New Dog Bite Laws and Providing Water to Pets – WTVM Legal Break

Injury & Accident Attorney Serving Nearby Areas of Columbus & Fort Benning, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama

Gary Bruce discusses recent changes to Georgia dog bite laws and takes a viewer question about providing water for pets visiting restaurants. Regarding dog bite laws, Georgia used to have a one bite rule. If a dog had never bitten anyone before and the owner was not on notice that the dog would bite, there was rarely liability for a dog’s first bite. A new Georgia law has been created which charges the owner with having knowledge of a dog’s propensities – if your dog has never bitten anyone, but it has charged at or jumped on someone you may still be considered to have notice of your dog’s dangerous behavior. This new Georgia law is more similar to the law in Alabama, which looks to the tendencies of an individual dog, but also charges dog owners with having knowledge of the tendencies of the breed of dog they own.

This week’s viewer question comes from a restaurant in downtown Columbus, Georgia. The viewer would like to know if there is any liability in providing water for pets that come to the restaurant. Lawyer Gary Bruce advises that you may be breaching a duty if the presence of the water creates a hazard for other patrons. Otherwise, as long as the dog isn’t hurt by the water there are likely no other penalties for providing water. In the case that a pet is injured or killed, the owner can only recover the value of the pet itself. Georgia law does not provide for pain and suffering damages for the loss of a pet.

We have been proudly serving Columbus, Ft. Benning, LaGrange, Salem, Phenix City, Opelika, Eufaula, and Auburn for 25 years. If you have been injured by a pet, please call the Law Offices of Gary Bruce at 706-596-1446 or email to set up a meeting and free, confidential consultation.


Narrator: This is Legal Break on WTVM with attorney Gary Bruce, answering your questions about the law.

Maureen: Hello there. Well Gary, we have some questions today. One of them comes to us about a new case that’s happening in Georgia, and it’s regarding dog bites. Tell us a little bit about the rules and/or laws involved.

Gary: Well there has been some new developments in Georgia law relating to dog bites, so the old law was this: Every dog gets a free bite. That was kind of the law, that’s what you learned in law school 30-some years ago. And that really just alludes to this: You’re entitled to assume your dogs gonna be okay, until you’re on notice that the dogs a problem. And then the distinction was, well if what if he just jumps on people and doesn’t bite, you know. What if he’s growls a lot and scares people, and jumps on them but doesn’t bite. And then he bites somebody. Are you on notice, and so what’s happened- and Alabama law has been a little better about this over the years. Alabama law says we look to the tendencies of the dog, and you have a duty to control your dog. It’s a little more- gives people that are victims of dog bites and dog injuries a little more latitude. But in Georgia it was a little bit more strict until recently. So the law is now, if you know your dog’s a problem, take care of your dog, you know. And there’s other reasons that you can be responsible for a dog. If you if there’s a leash law in your community, then you have a duty- then under the law to keep your dog under control,  and you know from jumping on people. And that’s what happens as much as anything when we see dog bites, but we also see dog jumps. You know, that hurts kids and so anyway we want to avoid all that. And there can be liability if you know your dog has a tendency toward that, breed or not. The breed is sometimes an issue in Alabama, but in Georgia it’s not really a breed issue. But if you know it’s kind of a problem, then protect people from your dog, you have a duty to do that.

Maureen: Very good. And we have a question, our man on the street question is Marlene from the Cantina and she’s going to ask it.

Marlene: What are the legal ramifications if my establishment were to provide water to an owner of a pet on our patio?

Gary: Can you give water to the pet? Well not the owner of the pet. Yeah I think, you know, the same kind of rules pply. If you’re creating a hazard for others by doing that, then I think you may have a duty that you breached. But otherwise, if you don’t hurt the dog then I don’t see where there’s any issue with that. Now what are the damages if you do hurt the dog. I think that’s an interesting question because most people are very attached to their pets, and if you lose a pet it impacts their life in a big way. But the law in Georgia says this: a pet has the value that it would take to buy another pet. There’s no pain and suffering, there’s no emotional relief, it’s just about the cost of an animal. So anyway very good questions, thank you all.