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Does a “Beware of Dog” Sign Protect Me From Liability?

Published in Dog bites and Animal Attacks, Warning Signs?,Liability on June 6, 2016.

The average pet owner treats pets like family. Dogs are beloved additions to the home, and most Georgia residents take the time and effort to raise them carefully. Unfortunately, there are always exceptions to the rule, and some people coddle or make excuses for aggressive dogs without ever taking the proper precautions to avoid a dog-bite incident.

It’s popular among homeowners to place “Beware of Dog” signs around their property to ward off intruders even if their dogs are unaggressive (or they have no dog at all). However, if you do have an aggressive dog, simply having a sign posted won’t always protect you in a lawsuit if the dog bites someone.

There are times and circumstances when having a sign will reduce your liability, but these situations aren’t average and are less commonly seen than dog-bite attacks concerning regular people – which sadly includes many children.

Benefits of Having a Sign

This isn’t to say that “Beware of Dog” signs are useless – in fact, they can save you a great deal of strife if your dog bites a trespasser, intruder, criminal, or a person who knowingly provokes the pup or acts unreasonably careless around the dog. In these cases, you most likely won’t be legally held responsible if your dog bites or injures a person, since he or she was fairly warned and entered your property at his or her own risk.

An obvious benefit of putting up a sign when your dog has behavioral issues, triggers, or aggressive propensities is to keep pedestrians safe. There were 34 fatalities caused by dog bites (14 children and 20 adults) recorded in 2015, and 6 fatalities have already been recorded this year. Many of these occurred when neighbors walked into a home to feed animals while the owners were away or when children were visiting friends’ homes that had vicious dogs.

Putting up a sign can serve as a fair warning to neighbors, children, mailmen, friends, and family that your dog could injure someone without due consideration and precaution. If the injured person was pre-warned about your dog’s behavior and triggered its aggressiveness (either accidentally or on purpose), you probably wouldn’t be liable for the injury – regardless of the dog’s prior behavior.

When Having a Sign Doesn’t Help

There are many situations where having a “Beware of Dog” sign isn’t enough to avoid liability in case of a dog-bite incident. In Georgia, we follow a dog-bite statute that makes dog owners liable if their canines cause injury if the owner had reason to think the dog was dangerous.

Having a sign up means the owner understands the dog is potentially dangerous. If you invite someone into your home, think a guest or a service provider, and your dog bites them – even if you have a sign posted, you could be held liable. Similarly, if your dog leaves your yard and is at large, you may be liable for any bites or attacks.

Your Georgia Dog-Bite Lawyer 

In Georgia, we have one of the most complicated dog bite statutes in the US. The negligence laws associated with owners of dogs who have bitten people are still changing in our state to this day, making it difficult to assess your personal situation. At Nelson & Smith Attorneys at Law, we stay on top of changing dog bite laws and know how best to protect you and your family in the event that you get bitten by a dog or that your dog bites someone else.

Our firm prides itself on having knowledgeable dog bite attorneys that know how to navigate criminal charges, civil lawsuits, and subsequent actions surrounding dog-bite scenarios. Since Georgia doesn’t have a one-bite rule, a dog-bite victim can easily take an owner to court for financial accountability. Contact our offices in Macon today for questions regarding dog bite liability.

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