New state laws began July 1

Published 5:47 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

Many new state laws passed by the 2012 Georgia Legislative session took effect on July 1.

Dangerous and vicious dogs

House Bill 685, the “Georgia Responsible Dog Owner Act,” was introduced by outgoing House Rep. Gene Maddox. The law strengthens state laws related to dangerous and vicious dogs.

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Under the new Georgia law, a dangerous dog is one that causes a substantial puncture wound to a person, or aggressively attacks, posing an imminent threat of serious injury to a person, or kills a pet while off the owner’s property.

Once classified, a dangerous dog cannot be off the owner’s property unless it is under the immediate physical control of a person capable, when necessary, of preventing the dog from engaging any other human or animal.
Also, the dog can be off the owner’s property if it is in a locked cage or crate. Some exemptions were made for working, hunting and predator control dogs, according to Maddox.

The law defines a vicious dog as one that seriously injures or kills a human, and in some cases, a judge can order euthanasia for a vicious dog. Under the new Georgia law, vicious dogs must be microchipped, cannot be left unattended in the presence of a minor and cannot be sold or transferred unless it is to be relinquished to a government facility or veterinarian to be euthanized.

Owners of vicious dogs must also maintain liability insurance.

Scrap metal

House Bill 872 made a number of changes to regulations related to secondary metal recyclers and what items they are allowed to purchase as scrap metal. The law now more specifically addresses what recyclers must do to verify and document the legal sale of aluminum and copper items, burial markers, air conditioning coils and catalytic converters.

Recyclers must now take digital photos of the items they purchase and make a copy of the seller’s identification card and any documents related to the ownership of vehicles.

Another law provides for the cancellation of a certificate of title for motor vehicles and trailers which are scrap metal, dismantled or demolished to help prevent vehicle and trailer theft by persons seeking to sell them for scrap metal.

Drug testing for public assistance

House Bill 861, the “Social Responsibility and Accountability Act,” creates new requirements related to the provision of temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). The law requires that applicants for TANF have to take a drug test and pass it in order to qualify for benefits.

The test would have to be taken no later than 48 hours after the applicant is approved for assistance by the Department of Human Services. If a person fails the test, they will be ineligible for TANF benefits for at least one month and until they pass a retest. For a second failure, the person will be ineligible for benefits for three months. For a third failure, they will be unable to receive TANF for one year.

Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the drug testing requirement, except for teen parents who are not required to live with a parent, legal guardian or other adult caretaker.

For two-parent families, only one parent has to take the drug test. If a parent is deemed ineligible for TANF benefits, the dependent child’s eligibility for benefits will be unaffected — an appropriate third party shall be designated to receive benefits on behalf of the child.

Other new laws

• Senate Bill 293 requires that the design of new vehicle license plates have spaces for one of two decals: One that bears the words, “In God We Trust,” or alternatively, a decal bearing the name of the county in which the vehicle is registered.

• A provision of the justice reform bill (House Bill 1176), signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on May 2, requires that anyone volunteering with a business or agency that deals with children — whether public or private, business or nonprofit — report anything they notice that raises suspicion of child abuse.

Previously, only paid employees were required to report abuse.
Volunteers who fail to report possible child abuse could face misdemeanor charges, according to the new law.