Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, on Tuesday (July 21) tabled the Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act 2020 in the House of Representatives, which will provide for criminal and civil liability for an owner of a dog that attacks, injures and or causes the death of a person.
This 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.
The legislation also noted that the owner of a dog has a duty to ensure that, at all times, while the dog is in a public place, the dog is kept under control and that the dog is fitted with a muzzle that prevents the dog from biting any individual.
Also, the dog must be fitted with restraint or contained in a receptacle that allows the movement of the dog to be kept under control and prevents the dog from biting or presenting a menace to any individual.
The dog is also 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.