Kaufman Law, P.C. has more than 45 years of experience handling dog bite and animal attack claims in Atlanta. Our team understands the laws involved in these cases, and the elements a plaintiff (the injured party) needs to prove liability. We know that most dog bites aren’t the dog’s fault – they trace back to a negligent owner or keeper. It is our job to identify this party, build a case against him or her based on Georgia laws, and secure maximum compensation for victims with puncture wounds, lacerations, and permanent scarring or disfigurement from a dog attack.
Atlanta Dog Bite Laws
Pursuing compensation comes down to understanding Georgia’s – and more specifically, Atlanta’s – dog bite laws. The City of Atlanta maintains unique regulations when it comes to animal control and ownership. Within city limits, all dogs must be on leashes at all times in public spaces, unless they are designated dog parks. Walking dogs off leash can lead to a citation from Atlanta police officers.
Owners must have their pets within sight and under voice control at all times, even when in off-leash dog parks. If a dog displays aggressive behavior, the owner has a duty to control or remove the dog from the area. Georgia’s dog bite laws protect pet owners more than the laws in many other states. Section 51-2-7 of the Georgia Code places liability for any dog bite or attack with the owner or keeper of the animal, but only if the plaintiff can prove that the dog was vicious or dangerous, the owner was careless/negligent, and that the plaintiff didn’t provoke the dog.
In some states, an owner is strictly liable for dog bites regardless of the situation. In Georgia, the injured party bears a burden of proof. The statute refers to dog bites as well as other types of harms, such as falling from a dog jumping on a person. If the dog’s owner broke any of Atlanta’s ownership/control laws, this could be proof of negligence. An attorney can help dog bite victims assign fault for broken Atlanta laws or acts of negligence in pet ownership.
Statistics of Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites occur on a daily basis around the U.S. Most are not severe enough to cause serious damage and thousands in medical bills, but even minor dog bite injuries can be painful and lead to financial losses. Unfortunately, when some dogs bite, they don’t let go. Traumatic dog attacks can result in life-threatening and fatalities, especially in children and the elderly. From 2005 to 2016, 392 people in the U.S. died from canine attacks. In 2016, 42% of fatal dog bite victims were children under the age of nine. Infants three to six days old accounted for 31% of child dog bite deaths in the country.
There was a recent fatal dog attack in Atlanta that took the life of one child, six-year-old Logan Braatz, and critically injured another. Two loose dogs, reported as a pit bull and pit bull mix, attacked the children while on their way to the bus stop. Neighbors say the dogs were often loose around the area. This is just one of many examples of dog bite attacks that have occurred in and around Atlanta. The dog owner’s negligence is obvious in this case, as he allowed his two dogs to run loose despite city pet control ordinances. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a dog attack in Atlanta, secure an attorney as soon as possible.
What to Do If a Dog Has Bitten You
If a dog has bitten you, the first thing you should do is record information about the incident. Get the name of the pet’s owner, if available, and write a description of the dog that attacked you. Get the names of any eyewitnesses who saw the attack. Seek medical attention right away for your injuries. Dog bites have a high risk of infection, and may require antibiotics. All Atlanta dogs must have current vaccinations. If the dog’s shots are not up to date, you may need additional treatment to prevent diseases that could result from a dog bite, such as:
- Capnocytophaga , a bacterial infection
- Pasteurella, a bacterial infection
- MRSA (Staph infection)
Although contracting rabies from a dog bite is rare, it is one of the most serious diseases possible in a dog attack. Rabies in humans can lead to headache and fever. If left untreated, it can result in hallucinations, paralysis, confusion, hydrophobia, and eventually death. There is no effective treatment for rabies once the illness has developed symptoms. Medical treatment directly after possible exposure is the only way to prevent the virus from becoming deadly. Go to the hospital for treatment immediately after a dog bite incident in Atlanta. Once you’re on the mend, consider your legal options against the dog’s owner with help from an attorney.
Preventing Dog Bite Injuries
Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to dog bite injuries. Children are the most at risk. Always supervise your child when walking around your neighborhood. If you notice loose or roaming dogs, call animal control right away. Sadly, many dog attacks involve family pets. Educate your children about when and how to approach dogs, even those in the family. The elderly population is at the second-highest risk of dog attacks. Follow these general tips to reduce the risk of a dog bite:
- Never leave an infant or toddler alone with any breed of dog.
- Never approach a pack of loose dogs you don’t know.
- Do not try to split up a fight between two or more dogs.
- Do not pet a dog without first letting it see and smell you.
- Don’t bother a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
While any breed of dog may attack, fatal dog bites occur the most often from pit bulls, Rottweilers, and American bulldogs. Stay vigilant around these breeds in particular. Don’t assume a family pet is safe – dog attacks are unpredictable, and can happen in the blink of an eye.
If you believe a dog is about to attack you, remain motionless and avoid eye contact with the animal. Resist the urge to run away. Give commands such as “No,” or “Go home,” in a loud, assertive voice. If the dog loses interest, slowly back away until you no longer see the dog. Call animal control for a dangerous dog that’s at large.
Liability Concerns with Dog Bites
An injured person must prove that a dog’s owner knew or reasonably should have known that the animal is “vicious” or “dangerous.” This element of proof may be as simple as showing that the owner should have had the dog under leash or other control at the time of the attack. Careless ownership must have contributed to the incident. For example, if an owner leaves his or her gate unlatched, allowing a dog to escape and roam free. Finally, the plaintiff must be able to prove that he or she did not provoke the dog. Eyewitness interviews may be able to help prove liability for a dog attack in Atlanta.
If a plaintiff can prove the above-mentioned elements, the owner will be liable to pay for the victim’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and emotional trauma. According to Georgia law, any owner in control of a dangerous dog must register the dog every year, have a secure enclosure for the dog, and post warning signs at all entrances. If the dog is “vicious,” or it has inflicted serious personal injury in the past, the owner must microchip the pet and maintain at least $50,000 in liability insurance to cover costs of a possible attack. Vicious dogs that attack a second time face euthanization, while the owner may receive fines and face imprisonment. Additionally, if a dog kills or injures livestock, the owner is liable for damages.
When to Contact a Dog Bite Attorney
If a dog in Atlanta caused significant injuries and real damages, contact an attorney. It’s important to protect your rights as a dog attack victim. Since the law tends to favor the dog owner and not the victim, you need a lawyer to maximize your odds of a satisfactory ruling. In the event of a fatal dog attack, always retain a lawyer. You may need to file a wrongful death claim against the owner/controller of the dog and potentially other parties. Filing personal injury, premises liability, or wrongful death claim after a dog attack can be the best way to receive monetary compensation for your harms. For a free consultation about your dog bite incident, contact Kaufman Law, P.C. today.