Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, is calling for public comments on the Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act, 2020, which was recently tabled in the House of Representatives.
The legislation will provide for criminal and civil liability for an owner of a dog that attacks, injures and/or causes the death of a person.
“Please examine the legislation. If there are concerns, if there are comments, kindly pass it on so that we can examine the comments and incorporate any suggestion that we consider useful,” Mr. Chuck implored.
He was addressing the quarterly press briefing at the Ministry in St. Andrew on Friday (July 31).
Mr. Chuck said the Government wants to ensure that the legislation being put in place will be accepted and supported by all dog lovers and owners, while providing protection for citizens against dog attacks that occur in communities, on the road, or when members of security firms use the animals to assist in the management of public spaces.
He reminded dog owners that while the animals may be used for security purposes within the confines of their private premises, the onus is on them to ensure that the dogs do not leave the private area and attack anyone in the public space.
The Justice Minister said that the Bill is the first of several pieces of legislation that will update laws dealing with dogs and other animals.
“We have a substantial paper from the Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Osbil Watson, who has indicated the other (laws) that need to be updated to deal with stray dogs, to deal with dogs that attack cattle, to deal with population control, not only of dogs but of cats. It is felt that the Government must do more to ensure that stray dogs are impounded or that they are spayed and various control (measures) must be put in place,” he said.
Mr. Chuck said he, along with personnel from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development “will be working over the next many months to ensure that additional legislation to deal with dogs, cats, cattle will be (brought to) Parliament soon”.
The tabling of the legislation follows several vicious attacks on members of the public up to 2019, which led to a national outcry for the existing 1877 Act to be amended, as it had no provision for criminal sanctions for negligence of persons whose dogs attack or injure members of the public.
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 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.
It also provides for civil liability in respect of injury caused by a dog and criminal liability where an individual is attacked by a dog, along with the appropriate penalties.
Also, the legislation 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.
Additionally, the owner of a dog has a duty to ensure that, at all times, while the dog is in a public place, it is kept under control and that the dog is fitted with a muzzle that prevents it from biting any individual.
The dog must be fitted with restraint or contained in a receptacle that allows movement to be kept under control and prevents it from biting or presenting a menace to any individual.
The dog is not permitted to enter any public place that prohibits the entry of dogs unless it is for the purpose of security, any lawful purpose by a government agent or is guiding a person with a disability.
The Bill proposes fines ranging from $500,000 to $3 million, or imprisonment from six months to 15 years.
Civil liability can be incurred if the dog causes injury in any place other than its home or where it is normally kept.