When someone is taking care of a dog or has control over it, the caretaker might bear legal responsibility if the dog winds up attacking and causing someone injury. But what about at a vet’s office? Can a vet be liable for a dog bite?

Yes. Georgia’s dog bite rule applies not only to owners, but to veterinarians, dog kennels, and other dog handlers as well.

But Georgia has very complex dog attack liability laws and negligence elements that are rather hard for victims to prove. And, when the attack involves a vet or a kennel, it adds an additional layer or complexity to the case, making it even more challenging to pursue.

Whom can a victim hold liable for a dog attack?

When another person’s dog harms someone, Georgia law provides that the victim can seek financial recovery for damages from the at-fault party (defendant) if certain conditions apply. Usually the defendant is the dog owner, but this may not be the case if the attack occurred at a vet’s office or at a kennel.

According to Georgia Code 51-2-7, liability for a dog attack applies to dog owners and dog “keepers” alike. The party that a victim can hold liable does not necessarily have to be the owner; it can be any party (individual or business) that has control and/or custody over the dog, such as the vet’s office, a groomer, a doggie day care provider, or other dog handler.

How do I establish liability when a vet or kennel is involved?

Proving liability is challenging feat in cases that involve vets or kennels. In Georgia, there are two ways in which to pursue a dog bite claim and establish liability. 

  • You can establish the following three grounds: the dog was dangerous, the handler knew the dog was dangerous, and she allowed the dog to roam free or failed to properly manage it.
  • You can prove the following two grounds: the dog was not on a leash or at heel (when required by local ordinance) and the handler/keeper managed the dog carelessly or allowed it to roam free. (Under this option, you do not have to proof that the handler/keeper knew the dog was dangerous.)

Why are vet/kennel dog attack cases so hard to prove?

There are several challenges that can arise in meeting some of the above grounds for filing a dog attack lawsuit or claim. Vets and kennels often refute liability using various defenses. For instance, they may say they did not know the dog was vicious or they may deny they violated a local ordinance.

There are several types of evidence that can be used for proving your case, though. A good knowledge of local dog ordinances can be helpful, as can the dog’s vet records. If the records indicate the dog had previously bitten someone, it can help prove that the dog was in fact dangerous, and that vet’s office had knowledge of the potential viciousness. If there is surveillance video at the facility, that can be instrumental to establishing liability too, e.g., footage of a worker at the kennel taking the dog for a walk sans leash, despite a leach ordinance.

It is important to note that liability may not apply if the injured person provoked the attack (for instance, if she was teasing the dog).

Can the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz help with my case?

Dog bite attorney Jason R. Schultz has helped numerous victims with their dog attack cases in Georgia, including those against negligent vets and kennels. We would be happy to review your case and see how we can help. If we are able to gather adequate proof of liability, we can help victims maximize their settlements and recover damages such as the following.

  • Medical costs
  • Lost current and future wages
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Pain, suffering, and mental anguish

Contact the office at 404-474-0804 for a free consultation.