You may have heard that every dog gets one bite, and it’s true that some states have a “one-bite” law. In those states, dog owners are not automatically liable for harm caused by a dog, unless that dog has attacked or bitten someone in the past. How could the owner know the dog is dangerous, one might argue, unless that dog has been aggressive in the past?
Georgia’s law, however, is a little bit different. We could call it a “modified” one-bite rule. In Georgia, city laws called “ordinances” come into play. Most cities and localities have “leash laws”. The law presumes that a dog owner is responsible for any injury caused by the dog if: (1) there is a city ordinance requiring the animal to be on a leash or at the heel, and (2) the dog is off leash when the bite occurs. Across Atlanta, in almost all public areas, dogs are required to be on a leash. (Except for dog parks, of course). Therefore, in most places in Georgia, the owner of an off-leash animal is liable for injuries caused by that animal, because they allowed the animal to roam free, negligently failing to control the animal.
There is no separate requirement to prove that the dog is “vicious” or “dangerous” or that the dog had behaved aggressively before. As long as there was a leash law, and the owner ignored it by having the dog off-leash, the statute imposes liability on the owner for any resulting injuries.