Legal claim over attack by a dog
Hypothetical by Manny Wood
BRENT, a six-year-old child, was visiting a home rented by Cynthia from ACT Housing Commission. Cynthia owns two dogs and unfortunately one of the dogs attacks Brent causing him serious injury and the dog was subsequently destroyed.
Brent, by his father, sues ACT Housing rather than Cynthia, who has no assets or insurance.
There were a large number of complaints made to ACT Housing about Cynthia's dogs over a period from 2005 until the attack in 2010. The complaints included a number relating to the dogs being extremely aggressive.
Prior to the attack, ACT Housing contacted Cynthia noting the requirement that the dogs should be kept under control, be kept on a leash when outside the premises and not be allowed to interfere with the quiet enjoyment of neighbours.
When the matter goes to Court, the Judge finds that it was not clear that a duty of care was established on the part of ACT Housing in the circumstances.
ACT Housing's pet policy gave some capacity to intervene in respect of dangerous dogs but this was limited to seeking information and initiating action to remedy the problem with an appropriate authority.
Whilst it was not disputed that ACT Housing knew dangerous dogs were being kept on the premises, this did not create a duty of care.
Consequently, Brent was not entitled to rely upon ACT Housing for protection and failed in his claim.
This case demonstrates that careful thought needs to be put in as far as who is responsible and if that person is not insured, whether or not they can meet any claim.
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