Animal attacks aren’t just stories you see on television: they happen in real life. When they do, it’s important to understand a victim’s legal rights when the attack occurs on someone else’s property. In some circumstances, the victim may be entitled to compensation for the damages suffered through a premises liability claim.

When is a property owner liable for an animal attack?

The first thing that victims must consider is whether this was a wild or domesticated animal attack. In many situations a property owner is not liable for an attack involving a wild animal. If a wild animal were to enter the property and cause injury, there’s often no way that the homeowner could have foreseen it or prevented it.

However, there could be an exception; for instance, if the individual had been illegally feeding an animal. Of course, this is both a rare and complicated occurrence that would require legal advice.

But there are also times when a property owner is in possession of a wild (exotic) animal. In Georgia, this is against the law unless the individual has received a wild animal license, which is “issued only to persons engaged in the wholesale or retail wild animal business or persons exhibiting wild animals to the public.” Further, permits are only granted to individuals for scientific and educational purposes.

Generally, individuals may not keep native wildlife or exotic animals as pets in Georgia. Those who do may be legally liable if the animal attacks or otherwise injuries a visitor on the property.

With a domesticated animal, such as a dog, it could still be challenging to hold an owner liable if an attack occurs on their property. There are two basic ways the victim of a dog attack can establish owner liability.

The first is proving three things:

  • the animal was vicious or dangerous;
  • the owner had knowledge that the dog was vicious or dangerous; and
  • the owner was negligent in managing the animal.

If the first two can be proven, the last might be established a number of ways; for instance, showing how the owner had a pen on his/her property and didn’t latch the gate.

The second way of establishing liability is based on local ordinances. Claimants must establish that the owner violated local leash laws by failing to keep the dog on a leash and allowed it to go at liberty.

The Georgia Responsible Dog Ownership Law lists extensive rules for owning a ‘dangerous’ or ‘vicious’ dog. These include things like posting signs warning guests that a dangerous dog is on premises at each entrance to the home and restricting leashes to 6 feet in length.

Find Legal Help in Atlanta to Pursue an Owner Liability Case

Premises liability law, coupled with dog bite and other animal laws, can make this type of case very difficult to navigate. It’s best to consult an attorney to learn if you have a case and what types of evidence will be necessary to establish the animal owner’s liability and the extent of your damages.

Contact Jason R. Schultz if you’re in the Atlanta area and require legal assistance. You can call us at 404-474-0804 or use our contact page to set up an appointment to discuss your case.