Newly proposed bill in Georgia may be all bark, no bite

House Bill 313, introduced to the Georgia legislature by Representative Keisha Waites has some people wondering if maybe the lawmaker is secretly just a "cat person."

The Bill, if approved, would make it much more difficult for dog breeders, rescue agencies, and adoption groups to properly oversee the placement of numerous dog breeds and could even make it hard for adoption agencies and rescue societies to take in many surrendered dogs.

The law would require anyone who wants to transfer ownership of a dog to provide the new owner, rescue agency, or adoption society with written information on the risks of dog bites, the number of reported dog bites in the United States for the previous year, the total medical costs related to those bites and the total amount of damages awarded to the victims.

While the bill targets some of the usual breeds that are commonly considered dangerous, like Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and wolf-hybrids, it also takes aim at dogs that aren't typically considered problematic, like Great Danes and Huskies.

Currently, Georgia law only holds an owner liable if he or she is careless about managing a "vicious or dangerous" dog and the dog bites someone in an unprovoked attack. Local or state ordinances that specifically pertain to the control of certain breeds or animals are enough to meet the "vicious propensity" requirement of the statute.

Critics say the bill is too broad, vaguely worded, an example of governmental overreach, burdensome and likely to be ineffective at actually preventing dog bites or attacks—which is its supposed purpose. Since the bill is just in the first stages of becoming an actual law, it could still be quite a while before the outcome of the proposal is known.

In the meantime, if you're injured by a dog bite in an unprovoked attack, you may very well be able to recover for your injuries even if that specific dog wasn't known to be aggressive. It depends largely on local ordinances regarding the control of dogs by their owners. Even a local "leash law" could be enough to confer liability on an errant owner. Consider contacting an attorney for more specific advice.

Source: All On Georgia, "Legislation filed to regulate adoptions, sales of certain dog breeds in Georgia," Jessica Szilagyi, Feb. 19, 2017

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