Jun 14, 2024 Michael M. Day Law Firm

Do Dog Bite Rules Apply to Attacks by Other Animals?

Georgia has specific laws requiring dog owners to take responsibility for their animals and the harm they cause. But what about harm caused by other pets, such as a snake or a ferret? Or what if someone is injured by animals that aren’t pets, such as livestock or wild animals? Can the owner of other types of animals be held liable if their animal causes injuries?

While Georgia’s “Responsible Dog Ownership Law” does refer only to dogs, there are other provisions in the Official Code of Georgia that pertain to animals beyond dogs. In addition, premises liability can also play a role in assessing responsibility for an animal attack.

Attacks by “Vicious or Dangerous” Animals

Under Section 51-2-7- of the Georgia Code, if someone owns or keeps any type of animal considered “vicious or dangerous,” that person can be held liable for injuries caused by that animal in certain circumstances.

First, to be liable under this statute, the owner or keeper of the animals must either let the animal go free or be careless in managing the animal. Second, the person who was hurt must not have done something to provoke the attack. Third, the animal must not be of a type that is specifically exempted from this statute. The language of the statute appears not to apply in cases of attacks by roosters and livestock. 

In a case where a pet sitter was attacked by a rooster while collecting eggs, the court dismissed the pet sitter’s claim for liability, not because the rooster was covered by an exemption in the statute but because the court found that the pet sitter didn’t present evidence to show that the owners knew of the animal’s “dangerous temperament” or that their management of the rooster had been careless. The owners had been attacked by the rooster before but not injured to the degree that the pet sitter was, so the court seems to say that they had no knowledge that the animal was dangerous or vicious. Moreover, the court noted that the family warned the pet sitter to take precautions such as holding a trash can lid but she failed to take such precautions.

The statute does not define when an animal is considered vicious or dangerous. However, this case implies that the owner must know that the animal has a dangerous temperament before they can be held liable for mismanaging it. The only clarification in the statute regarding whether or not an animal is vicious is that this is presumed if a local ordinance requires this type of animal to be on a leash or at heel—in other words, if it is a dog.

Attacks by Wild Animals

Someone who keeps a wild animal as a pet could presumably be held liable under the statute described above if there is proof that the owner knew the animal had the capability of being vicious or dangerous. Some wild animals are considered “inherently dangerous to human beings” under state law and require a license and liability insurance to handle. The animals on this lengthy list include bears, wolves, and chimpanzees. An attack by a kept animal on this list could subject the owner to liability.

But what about a situation where someone is attacked by wild animals that aren’t being kept? The owner of the premises where the attack occurred could potentially be held responsible under the theory of premises liability if the property owner did or failed to do something to create a risk for those invited onto the property. For instance, if the owner of a rental property knew that bears frequently tried to open the trash cans and the owner failed to provide secure cans and warn renters of the risk, the owner could be held liable if a renter was attacked by a bear while taking out the trash. Or if the owner of a store knew that hornets had built a nest by the door but failed to remove the nest or take steps to contain the hornets, then the owner could be liable for shoppers who were stung. 

If you can prove that the owner or manager of the property knew of the danger from the animals and failed to take reasonable steps to protect visitors on the property, they can be liable. What is reasonable varies according to the circumstances. Sometimes a warning sign may be enough but in other situations a barrier or other protective measure may be required.

Statute of Limitations for Injuries Caused by Animal Attacks

If someone is injured in an animal attack and wants to file a claim against the owner of the animal or the property where the attack occurred, they will need to file the claim within the deadline set by the statute of limitations. Even if the claim is handled by an insurance company settlement and never needs to go to court, the injured person must act before the statutory deadline. They must prepare and file a claim within two years of the date of the attack. 

It is usually best to begin working on a claim long before the deadline becomes an issue. That’s because to get compensation for an injury, you need proof to show how it occurred and how the owner of the animal or property acted irresponsibly. It is easiest to collect this evidence right after the incident. There may be video footage showing the attack or incidents leading up to it, but the footage could be recorded over unless you act to preserve it. The memories of witnesses will fade, and the scene of the attack will change. The sooner you can gather and preserve evidence to demonstrate liability, the better likelihood you have of obtaining compensation for your pain, suffering, medical expenses, time lost from work, and other effects of the injuries.

Michael M. Day Law Firm, LLC Helps Animal Attack Victims Get Proper Compensation

When the negligence of an animal owner or property owner causes you to suffer injuries in an animal attack, it is only fair to hold the owner accountable for your losses. The dedicated team at Michael M. Day Law Firm, LLC, can help you collect evidence and build a strong case to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn what your case could be worth.