Whether you own a dog or have been attacked by one, this post explains dog owners’ responsibilities in preventing injury or damage by their animal.
Strict liability if the dog had been aggressive in the past
The law automatically deems certain animal species to be “wild”. Examples include dingos, elephants, tigers, bears, zebras and so on. If a wild animal injures someone, or causes property damage, the owner of the animal will be held liable to compensate for the loss, regardless of fault. This is called strict liability.
In the case of “domestic” animals (such as dogs), if the owner knows that the animal has a tendency to behave aggressively, then they will be liable regardless of fault, for injury or damage caused by the animal. So a dog owner may not be liable the first time the dog bites someone, but they won’t be able to escape liability if it happens again. (Note, however, that if an animal displayed aggression towards other animals in the past, that does not necessarily indicate a tendency to be aggressive against humans.)
Liability if owner negligent
Even if a dog had not been aggressive in the past, the owner may still be liable for injuries caused by the animal, if the owner was negligent. For example, if children provoke/irritate the dog in the owner’s presence, and there is a risk that the dog may become violent, and yet the owner fails to do anything to prevent harm, he or she will likely be liable if the dog bites the children.
What to do if you have been attacked by a dog?
If you have been bitten by the dog, and you know the owner, ask your local council if they know anything about the dog’s history. Council’s have power to declare a particular dog dangerous or menacing. If the dog that bit you had already been declared dangerous or menacing, chances are the owner will be liable to you regardless of fault.
If you are a dog owner…
If you are a dog owner, how do you know if your dog is deemed dangerous? Generally speaking, dogs are considered domestic animals, so they are not automatically deemed dangerous. Your local council has the power to declare that a particular dog is dangerous or menacing. Council must provide notice of this declaration to the owner. If the declaration is made, the owner must comply with relevant legislation or they will be fined. (For example, you must use a muzzle/leash, keep the dog properly enclosed, install a warning sign etc.) Note if you disagree with Council’s declaration, it can be challenged.
Finally, it is worth noting it is illegal to keep certain breeds in Queensland. These are Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese Tosa, American pit bull terrier or pit bull terrier and Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario.
Please note each State and Territory has their own laws in relation to injuries caused by animals. This post is relevant to incidents which occur in Queensland.