Georgia Senate passes bill amending dog control judicial processes and owner responsibilities

ATLANTA — The Georgia state Senate this week approved a measure that amends the jurisdiction of dangerous or vicious dogs by allowing local governments to designate multiple individuals as dog control officers and clarifies owner responsibilities when a dog is deemed dangerous or vicious.

Senate Bill 290, sponsored by sate Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, passed by a 50-3 margin.

“This bill will help small communities that do not have the fiscal ability to listen to animal disputes in animal control boards by allowing them to utilize probate courts as an alternative,” Burke said in a statement. “Communities with dangerous dogs deserve to have the same appellate process as larger communities and I believe this bill will do just that.”

SB 290 will allow local probate courts and local boards of health to hear disputed cases regarding dangerous or vicious dogs instead of animal control boards if an animal control board or board of health has not been established. SB 290 will also allow a judicial review process of decisions by animal control boards, local boards of health, and local probate courts regarding dog control.

Under SB 290, owners will now have seven days to request a hearing regarding a dog confiscation. Previously, owners had 15 days after receiving notice of confiscation to request a hearing.

The bill will also require dog owners to pay for reasonable confiscation, housing, and euthanasia expenses in certain cases, unless the decision in confiscation of the dog is deemed incorrect. Also, if a dog is deemed to be dangerous or vicious and no owner is found within 10 days following the date of confiscation, the dog may be released to an animal shelter or humanely euthanized.

If an owner is located but does not recover the dog, pay all reasonable confiscation and housing costs, and provide proof of compliance with laws relating to care and housing of dangerous or vicious dogs within 12 days of the date the dog was confiscated, the dog must be released to an animal shelter or humanely euthanized. Under current law, the owner has 20 days to meet these requirements.

SB 290 heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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