Wednesday 2 December, 2020

Up to 15 years or $5m fine for dog owners whose animals maim or kill

Dog owners whose animals injure or kill a person could be imprisoned for up to 15 years and/or fined up to $5 million.

The stiff penalties are contained in the Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Act 2020, which outlines the criminal and civil liability for the owner of a dog that attacks, injures and/or causes the death of a person.

The House of Representatives is on Tuesday expected to resume and conclude the debate on the Bill.

Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, who opened the debate in Parliament last Tuesday, said the Bill, which is intended to repeal and replace the more than 140-year-old Dogs (Liability for Injuries by) Act of 1877, is aimed at encouraging persons to manage and control their dogs.

“This Bill is not intended to frighten or penalise dog owners. It is meant to increase the awareness of dog owners about the importance of keeping and caring (for) dogs under their control,” Chuck told the House.

He stated that over the years, there have been “Too many cases of debilitating injury and death caused by attacking dogs. The harrowing ordeal endured by the most recent victims… has made the issue impatient of a resolution.”

The justice minister said the Bill is also aimed at providing compensation for victims of dog attacks.

He noted that the existing law provides civil remedy for victims, which means that the owner has to be sued in order for the victim to be compensated.

“This Bill will introduce criminal liability in addition to the civil remedy that previously existed, so that whether the victim pursues a civil remedy or not, the owner may be prosecuted if any of the offences set out in the Bill have been committed,” said Chuck.

He insisted that all dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that their animals do not pose a danger to members of the public.

“Every dog owner, which means in virtually every Jamaican home, is hereby put on notice to ensure their dogs are properly and effectively kept under control and in their private space.

“It is now time to secure your fence, increase its height if the dog keeps jumping over the fence, mend the holes if the dogs keep escaping through the holes, and ensure… everything necessary to avoid injury to innocent bystanders and pedestrians,” Chuck urged.

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