Chuck tables Bill to address dog attacks

Chuck tables Bill to address dog attacks

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

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MINISTER of Justice Delroy Chuck tabled a Bill in the House of Representatives yesterday providing for liability by owners for attacks by their dogs.

The Bill, officially titled An Act to Repeal the Dogs (Liability for Injuries by) Act, or the Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act, 2020, proposes that in circumstances where individuals are attacked by dogs outside the premises where they are kept owners be fined $500,000 or a prison term not exceeding six months, and up to $3 million or 15 years in prison if the attack results in death and the owner is present and fails to restrain the animal or assist the individual mauled by the dog.

The legislation comes after several people have come under attack, some resulting in death, over the last few years, mainly by pit bulls.

According to the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons, the decision has been taken to repeal the Dogs (Liability for Injuries by) Act and replace it with legislation that:

(a) imposes a statutory duty on the owner of a dog (defined to include any person responsible for a dog) to exercise management and control of the dog to ensure that the dog does not cause injury to an individual in a public place;

(b) provides for (i) civil liability in respect of injury caused by a dog; and (ii) criminal liability where an individual is attacked by a dog, along with the appropriate penalties therefore; and

(c) provides for a procedure for reporting attacks by dogs and empowering constables to investigate and, in appropriate circumstances, to issue a warning instead of proceeding to criminal charge.

The Bill describes ownership of the animal as “the occupier of any premises where a dog is kept or permitted to live or remain”. It proposes that where there are more than one occupier of the premises concerned, being premises let in separate apartments or lodgings (however described), the occupier of that particular part of the premises, at which the dogs is kept or permitted to live or remain at the time in question shall be presumed to be the owner of the dog.

It does not preclude more than one person being presumed as the owner of a dog and being held liable for injury caused by the dog accordingly, and it allows for rebuttal of any presumption of ownership by providing that the person was not the owner at the time in question and that the dog was kept or permitted to live or remain at the premises without the person's sanction or knowledge.

“Where an individual who is presumed…to be the owner of a dog is under the age of 18 years, any individual over the age of 18 who is the parent or guardian of that individual shall be presumed to be the owner of the dog,” it noted.

It says that the owners have a duty to ensure that at all times while the dogs are in public places they must be kept under control, they must be fitted with a muzzle to prevent biting, as well as a restraint such as a leash, or contained in a receptacle.

— Balford Henry

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