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Who’s liable after a dog bite?

On Behalf of | May 28, 2024 | Injuries |

Americans are increasingly treating pets as cherished family members, with rising demand for specialized diets, training schools and cozy beds. However, it’s crucial to remember that even the friendliest dog may attack if provoked.

Although you can hold a pet owner accountable for bite injuries, Georgia law considers dogs harmless unless proven otherwise. To recover compensation, you must prove that the dog that bit you is dangerous.

About Georgia’s Responsible Dog Owner Act

In Georgia, pet owners may be held liable if their unrestrained or unprovoked dog causes significant injury to another person or animal. The attack must result in more than a minor nip or scratch but must be serious enough to require multiple sutures or hospital admission, cause a health impairment or create a risk of death.

To bring a claim against a pet owner, you must prove the following:

  • You did not provoke the dog
  • The dog owner should have known their dog was aggressive
  • The dog owner did nothing to prevent the attack

Otherwise, the dog owner may escape liability if they can prove that you provoked the dog.

What constitutes provocation?

There are many behaviors that may cause a dog to feel threatened enough to attack. Some examples of provocation include:

  • Teasing: Pulling a dog’s tail, ears or other body parts
  • Approaching in a threatening manner: Looming over a dog, making direct eye contact or petting it from above
  • Disturbing: Touching a dog while it is eating or attempting to take something it owns, such as a toy
  • Hitting: Physically harming a dog, whether by hitting it or throwing something at it
  • Threatening the dog owner: Attacking or appearing aggressive toward a dog’s owner

What if you accidentally provoked the dog? If you are unsure whether your actions might have provoked the dog, consider all interactions leading up to the attack. Witness accounts, CCTV footage and medical documentation may help strengthen your claim.

Dog bite wounds sometimes cause life-long trauma and permanent damage. However, holding a pet owner liable is not always straightforward. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in personal injury can provide you with the guidance needed to understand your rights and explore your legal options.

Practice caution before engaging a dog

Not all dogs are aggressive, but it’s always wise to ask the owner for permission before approaching any dog. This simple precaution promotes safe interactions.


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