Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Governor Deal has recently signed a change to the law regarding dog bites. This change not only affects pet owners, but also HOA boards regarding how they address pets within their communities. We think its an important topic to discuss, the ensure that Boards are aware of both the issue and the recent changes to the law. 

 Georgia has historically been more pro-pet owner than other states, permitting a first-bite rule (one free bite) and requiring proof that an owner was aware of his/her pet being dangerous before being held personally responsible for an attack.

 Among the changes by House Bill 685 to section 4-8 of the Georgia Statutes:
  1. Anyone with a classified dangerous dog must register annually with the local authority, and only one dangerous pet per domicile is permitted.
  2. The owner is required to carry liability insurance.
  3. Signage, micro chipping, and securing of premises is required.
  4. Dangerous pets may not be transferred to new owners – but must be euthanized if the current owner chooses to give them up.
  5. A second violation of the pet law is a felony resulting in 1 to 10 years in prison and possibly a $5K to $10K fine.

You may be wondering what makes a dog "dangerous." A dog may be classified as dangerous if:

It causes a substantial puncture (not just a nip).

It aggressively acts to a point that a person(s) reasonably believes an imminent threat of serious injury would occur (not just growling or barking or showing teeth) whether or not they are successfully attacked.

It kills another pet.

All Boards should be reviewing how this legislation interfaces with their community rules on pets, and as always they should contact law enforcement or animal control to handle these issues - rather than attempting to enforce state or federal regulations on their own.

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