Dog bites and the law

Dog bites and the law

Friday, November 20, 2020

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Dear Editor,

wThe recent attack by dogs on the juvenile in St Ann has given rise to a discourse on the Dog (liability for attack) Bill in Jamaica. However, there are existing laws in the Commonwealth jurisdiction which are applicable to the issue of dogs attacks in Jamaica.

Negligence on the part of the owner is a possible applicable law. The law on negligence was eloquently stated in the case of Donoghue v Stevenson when Lord Atkin said: “The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law you must not injure your neighbour.”

The owners or individuals in control of dogs have a duty of care to prevent the dog from attacking unsuspecting members of the public. Where there is a breach of such duty of care which caused personal injury, the owner or the person in control of the dog may be liable.

Animal owner negligence was highlighted in the case of Deen V Davies [1935] ALL ER Rep 9. In this case, the defendant tied a horse in a town which escaped and injured the plaintiff. The court found that the owner of the horse was negligent. The same principle is applicable to dogs in public spaces in Jamaica.

There is also possible applicable law pursuant to the Occupiers Liability Act. This area of the law is suited for situations in which a person visits the premises of another. The occupier of the visited premises has a duty to ensure that visitors are not exposed to dangers on the property. This duty naturally extends to dogs.

The problem with dangerous dogs may not be an absence of law. Accessibility to the courts is often time-consuming and expensive, which may be a bigger problem.

Walker Samala, LLB

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