Justice Minister tables Bill to Impose Criminal Liability for Dog Injuries
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck this afternoon tabled a Bill in Parliament to repeal the Dogs (Liability for Injuries By) Act, 1877 and replace it with legislation that provides for both civil and criminal liability for dog owners.
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.
The Justice Minister notes that the responsibility will now lie with dog owners to take the necessary precautions and exercise due care to protect the public. “After the latest surge of incidences, I gave a public undertaking to address the existing anomalies in the law. We hope to see no more reports of dog injuries, but in the event they happen, I want Jamaicans to know that the Justice Ministry has taken the steps necessary to ensure redress under the law.”
He further explained that his ministry is dealing only with the aspect of the law under its purview and will work with the relevant ministries to address other issues such as licensing, registration, insurance, breeding and importation.
Under the proposed amendments, a dog owner is defined as the person who occupies premises where a dog is kept; has custody and care of the dog when the injury occurred; or who caused the dog to be in the public place where the injury occurred.
This broad definition therefore means that the “owner” will be responsible for keeping dogs under control and fitting them with restraints such as muzzles, to prevent them from attacking or injuring any member of the public.
Fines ranging from $500,000 to $3M, or imprisonment from six months to 15 years, are now being proposed as criminal penalties. Civil liability can be incurred if the dog causes injury in any place other than its home or where it is normally kept.
The proposed amendments will now be debated. If passed in both the lower and upper Houses of Parliament, the Bill will be brought into force.
The proposed Bill is on the website of the Ministry of Justice and Parliament and interested persons are encouraged to examine the Bill and send their comments to Parliament.