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The importance of responsible pet ownership

View profile for Pauline Smith
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Can I claim compensation after being attacked by a dog?

I have read quite a few scathing comments on social media recently about people who have maybe found themselves with more time on their hands over the last 12 months, and made a decision to buy or rescue a four legged friend, as an addition to their family. Personally, I think it matters not when you choose to become a dog owner, as long as you are fully aware of your responsibilities towards not only your pet, but members of your household, and people in general, and are fully prepared to take on and embrace that burden.

Having a dog is incredibly rewarding but, like new born children, they are also very demanding, and need to be taught, with kindness, about good behaviour, both inside the home and when out and about.  A new puppy looks to its owner for everything - food, water, warmth, stimulation – and it is ideal to start a training programme with a young dog, so that you can have confidence, going forward, knowing that your efforts have produced a well behaved dog. That is not to say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, as patience and kindness go a long way to improving a dog’s temperament. In addition to this, as a responsible dog owner, you should ensure that your pet is properly insured, and vaccinated, that you have the correct equipment to enable them to be walked safely, and that when out in public, you are fully aware of your dog’s actions.

As a new dog owner, these are some things that you need to ask yourself:

  1. Can I trust my dog off the lead?
  2. Does my dog have good recall?
  3. Does my pet have the correct insurance cover?
  4. Is my dog playful and boisterous?
  5. Could my dog’s size intimidate those not used to pets?
  6. Is my dog snappy with strangers?
  7. Do I trust my dog around other animals?

Sadly, dog bite injuries are not uncommon, but many of them could be prevented if their owners kept a watchful eye on their pets when out and about. Injuries caused by dogs and other animals aren’t limited to bites either. It is possible for someone to bring a claim, if they are knocked over and injured by a boisterous or unruly pet.

There are very specific breaches of both common law and the Animals Act 1971 that a claimant needs to prove in order to successfully win compensation after being injured by an animal. If for example, you are injured by a dog which is not considered to be a “dangerous” breed, under the remit Animals Act 1971, then the test is that the owner or “keeper” of the animal will be liable for the damage caused if:

  1. The damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause or which, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe;
  2. The likelihood of the damage or of it being severe was due to characteristics of the animal which are not normally found in animals of the same species or are not normally found except at particular times or particular circumstances: and
  3. Those characteristics were known to that keeper or were at any time known to a person who at that time had charge of the animal as the keeper’s servant, or where that keeper is the head of a household, where known to another keeper of the animal who is a member of that household and under the age of 16.

The most common arguments which arises in an dog attack claim is, was the person who was in charge of the dog at the time of the incident, aware that it had aggressive tendencies? Had the dog bitten before? Was the dog likely to become boisterous and unpredictable when excited? Was the dog suffering from any kind of illness or on any medication, which could affect its normal temperament?

Only by close investigation of the incident circumstances and possible the vet’s records for the animal in question can these questions be answered, and this is very much part and parcel of what a solicitor does when pursuing a claim for this type of injury.

In an ideal world, all pets would be perfectly trained by their owners, so that they could be taken out without any worry of them causing injury, however, the reality is that not all dog and other pet owners are willing to put in the work necessary to achieve this, and this is why lockdown puppies become a hot topic on social media.

If you have been injured as a result of an animal attack, and you need some help and advice to guide you through the process of making a claim, then please contact our specialist personal injury team who can assist you on 0161 696 6235 .