SA Personal Injury - Being Sued for Animal Attacks - What to Do?

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jason v

24 September 2015
My 80-year-old father took my dog for a walk without my permission whilst I was at work. During the walk, my dog broke free and was involved in a brief dog fight with two other dogs. The owner of the pets received injuries to his thumb, wrist and ankle. Now I am being sued for$42,000. What should I do under Personal Injury Law?


Under the Dog and Cat Management Act, it is a criminal offence for a person who owns or is responsible for the control of a dog if the dog attacks, harasses or chases or otherwise endangers the health of a person or an animal or bird owned by or in the charge of another person (whether or not actual injury is caused). The maximum penalty for this is $2 500.

The same act provides that, the keeper of a dog (which is defined as the owner of the dog and includes a person into whose possession the dog has been delivered) is liable in tort for injury, damage or loss caused by the dog. However, if the injury, damage or loss is caused while the dog is in the possession or control of a person without the keeper's consent, the keeper's liability (if any) will be determined according to the Wrongs Act 1936 principles. It also states that if the injury, damage or loss results from an attack on the dog by another animal the keeper's liability will be decided according to the Wrongs Act 1936 (which is essentially the principles of civil liability / negligence).

This being the case, you may have grounds to defend the suit on the basis that your father was the person responsible for the dog at the time and took your dog without your consent. However, this would mean either you have to sue your father or the injured party will sue your father instead of you.

Alternatively if you can prove that one of the other dogs started the fight then you may have grounds to at least apportion some of the responsibility on the other owners
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