Child Injury – Dog Bite – Using Violation of Leash Law to Prove Vicious Propensity

(This is Part 3 in a 4 Part Series on children and Georgia dog bite law. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 4 here.)

Happily,Georgia dog bite law has grown more favorable to injury victims over the last few decades. In 1985 the Georgia General Assembly (our state legislature) amended the dog liability statute to include the following provision:

“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 1985 amendment relaxed the traditional Georgia rule that the owner or keeper of a dog had to have knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity. It did not do away with that requirement altogether, however, instead it carved out an exception to it. The law since 1985 has been that if the injured person can show that the owner or keeper committed a violation of an applicable “leash law” than no actual knowledge of vicious propensity is required. Vicious propensity is inferred if the owner/keeper violates the leash law.

Subsequent appellate cases have interpreted the 1985 amendment to apply not only to “leash laws” but also restrictive ordinances that require an owner to keep a dog confined to the property.

The bottom line change with the 1985 amendment? If your child has been bit by a dog and you suspect the owner of keeper of that dog was violating a “leash law” or local restrictive ordinance, contact me so I can research the local leash laws and/or local restrictive ordinances. I can research city and county ordinances to see if (a) a “leash law” was in effect and (b) what the law requires owners/keepers of dogs to do.

Also keep in mind that some parks have rules that require owners/keepers to keep dogs (and cats!) on a leash. Stone Mountain Park, for instance, requires that all dogs and cats be kept on a leash no shorter than 6 feet. So even if the city or county in which your child was injured does not have a leash law, there may be other ways to establish that the owner/keeper had a duty to keep their animal on a leash.