If you are an owner of an animal, particularly, a dog, it is both logical and in line with the law to make sure your animal will not harm and attack someone else. There may be instances where a dog owner walks their dog without a leach or leaves their yard gate open. If you are attacked and sustain injuries, you obviously cannot sue the animal. Your only recourse would be to pursue the owner for your damages. This is done through the law of delict, specifically through the actio de pauperie. The first thing to note is that your claim is based on strict liability (liability without fault) which means that you do not have to prove the owner acted intentionally nor negligently by allowing the animal to harm you. The fact that you were harmed by the animal is sufficient cause however, you are required to prove the following requirements:
- That the defendant (individual you are suing) is the owner of the animal that harmed you. This means that if someone else is looking after the animal and is not the owner of the animal but merely in control of it, they would not be the defendant you bring before Court.
- The animal must be a domestic animal, generally defined. The most common causes of attacks are from dogs though the definition of “animal” can include horses and other livestock. A wild animal will not meet this requirement.
- The animal must act contrary to its nature when it attacks or harms you. It is important to note that possible defenses (i.e. factors that negate your possible claim) to using the actio de pauperie is where the complainant or someone else provokes the animal or where another animal provokes it to attack.
- The domesticated animal must have caused damage to the injured party and/or be the cause of the damages.
If you’ve been attacked by a domesticated animal and wish to recover damages including patrimonial damages and personal injuries, don’t hesitate to contact us.