Dog bites and attacks are on the rise and with the recent call to ban pit bull type dogs in South Africa, many dog owners are surrendering their pets to the SPCA in an effort to avoid becoming another statistic.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of fatal dog attacks in the world and although it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this, experts are saying it’s mainly due to irresponsible ownership of dogs who have previously shown signs of human and animal aggression, or have the potential to develop such aggression without warning.
Additionally, the lack of legal recourse against owners of a dog who has bitten someone adds to the increasing number of dog attacks in South Africa. According to the spokesperson of the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa, Lins Rautenbach, attacks and maulings are directly proportionate to the lack of successful prosecution and sentencing of people who own dogs who have attacked someone.
The question remains, can you sue someone for a dog bite or attack, and under what circumstances will such a claim be successful?
The short answer is yes, you can. According to South African law, dog owners are subject to the action known as “actio de pauperie” which places strict liability on the dog owner, whether negligence on the owner’s behalf can be proven or not. Legally, a dog owner is liable to pay for compensation if their dog bites or attacks anyone.
However, there are mitigating factors in dog bite claims in South Africa, meaning that certain conditions may exist which may exonerate a dog owner of liability.
In order for a claimant (the person laying a claim against someone else) to be successful with actio de pauperie, the following requirements must be met:
Dog bite and attack victims can claim for the following:
This includes all surgical and non-surgical, care, and medication needed to treat your injuries.
Actual past loss of income due to unpaid sick leave and time taken off work due to recovery. In addition, loss of employment or future earning potential as a direct result of injuries sustained in the attack.
Dog attacks are traumatizing events which can lead to a number of secondary issues such as post traumatic stress disorder, pain and suffering, disability, emotional shock, and loss of amenities of life (your ability to engage in life in the same way as you did before the attack).
According to South African law, you have a period of three years from the date of the attack to lay a claim against an owner of a dog who attacked you.
Evidence is the most important thing when laying a personal injury charge against a dog owner. The following are details that will help you win your case:
Damages caused by dog attacks can amount to millions of rands. For this reason, and for the purpose of not causing harm to anyone, owners must take responsibility for their dogs and do everything they can to prevent such a tragic incident from happening.
As an owner of a dog, you have the responsibility to:
Responsible ownership of dogs, regardless of the breed, is the best way to prevent tragic attacks on humans and other animals. Ultimately, it is up to the owner of a dog to not only protect people from harm, but to also protect their pets from such incidents.
If you are a victim of a dog bite or attack and would like to know more about claiming compensation from the owner, please contact our personal injury attorneys in Cape Town and Johannesburg for legal assistance.
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