) of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of high and aggravated nature.
(d) An owner with a previous conviction for a violation of this article whose classified dog causes serious injury to a human being under circumstances constituting another violation of this article shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years, a fine of not less than $5,000.00 nor more than $10,000.00, or both. In addition, the classified dog shall be euthanized at the cost of the owner.
(e) Any irregularity in classification proceedings shall not be a defense to any prosecution under this article so long as the owner of the dog received actual notice of the classification and did not pursue a civil remedy for the correction of the irregularity.
O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7 – Vicious animals, liability for injuries caused by
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.