Leash laws are designed to prevent attacks of the kind that took place on the campus of Carver High School yesterday. Students on lunch break at the high school, which is located in Fulton County, Georgia, were on the baseball field when the dog attack occurred. Witnesses told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that what appeared to be two pit bull terriers charged onto the field at around 1 pm, but Fulton County Animal Services later confirmed that the animals were Rottweilers. Both are considered by many to be dangerous breeds.
One male student received a severe dog bite to the face, and was saved only by the high school’s quick-thinking principal. The student was transported to Grady Memorial Health Hospital, where he awaits reconstructive surgery. His father says the 16-year-old was in so much pain that he had to be sedated and more than likely will need two or more surgeries to repair the damage that was done to his face. The owner of the animals has yet to come forward. There is no word of what prompted the attack and, as of today, the vicious dogs have eluded capture. It’s the second dog bite attack of a minor that has made Atlanta news this week and has people once again turning an eye to the Georgia law that governs these cases.
Georgia’s dog bite statute provides the following:
A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. 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. O.C.G.A. §51-2-7.
Aside from the general dog bite statute, each city may also have its own ordinance governing dog bites and leash laws – a fact which tends to add to the complexity of dog bite cases. If you are attacked a dog bite attorney will be best equipped to research the local laws that may be most pertinent to your particular case.
Under the general Georgia dog bite law, there are two ways that a dog owner may be held liable for his dog’s actions. The scienter (or knowledge of wrongdoing) ground requires proof of three elements: The bite victim must prove the animal was dangerous or vicious, that defendant had the requisite degree of knowledge, and that defendant either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to roam untethered.
The city ordinance ground typically requires proof of only two elements: Plaintiff must prove the animal was not at heel or on a leash as required, and that the defendant either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to go freely.
In cases where the dog owner is known, the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy will generally provide coverage. But how does a victim recover if an owner is not ascertained, as may be the case in yesterday’s attack? The potential plaintiff in that case has several options, including possibly pursuing a claim for negligence or premises liability against the landlord of the premises where the attack occurred.
If the victim is up against a statute of limitations, a claim may be filed against a “John Doe” while discovery tools are used to uncover the owner’s actual identity. In most instances, however, the best way to determine your options is by consulting with an attorney experienced in the field. If you’ve been injured by a dog bite and desire help assessing your needs, contact a skilled personal injury lawyer today.