COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) Eleven-year-old Justin Gilstrap’s recent attack by three dogs has raised many questions about animal control laws in Columbia County.

In Columbia County, several ordinances are in place for animal control. And certain leash laws tell owners how dogs must be handled in public. But what exactly are those laws and how are they regulated?

“The city does have a leash law – a leash law ordinance, if you will,” said Jamey Kitchens, Grovetown Chief of Police. “And it states that every dog within the city will be held on a leash held by the owner, or kept within a fenced area, unless otherwise noted. And that would be we have one dog park here in Grovetown and there’s some stipulations if they’re going to utilize the dog park.” 

Those stipulations include assuming all liability even within the Grovetown dog park and keeping your dog within voice control.

 “If it’s a matter of dogs that are roaming the neighborhood, then we’re going to contact animal control,” said Kitchens. “And, again, we’re going to make every reasonable attempt to identify the owner of the dog.”

Columbia County Manager Scott Johnson tells us that owners whose dogs are repeatedly roaming at large are subject to punishment. 

“What we work really hard to do is try to return the animal to the owner,” said Scott Johnson, Columbia County Manager. “If we have repeat offenders, we give a warning, maybe a second warning, then we issue a violation. And if it continues, then we take that person to court.”

“Now, if we have issues where there’s injury or things like that then, certainly, that rises to another level,” said Kitchens.

In the case of a human injury, Johnson says a dog is deemed “vicious” in the state of Georgia. If that dog is found roaming at large, it will be confiscated and handled according to state law.

Columbia County has an animal advisory board that could make suggestions to amend county ordinances.

“I think that the laws that we have on the books are good,” said Johnson. “I think that the responsibility of pets is that of the owner. And, in this case, we have a situation where we have a pet owner that has had a couple of encounters with Columbia County. But never have we had an encounter with any of his dogs that would deem them vicious as the law prescribes because, unfortunately, it takes a dog attacking somebody before they can be deemed vicious.”

Johnson says that anyone who sees a dog roaming at large should call Columbia County Animal Services during business hours. If they are closed, the Sheriff’s Office will respond to your call.