Saturday 18 January, 2020

Gov't senator calls for urgent change to law to address dog attacks

Government Senator Kerensia Morrison wants the administration to immediately take steps to amend the 142-year-old Dogs (Liability of Injuries) Act to protect the public, in light of an increasing number of attacks on individuals by vicious dogs.

In recent years, a number of persons, including young children have lost their lives after being attacked by dangerous breeds such as pit bulls, while others have been left nursing serious injuries.

Morrison moved a motion in the Senate on Friday calling for urgent action while pointing out that “traumatic attacks on the public by dogs persist despite years of public outcry.”

She noted that such attacks sometimes result in serious injuries with victims often struggling to recover damages because the cost may prove to be prohibitive for some persons.

Morrison asserted that the provisions of the Dogs (Liability of Injuries) Act has proven insufficient to ensure proper vigilance on the part of dog owners.

She said the legislation should be amended to reflect more effective penalties, including criminal prosecution for negligence on the part of owners.

“And be it further resolved that consideration be given by the government for legislation to be enacted for the regulation of dog ownership, such as the registration and grading of dogs, in particular with respect for known, aggressive breeds,” Morrison added.

While the motion moved by Morrison will be debated at a later date, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has already signalled that the government will be amending the archaic legislation.

Speaking in September after a primary school teacher was attacked and mauled by a pack of pit bulls in Red Hills, St Andrew, Chuck said consideration was being given to amend the law to make owners criminally liable when their animals maim or kill someone.

Presently, persons who suffer harm may only bring civil action against dog owners.

Chuck said the existing Act is likely to be replaced with a Dogs Liability of Owners Act.

The 1877 law only addresses the civil liability of dog owners. It states that: “The owner of every dog shall be liable in damages for injury done to any person, or any cattle or sheep by his dog."

The Justice Minister said that when the law is amended, the owner could either be fined or imprisoned, depending on the level of recklessness or negligence that is involved.

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