If My Dog Bites Somebody, Will I be Liable?

Last updated on April 15, 2019

Aggressive Shetland sheepdog trying to bite its owner

Singapore has seen a 32% increase in dog owners from 2006 to 2015. While our furry friends are usually well-behaved and make good companions, unfortunate situations may sometimes arise.

From time to time, incidents of dogs attacking people do surface in the media. As a dog owner, you might be concerned about the legal consequences of your dog attacking someone. This article outlines some of these consequences.

Statutory Liability When Your Dog Injures Someone

 

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There’s a saying that a dog’s bark is worse than its bite, but what happens if that’s not true? 🐶🤔Under the law, dog owners can be fined up to S$5,000 if their dog bites someone. They may also have to pay compensation of up to S$2,000 to the person who was bitten, depending on the severity of their injury! 😱🤧 – The liability of dog owners isn’t just limited to dog bites. A fine of up to S$1,000 can be imposed on the dog owner if the dog has the habit of running recklessly on public roads. It’s also possible for the dog owner to be fined up to S$5,000 for not muzzling their dog in public if it is known to be aggressive. – Dog owners aren’t always liable though! If you can prove that the injury happened because your dog was provoked (e.g. being harmed by the person it attacked), you may not be found liable. 😌 To be extra safe, ensure that your dog is leashed when you’re bringing it out! #SingaporeLegalAdvice

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Under the section 10 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, dog owners will be liable to a fine up to $5,000 if their dog bites another person. In addition, the dog owner must pay compensation not exceeding $2,000 to the person that has suffered the injury. The court will assess the exact amount of compensation to be paid.

As this is a strict liability offence, dog owners are liable in the event of a dog bite even if the dog owner was not negligent or did not know that the dog is inclined towards aggression. For example, if it was your domestic helper who failed to close the gate while you were not around, causing your dog to run out of the house and bite someone, you will still be held liable under the law.

However, if the dog bite occurred in your home, you will not be liable if you can prove that you did not expressly or impliedly permit the injured person into your home or it was not within the ordinary course of duty for the injured person to be in your home. For example, if you had accidentally left the gate open and a complete stranger entered into your house and got bitten, it is unlikely that you will be statutorily liable.

In addition, you will not be liable if the injury was attributable to any wrongful act of the injured person. For example, if your dog had bitten someone who had been abusing or torturing it, it is possible that you may not be held liable.

It should also be noted that dog owners may be liable for their dog’s actions even in situations other than dog bites.

One such scenario is if it can be proven that your dog has the habit of running at other persons, vehicles or bicycles along a public road. In that case, a fine up to $1,000 may be imposed on the respective dog owner. A dog owner may also be charged if he is found to be incompetent to walk his dog, and allows his dog to attack another person or animal by not keeping it on leash at all times.

In addition, if your dog is found to be ferocious but you fail to muzzle it in public as required, you may be liable to a fine of up to $5,000. If this results in a bite or an attempt to bite, the courts may also issue an order to put the dog down.

Common Law Liability When Your Dog Injures Someone

Apart from liability under statute, dog owners may also attract liability under common law.

Dog owners may be liable for negligence if they have, by their actions or omissions, resulted in their dog becoming unleashed and causing injury to another. For example, if you were using your mobile phone while walking your dog and failed to be vigilant, resulting in your dog running off and biting a passer-by, the passer-by may commence a civil suit in negligence against you. If successful, you may have to pay compensation to the claimant.

General Responsibilities of Dog Owners

Due to the legal consequences listed above, it is important to be mindful of the relevant rules and guidelines as a dog owner.

Certain dog breeds must be leashed and muzzled at all times when out in public. Such breeds include the Pitbull, German Shepherd, Rottweiler and Bull Terrier among others. A full list may be found in the Second Schedule of the Animals and Birds (Dog Licensing and Control) Rules.

If your dog is showing signs of aggression, dog training may be effective in curbing its aggressive tendencies. It is also best to ensure your pet is confined within a safe area to prevent its escape out into the public. You may wish to refer to the Code of Animal Welfare (For Pet Owners) published by the National Parks Board’s Animal & Veterinary Service cluster for more information.