Georgia Dog Laws: Rabies, Dog Bites, Abandonment and Cruelty

Georgia Dog Laws: Rabies, Dog Bites, Abandonment and Cruelty
Georgia Dog Laws: Rabies, Dog Bites, Abandonment and Cruelty
georgia dog laws
georgia dog laws

Photo by Kim Jenkins via Getty

What are the dog laws in Georgia? Does Georgia have dog laws? If you live in this state, you might be wondering what the law says about issues like rabies vaccination, dog bites, dog abandonment, or dog cruelty.

Read on for more information about dog laws in Georgia.

Rabies Vaccination Laws

Rabies Control Law-O.C.G.A. -31- 19 requires that all dogs residing in Georgia be vaccinated for rabies. A licensed veterinarian must perform vaccinations in order for them to be valid. Dogs must receive vaccinations when they reach 12 weeks of age.

If an unvaccinated dog has exposure to rabies, the state of Georgia requests they are immediately euthanized. Furthermore, it the owner is unwilling to have this done, the dog must be held in a strict four-month quarantine. If no symptoms are shown after this point, the dog will be returned but must be vaccinated in the future.

Those found violating Georgia’s laws on rabies vaccinations may be fined up to $500.

Dog Bite Laws

Georgia is often referred to as a “one-bite” state. This is because a dog’s owner will typically be liable only if they knew or should have known the dog was dangerous. This means that in most cases, a first-time attack is considered a “free pass,” but after this point, the dog has documented dangerous behavior. However, in cases where the owner should have reasonably prevented the attack, regardless of past behavior. For example, if an off-leash dog ran up and bit someone, as opposed to a dog on a tether biting someone who approached, they may still be liable.

Dog owners are not responsible for attacks in which the dog was provoked or protecting the owner. This could include yelling at, hitting, or throwing objects at the dog. Additionally, if you were trespassing on private property and then were attacked by an otherwise contained dog, the dog’s owner would not be liable.

A dangerous dog, particularly a repeat offender, may be euthanized if this is determined to be in the best interest of the safety of the community. After one documented bite, a dog is considered vicious in the state of Georgia. This means that subsequent bites may lead to euthanasia.

Dog Abandonment Laws

In Georgia, animal abandonment is a misdemeanor. Abandoning an animal on public or private property can result in a charge of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. This applies both to cases such as leaving a dog by the side of the road, and to cases where the dog is left in one’s custody without consent, such as leaving your dog at a veterinary clinic.

An animal is considered abandoned when they have been unattended and without adequate and proper food and water for a period in excess of thirty-six (36) hours, regardless of where the animal may be found or kept.

Dog Cruelty Laws

In Georgia, animal cruelty is most often a misdemeanor. Those found guilty of animal cruelty may face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1000. This can increase based on every count of animal cruelty one is found guilty of; for example, if you were found guilty of animal cruelty to two dogs, you could face up to two years in jail.

Aggravated animal cruelty holds a felony charge and harsher punishment. The definition of aggravated animal cruelty is severe abuse, such as torturing or killing a dog. This charge is punishable by a sentence of imprisonment for up to five years or a fine up to $15,000, or both. For subsequent offenders, the punishment increases greatly. A second or subsequent conviction of aggravated cruelty to animals is punishable by imprisonment for no more than ten years, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

As in the other 49 states, dogfighting is a felony in Georgia. This doesn’t apply only to those directly fighting their animals. It also applies to promoters or spectators of these events. Yes, watching a dogfight is also a felony.

Tethering Laws

Georgia does not prohibit tethering dogs. However, there are restrictions one must follow to ensure they are safely tethering a dog by Georgia law. Tethered dogs must not be able to strangle themselves on their restraint or any surrounding items. To tether a dog, they must be at least six months of age, spayed or neutered, and otherwise healthy. Dogs must be tethered using a trolley system, not a single-point tether. The tether system must be at least ten feet in length and suspended at least seven feet above the ground.

A tethered dog must have adequate food, water and shelter at all times. Dogs are not allowed to be tethered outdoors during extreme weather events, like hurricanes. Additionally, dogs may not be tethered for more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period. Dogs may not be tethered between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

This may seem like a lot of restrictions, but tethering can be unsafe for dogs when precautions are not taken. Additionally, some counties in Georgia have tethering ordinances independent from the state laws, so research your area for specifics.

How Georgia Dog Laws Rank Among Other States

Georgia is ranked as a “bottom-tier” state for animal protection laws by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Out of all 50 states, Georgia comes in at number 40 for animal rights. With only 10 states considered “worse” regarding animal law, that’s pretty low. There are some good things about Georgia’s animal law. Convicted aggravated animal cruelty carries heavier fines than other states. Additionally, veterinarians have immunity for reporting suspected animal cruelty. However, there’s still lots of room for Georgia to improve. For example, there are no post-conviction possession bans, which allows animal cruelty offenders to simply adopt more animals.

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