Justice Minister Urges Dog Owners to Exercise Care

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Jamaica News: Justice Minister Delroy Chuck today kicked off deliberations in the new legislative year by outlining to Parliament the main features of the proposed amendments to the Dogs (Liabilities for Attacks) Act, which he says is intended to encourage dog owners to manage and control their dogs.

The Bill repeals the Dogs (Liability for Injuries by) Act which was passed in 1877 and will introduce criminal liability in addition to the civil remedy that previously existed. In this regard, the owner can be prosecuted if any of the offences set out in the Bill has been committed, even if the victim does not pursue a civil remedy.

Minister Chuck explained that the ‘owner’ of a dog, as defined by the Bill, refers to whoever has responsibility for the dog at the time of the attack.

“This Bill is not intended to frighten or penalise dog owners,” the Minister explained. “It is meant to increase awareness among them of the importance of keeping and caring for their dogs under control.  There have been too many cases of debilitating injury and death caused by dog attacks.”

The Minister detailed aspects of the main clauses of the Act, which include the statutory duties of dog owners; the civil liability provisions; defences the accused might use to avoid liability; and the penalties which may be applied if the accused is convicted.

He noted however, that the scope of the Bill does not include a person who is attacked on the premises where the dog is kept. This is because the Occupiers Liability Act already places liability on the occupier of premises for any injury suffered by someone who he permits to be on the premises.

“Every dog owner is put on notice to ensure dogs are properly and effectively kept under control and in their private space.  It is now time to secure your fence, mend the holes through which your dog escapes on the road and do everything necessary to avoid injury to innocent bystanders and pedestrians,” the Justice Minister warned.

He committed to work closely with other government agencies to review and, where necessary, modernise, existing laws that deal with dog ownership and management.

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