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What is Georgia's "Responsible Dog Ownership Law"?

In 2012, Georgia Governor Deal signed the "Responsible Dog Ownership Law" into law, citing that it would safeguard the common public and their furry friends from harm and death caused by the attacks of dangerous dogs. The goal of the legislature was to provide minimal, statewide standards. However, as Michigan State University's Legal and Historical Animal Center's page on the subject indicates, the legislature is far from "minimal."

The law, which is easily three pages of text, clarifies the classification of dogs subsequent to qualifying events and details the responsibility of dog owners, regardless of their dogs' classifications. It also outlines the consequences for noncompliance. What the law does not do, however, is restrict cities or counties from adding their own requirements or penalties to the already extensive bill.

In the bill, you will find information on what it means to own a "dangerous dog." A dangerous dog is one that punctures a person's flesh with his or her teeth but without causing serious harm. Georgia also classifies a dangerous dog as one that aggressively attacks in a manner that suggests a threat is imminent, or that kills a pet animal while off the owner's property.

The legislature also clarifies what it means to own a "vicious dog." A vicious dog does not just threaten harm but actually causes it. The state may also classify a dog as vicious if a person who attempts to escape the animal's attacks sustains injury by falling, getting hit by a vehicle or running into a fixed object.

The bill further outlines a dangerous or vicious dog owner's responsibilities. Those include maintaining a secured, locked enclosure; keeping the dog on a leash of not more than six feet in length when out in public; registering the dog with the county within 30 days of moving; post a clearly visible warning of the "Vicious" dog at all entrances to the premises; and keeping the dog muzzled when out in public, among other requirements.

If a person fails to comply with dangerous or vicious dog requirements, he or she risks getting charged with an aggravated misdemeanor or even a felony. A felony violation carries with it a term of imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 10, a fine of between $5,000 and $10,000 or both.

The law includes several other provisions as well. Some deal with the euthanasia of a dangerous dog, ownership, serious injury, authority and government immunity, amongst other things.

The content in this post is not meant to be legal advice. It is for educational purposes only. 

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