Person bring dog into place of business

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Person bring dog into place of business

If a person brings a dog into a place of business and the dog bites another patron of the business, who is responsible for the damages the dog owner or the business owner?

Asked on May 12, 2009 under Personal Injury, Georgia

Answers:

L.M., Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

 

Georgia's dog bite laws are different from almost every other state.  It puts the onus on the victim rather than the dog owner.  There are two ways that an animal owner or other defendant may be held responsible for a dog bite.  One is by virtue of knowledge or, in legal terms, "scienter".  The victim must prove that the animal was dangerous or vicious, that the defendant knew the animal was dangerous or vicious, and that the defendent either carelessly managed the dog or allowed it to go free (off leash).  The other way is based on the dog bite ordinance which requires proof of two elements.  The victim must prove that the dog was not at heel or on a leash as required and that the defendant carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to go at liberty.  So, to prove liability under this statute, the claim can be based on either a violation of a leash law or the dog owner's knowledge that the dog had the temperament or propensity to bite people.  As for the owner of the place of business, the dog statute does not address this issue and you could try to hold him responsible for allowing the dog inside.  Given the leniency of the laws, however, I don't think you'll have a good case.

 

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.  The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated fowl including roosters with spurs.  The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated livestock. 

OCGA 51-2-7 provides two ways that an animal owner (or handler) may be found liable for injuries inflicted by his animal:

  • The scienter ground requires proof of three elements. Specifically, the victim must prove that the animal was dangerous or vicious, that the defendant had the requisite degree of knowledge (traditionally called “scienter”), and that the defendant either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to go at liberty.

  • The ordinance ground requires proof of two elements. The plaintiff must prove that the animal was not at heel or on a leash as required by a local ordinance, and that the defendant either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to go at liberty.

It should be noted that the ordinance ground does not require any knowledge of dangerousness or viciousness. The second sentence of OCGA 51-2-7 eliminates that requirement. Johnston V. Warendh, 252 Ga. App. 674 (2001) (“the second sentence ... creates liability based upon a violation of a local or county ordinance and requires no proof of scienter”).

To prove liability under the ordinance ground provided by OCGA 51-2-7, the victim must show that, in the words of the statute, “the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government.”

So, to prove liability under this statute, the claim can be based on either a violation of a leash law or the dog owner's knowledge that the dog had the temperament or propensity to bite people.


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