Passage of Dog Liabilities Bill delayed

Passage of Dog Liabilities Bill delayed

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, October 29, 2020

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Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck on Tuesday agreed to delaying passage of the Dogs (Liability for Injuries) Bill after concerns were raised by some members of the House of Representatives about criminal liabilities issues.

After listening to objections raised by Opposition Members of Parliament Mark Golding and Julian Robinson, Chuck agreed that the points raised by the members were sufficient to put off concluding the debate.

Golding was particularly concerned about section six of the Bill which states: “Where a dog attacks an individual in any place, other than the premises (or part thereof) referred to section three where the dog is kept or permitted to live or remain, the owner of the dog commits an offence”.

The St Andrew Southern MP was concerned that the owner of the dog could be seen by the court as strictly liable, whether or not he/she is at fault.

According to Golding, although he could understand why the Bill was drafted that way this could be the case whether or not the owner is liable and that would be “going too far”.

Golding argued that the court should be able to take into consideration whether there was a history of the dog demonstrating a propensity to attack anybody at all.

“There is nothing in the Act that deals with that,” commented Golding as he noted that the Bill was silent on whether the dog owner should be allowed to give the court some direction in approaching the issue of sentencing.

His colleague, Robinson, who described himself as an “unabashed dog man”, questioned what would happen if the dog is agitated by the people and responds.

“I understand the need for the legislation, but aspects of it are definitely an overreach,” charged Robinson.

Chuck said that all the points raised by the members of the House could contribute to making the legislation “more balanced and meaningful”.

He withdrew a number of amendments he had brought to the House, and asked for the delay in going any further until consultations are done.

Among the amendments taken to the House by Chuck was a change in the definition of “attack” to delete the words “creates a reasonable apprehension of injury” and replace this phrase with “could reasonably be expected to result in injury had the person attacked or a third party (not being an owner of the dog) not acted to prevent the injury”.

Another amendment was to delete the definition of “injury” and to make it clear that this means injury to an individual, and includes death, disease, or any impairment of an individual's physical or mental condition and also includes injury to livestock and injury to any domestic pet.

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