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01 October 2020  | Crystelle Steyn | Views: 352

Man’s best friend.  Your greatest companion, but also a walkable risk.  Owning a dog comes with a load of responsibilities, and it’s not all fun and games.  As the  number of dog attack cases  increase in South Africa, it is vital for pet owners to understand the responsibilities of owning a dog.  

Imagine your dog attacking a jogger, or child, while you are not even home.  Will you still be liable for the dogs actions?  Unfortunately, the answer is yes. The damages caused by such an attack can range from minor wounds to hospital admissions, and even disfigurement. As the owner of the dog, you may be held liable for:

* special damages (which include medical expenses and damage to property) 

* general damages (which include pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, disability and disfigurement).  

The legal remedy a victim can use against the owner of a dog to claim for damages (expressed by money) is called the ACTIO DE PAUPERIE.  For the victim to succeed with a claim in Court must proof that: 

 1.         The person against whom the action is instituted must have been the OWNER of the dog when the

             damage was inflicted;

2.         The animal must be a domesticated animal (for instance a dog that is tame);

3.         The animal must have acted contrary to the nature of domesticated animals;

4.         The conduct of the dog must have caused the damage.  

So, what to do, if your dog was the attacker in such an instance?  The only “excuses” that will be acceptable to a court will be the following:

1.         The animal was provoked by the victim, a third party or another animal; (Keep the CCTV rolling!)

2.         The victim entered  the premises unlawfully and opened himself to a risk;

3.         The victim knew about the risk of sustaining injury from the animal and voluntarily accepted the risk; 

             (ignored the signage regarding the dog on duty)  

Dogs can be unpredictable and it is therefore important for dog owners to keep their dogs locked and safe on their premises at all times.  

It is also advisable that if you have dogs that may become aggressive to make sure  that you have insurance for these matters that can pay out on your behalf.  Ensure that your property is safe, locked and that the necessary warning signs is in place.  

In the meantime, enjoy your dog.