Could you be liable under the Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act, 2020?

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Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act, 2020 has repealed the Dogs (Liability for Injuries by) Act which came into effect on the 28th March, 1877. That’s over 100 years ago. In this blog, we will give an overview of the key requirements for dog owners as they take their dogs into a public space as stipulated under Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act, 2020 and for short I call it the Dogs Liability Act.

As you may have been hearing on the news, the Act imposes a criminal and civil liability on an individual who is found in breach of the Act.

Let’s just look at the main difference between civil liability and criminal liability in a general sense before we get into detail as it concerns the Act.

If someone is found liable in a civil matter, they may be required to pay money to compensate the injured party.

In a civil matter, – civilians – bring or institute the case in court.

However, if someone is found criminally liable, then that person may have to pay a fine to the court and or be required to serve a term of imprisonment.

In this case, a prosecutor brings or institutes the case in court.

So dog owners, you are going to want to pay close attention to this act, because you could be found liable both in criminal and civil jurisdiction of the court. 

But I want you all to understand, that as the Honourable Delroy Chuck stated in an interview,

“This legislation is not meant to punish dog owners, but it is meant to urge them to ensure that their private space is well secured.

In the video on my youtube page, Dr. Simone Johnally, a veterinarian and a member of the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association, Dog Owner, Jaevon and his puppy Rebel, helped us to understand the requirements of the new Dogs Liability Act. 

I had so much fun with Rebel who is such a lovable and playful puppy.

And by the way Rebel has his own Instagram page, so follow him at @thehonourablerebel.

According to their website, the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association proudly represents virtually all veterinarians that are registered to practice veterinary medicine in Jamaica.

So, if you are a dog owner, you need to pay close attention to Section 4 of the Act which states that

1.   The owner of a dog has a duty (that means a responsibility) to ensure that, at ALL times while the dog is in a public place (for example at the park, on the road) –

1.   One the dog is fitted with a restraint (such as a secured leash attached to a collar or harness) –

2.   The dog is fitted with a muzzle that prevents the dog from biting any individual; and

3.    The dog is kept under control.

So its not enough for the dog to be fitted with a restraint such as a leash attached to a collar or harness and have on a muzzle in a public space

but also the dog must be kept under the control of the owner.

The act also gives dog owners the option of putting the dog in a receptacle that allows the movements of the dog to be kept under control and prevents the dog from biting or presenting a menace to any individual.

In conclusion, the duties of the dog owner under section 4 (1) of the Dogs Liability Act was put in place to ensure that dog owners keep their dogs under their control and therefore to lessen the likelihood of civilians being attacked by dogs. 

So let’s do our part and keep our dogs under control. 

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Kimberley Downer

I am Kimberley Downer Attorney-at-Law and partner at the firm Grayson & Company, Attorney-at-Law located at Dairy, Discovery Bay, St. Ann. I have participated in several speaking engagements including a discussion topic, the ‘Legal Implications of Purchasing a Property and Estate Management’ with customers and employees at the Ocho Rios Branch of Scotiabank Jamaica.

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