Updated Athens ordinance may affect dog owners

ATHENS, Ga. – Local dog ordinances in Athens-Clarke County didn’t reflect the Responsible Dog Ownership Law until the commission voted on Tuesday night to clean up their local ordinances to match state law.

 UGA student Logan McLeod is looking for a dog of her own. She understands the importance of always keeping a close eye on a pet even before her new best friend comes home.

“Sometimes they can be pretty unpredictable, even when they are good,” McLeod said.

But sometimes dogs can be dangerous, even vicious. The Responsible Dog Ownership Law distinguishes between the two classifications.

In 2012, Georgia legislators passed House Bill 685, the Responsible Dog Ownership Law. It replaced the Dangerous Dog Control Law passed in the 1980s. The difference is, the old law classified dogs as potentially dangerous. The new law can classify dogs as vicious, a step above dangerous.

In Georgia, a dangerous dog is a categorized as a dog that bites and punctures a person’s skin but does not cause serious injury. A vicious dog is classified as one that inflicts serious injury on a person.

Dogs classified as either dangerous or vicious are deemed so by dog control officers in respective local jurisdictions that investigate as necessary to determine whether a dog should be classified.

In the state of Georgia, animal control will take dogs classified as vicious if the owner does not possess at least a $50,000 insurance policy to cover injury or property damage caused by the dog.

“It didn’t create anything new or significantly different for dogs that have already been classified, it did set up situations where dogs can be classified under certain circumstances,” ACC Animal Control Superintendent Patrick Rives said.

The yes vote provided consistency with the existing state Responsible Dog Ownership Law.

Owners with dogs classified as dangerous or are encouraged to either build secure enclosures or post dangerous dog warning signs on respective properties.

By: Chelsey Shirley

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