Does Georgia Have a Leash Law?
There are thousands of dog owners in Georgia who enjoy the unconditional love and companionship of their dogs. While most canine companions are well-trained and gentle, any dog may bite or attack if the animal feels threatened.
Dog bites can cause serious injuries, which sometimes require significant medical attention including reconstructive surgery to address disfiguring scars. To reduce the prevalence of dog bites and attacks and hold negligent dog owners accountable, Georgia has enacted several laws that apply specifically to dog owners.
When dog owners violate these laws, they should be held accountable when their dogs sometimes hurt people. If you have been injured in a dog attack caused by a dog owner’s negligence, you may be entitled to seek financial compensation for your medical bills and related expenses. Dog bite claims represent a significant share of homeowners’ insurance payments. Contact the Georgia dog bite lawyers at Adamson & Cleveland, LLC, for a free consultation to learn more.
Which Counties and Municipalities in Georgia Have Leash Laws?
Many states have leash laws that require dog owners to maintain physical control of their dogs any time they are not confined to the owner’s property. These laws are designed to prevent dogs from running at large and biting or otherwise injuring people.
In Georgia, there is no statewide leash law. However, many counties and municipalities in Georgia have local leash ordinances that regulate when dogs should be restrained. For example, here are some animal ordinances in different parts of the state:
- Fulton County, home to the city of Atlanta, says it’s unlawful for an owner, custodian or keeper of a dog to allow the dog to run at large. In public, dogs must be restrained by a leash that is no more than six feet in length and controlled by a competent person.
- Gwinnett County makes it unlawful for a dog owner or possessor to fail to keep a dog under control. A dog is restrained if it is on a leash and under the control of a competent person or off a leash and obedient to the voice command of a person who is nearby. A dog is considered unrestrained when it is roaming at large, whether wearing a collar or not.
- DeKalb County imposes a “duty to restrain” on animal owners. Dogs in DeKalb County must be restrained by a leash or another reliable method of restraint and in the control of a competent person when away from their owners’ properties.
- Paulding County in northwest Georgia requires animal owners to keep their animals “under control” and prevent them from accessing other people’s properties without permission. Dogs must be on a leash when outside their owners’ properties.
When a dog owner fail to observe local leash laws and other dog ownership laws, they can be held liable for any injuries caused by their unleashed dogs. This means negligent dog owners may be financially responsible for medical bills, lost wages, and other injury-related expenses incurred by dog bite victims.
What Is Georgia’s Responsible Dog Ownership Law?
In 2012, the Georgia legislature enacted the Responsible Dog Ownership Law (RDOL), formerly known as the “Dangerous Dog Act.” The purpose of the law was to create more accountability for dog owners whose dogs are legally classified as “dangerous” or “vicious.”
A dog is considered dangerous by law if:
- The dog punctures a person’s skin with its teeth without causing serious injury.
- The dog aggressively attacks a person in a way that leads the person to believe the dog posed a threat, even if no injury occurs.
- The dog kills a pet animal on someone else’s property while at large.
A dog is considered vicious if:
- The dog directly causes serious injury to a person, such as by biting.
- The dog indirectly causes serious injury to a person who makes reasonable attempts to escape from the dog’s attack.
Owners of dogs classified as dangerous or vicious are required to register their dogs with the state and renew registration certificates annually. The owners of a dangerous or vicious dog also must carry at least $50,000 in liability insurance in case their dog attacks and injures someone.
What Rules Should GA Dog Owners Be Aware Of?
In addition to the Responsible Dog Owner Law and local leash ordinances, all Georgia dog owners should be aware of the following rules:
- The “one bite rule” – Many states have a one bite rule that protects dog owners from liability for dog bites if their dogs have never shown vicious tendencies. Georgia, however, has a mixed statute that holds dog owners strictly liable for bites that occur when their dogs are in violation of local leash ordinances.
If no leash law violation occurs, bite victims can only hold dog owners liable if they can prove that the dog should be classified as dangerous or vicious and the owner should have known the dog was dangerous or vicious.
- Classified dog ownership rule – No person in the state of Georgia is legally permitted to own more than one dog classified as vicious.
- Female dogs in heat rule – Dog owners and custodians are prohibited from allowing female dogs in heat to roam or run free beyond their property limits.
How to Check the Laws in Your County
If you are a dog owner or dog bite victim, you may have questions about the specific laws that apply to your situation. You can check the local dog ownership ordinances in your county or city by:
- Visiting your city or county website – Many official local websites publish the text of their ordinances online.
- Checking MuniCode.com – MuniCode.com is a free online resource that allows you to browse a database of city and county legal codes.
- Calling your local clerk’s office, library, or animal control office – County health departments and animal welfare and enforcement agencies may have information about local laws.
Contact a Georgia Dog Bite Attorney Today
At Adamson & Cleveland, LLC, our respected trial attorneys have nearly 40 years of combined experience serving injured victims in Georgia, including those seriously injured in dog bite incidents. We understand Georgia leash laws, and our personalized approach and effective legal strategies have allowed us to recover more than $150 million in compensation for our clients.
When you retain our services, you can count on 24/7 responsiveness by phone, text, and email. Our initial case reviews are always free with no risk or obligation to you. Contact our law offices today to speak with a compassionate attorney about the details of your dog bite law case.
As a child, Claudine Wilkins knew she wanted to help victims, especially those who could not speak for themselves. Always speaking up for those who were bullied or hurt, she gravitated towards children and animals. Initially, she wanted to be a veterinarian, but she soon realized that her true calling was the law, both in standing up for victims and in drafting legislation to protect people and animals.