The Atlanta Injury News Blog

Officer Shoots Pit Bull Attacking Toddler; Is the Owner Liable?

Earlier in the week, we reported about a Forsyth man whose dogs were euthanized while he was laid up in the hospital. On Tuesday night, an Atlanta police officer was forced to put a dog down in a much more dramatic fashion.

On Tuesday night, a child was attacked by a pit bull in northwest Atlanta, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Fortunately, an officer who was on patrol nearby was able to shoot the dog before it could seriously injury the child. Could the dog's owner be held liable for the attack?

The officer was on patrol near West Lake Avenue and Joseph E. Boone Boulevard when he heard people yelling for his attention. He saw a woman holding a child scream as a pit bull tried to attack the child, according to Atlanta police spokesman Officer John Chafee, according to the Journal-Constitution.

The officer reportedly shot the dog to protect the woman and child. The child suffered superficial wounds in the attack and was treated by medics at the scene, authorities said. Could the dog's owner be held liable for the attack?

Under Georgia law, an owner of a dangerous animal can be held liable for injuries caused by the animal if the owner allowed the animal to roam free or didn't take affirmative steps to manage the animal's behavior. Simply showing that a city ordinance existed that required the dog to be on a leash in the area is enough to prove fault under the law.

Police haven't released many details about the attack, but if the dog had a prior history of aggression toward humans, and the owner was aware of it, the owner arguably had a duty to keep the dog away from the public. In failing to keep the dog restrained, the owner may have breached that duty and caused the child to be injured.

If the child's family can show that the owner was negligent in failing to restrain the dog, they may be awarded damages for the child's medical treatment, pain and suffering, and any emotional trauma that resulted.

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