Dog Bites and the Law in Savannah
Dog bite safety is something every responsible dog owner should be aware of. Here is a brief overview of the laws and ordinances applicable in Savannah and Chatham County largely reflect those of the State of Georgia.
The Chatham County Health Director has the authority to determine whether a dog is “dangerous.” Any dog observed or “reliably believed” to have “bitten or attacked a human or animal” is subject to impoundment by Animal Control officials. Dog owners are subject to Title 51, Section 51-2-6 of the Georgia Code, and assume significant responsibility for the behavior of their dogs. The principles outlined in this law apply to bites on—or off—an owner’s property. (These laws also apply to those who own “a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind”).
The text of Title 51, Section 51-2-6, highlights other mandates. An owner must maintain control of his or her dog at all times. If, for example, the dog injures someone without provocation, then the owner “may be liable in damages” to the injured party. In order to prove “vicious propensity,” one need only to demonstrate (according to city, county, or state law) that the animal must be “at heel or on a leash” but was not at the time of injury.
Bottom line, if it’s your dog, then it is your responsibility to control it. In practice, this means keeping it in a fenced enclosure or safely leashed when out walking.
Dog Bite Prevention Tips
The U.S. is home to more than 78 million pet dogs. While your furry friend can be great fun, keep in mind that pet ownership isn’t all fetch and Frisbee: Dog bites are a leading cause of doctor and hospital visits, with more than 4.5 million people bitten by dogs each year. Most of the 885,000 bites that require medical attention sadly involve children between 5 and 9 years old, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dog bites are also a surprisingly common cause of homeowners’ insurance claims, with more than one-third of all liability claim dollars paid in 2012, according to a recent statement by the Insurance Information Institute. The CDC says more than 31,000 Americans underwent reconstructive surgery in 2006 as a result of dog bites.
If you’re a dog owner, be sure to take your dog to obedience training and teach family members how to properly play with your pet. Games such as fetch are fine, but rough games like tug-of-war may encourage aggression in pets and may lead to biting.
Always check with a dog’s owner before approaching an unfamiliar dog—even if it’s a friendly looking Fido. Even then, use caution. One out of every five dogs is adopted from a shelter, and that means the potential for past mistreatment and unpredictable behavior. Kirsten Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States, cites these facts to consider:
- 80 percent of dog-bite incidents involving children are inflicted by a family dog (30 percent) or a neighbor’s dog (50 percent).
- 75 percent of fatal dog bites are inflicted on family members or guests on the family’s property.
- 8 percent of dog bites involving adults were work-related, inflicted on such workers as meter readers, postal workers, and home-repair contractors.
Check with your local Safeco agent, Lee Hill & Rowe Insurance in Savannah, Georgia at 912-525-3360 if you have any questions about your policy or coverage for a new pet. Be sure to ask if umbrella insurance, which may provide extra liability coverage in the event of a lawsuit, is right for you.