On Dec. 18, 2012, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners adopted the State of Georgia’s Responsible Dog Law into a local Ordinance so that it could be locally enforced. Douglas County Animal Control Director Rick Smith is proposing clarifications to the local Ordinance to remove vague and inconsistent language, according to a Douglas County press release.
The proposed changes to the Ordinance will first go to the County’s Animal Control Advisory Board (ACAB), which is a group of citizens who review regulatory and other activities of the Animal Control Department and make recommendations to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners (BOC). After the proposed Ordinance additions have been thoroughly vetted by the ACAB, it will make its recommendation on them to the BOC. All revisions to the Douglas County Code of Ordinances require that a public hearing be held during consideration and before adoption into law.
The intent of the proposed revisions is to protect citizens and domestic animals from dogs that their owners fail to control - more specifically, loose dogs that attack, or attempt to attack, citizens or domesticated animals.
The State Law contains the following language: “aggressive attacks in a manner that causes a person to reasonably believe that the dog posed an imminent threat of serious injury to such person or another person although no such injury occurs” and “however, that the acts of barking, growling, or showing of teeth by a dog shall not be sufficient to classify a dog as dangerous under this subparagraph.”
Animal Control desires the language to be clearer, according to the release, so that so that “barking, growling, or showing of teeth” is not enough to classify a dog as dangerous. This type of behavior in secured fenced yards may be normal behavior for the dog. Some breeds are very protective of their turf.
A dog that is routinely kept secured and has no prior history of running loose or threatening citizens or other domesticated animals but breaks loose and puts a person in imminent fear will not be declared a dangerous dog under a revision proposed by Director Smith. The dog’s owner would be placed on notice to correct the problem. If the situation re-occurs, then the dog faces the possibility of being declared dangerous.
“Barking, growling, or showing of teeth” with additional threatening behavior by a dog who is not under his owner’s control and not on his owner’s property could result in a dog being classified as dangerous.
The dangerous dog declaration is made by the Animal Control Director only as a last resort. The declaration may be appealed by the dog’s owner to the Animal Control Advisory Board. The ACAB may uphold, overrule, or modify the determination. The pet owner may appeal the ACAB decision to the Superior Court.
A dangerous dog declaration does not automatically mean that the dog will be put down. The dog’s owner must comply with the provisions of keeping a dangerous dog which ensure that the dog will be kept in such a manner as to prevent it from providing additional threats to other people or other animals. It is the responsibility of the pet owner to ensure that the dog is properly housed and cared for, and that the public is protected from the dog’s actions.
Dog owners are responsible for their pet’s actions on private or public property. Dogs do not normally understand boundaries. When allowed to run free, they become protective of surrounding properties, streets and sidewalks and therefore expand their protected turf. Unfortunately, it is not their turf to protect. Dog owners who allow their dogs to run loose can be cited to Court for leash law violations. Most vicious dog cases are repeat offenders of the leash law.
No breeds are singled out or identified in the proposed legislation.
It is anticipated that the review of the proposed changes will occur during Winter 2013 and will come through the ACAB to the BOC in the Spring.