Do GA state dog laws go far enough? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Do GA state dog laws go far enough?

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

January 6, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - State law in Georgia defines a vicious dog as any dog that inflicts severe injury on a human without provocation, but to be declared vicious, the dog must have bitten people on at least two occasions.

Some cities don't think the state laws go far enough. They've enacted stronger local laws to deal with dangerous dogs.

In September, two American bulldogs attacked and killed an Australian Shepherd in the Indian Oaks Subdivision. The shepherd's owner shot and killed one of the bulldogs. That incident raised concerns about dog dangers in Leesburg. Since then, the City Council has put more teeth in its dogs ordinance to prevent future attacks on humans.

"We said potentially dangerous dogs would include not just those that attack human beings but also those that would attack other domestic animals, because that's a good indication that the dog is fairly dangerous," said Burt Gregory, Barnes, Nesmith, Edison, and Gregory in Americus.

Albany Humane Society Officials say not enough communities deal with the issue, they say only about half of Georgia's 159 counties have animal control officials, leash laws, or ordinances to protect against dangerous or vicious dogs.

"Some of the cities had not taken the steps Leesburg had taken to update their ordinance and still had very minimal ordinances on the books," said Gregory.

The Albany City Commission isn't one of them, in fact Leesburg based its new law on Albany's ordinance which also goes further than the state law definition for dangerous and vicious dogs.

"They went as so far as to add that if a dog is chained then that can be considered a potentially dangerous dog without there having to be an actual injury or provocation of injury," said Nathan Davis, Albany City Attorney.

They also regulate enclosures, so dogs don't become enraged. "They set a minimum size of 200 square feet, the theory being that's maybe large enough that the dog can get some exercise and not feel so confined and be dangerous," said Davis.

In Dougherty County last year alone, there were 67 dog bites cases reported, although none were classified as a vicious attack.

Leesburg's ordinance will require pet owners to register their dogs with the city if they bite another domesticated animal making them a potentially dangerous dog. They could also face fines and necessary liability insurance.

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