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August 31, 2015



Damages for dog bites

Can I sue my neighbour for damages if his dogs attack me outside his property?

The matter was heard in Du Preez v Kingsley [2015] JOL 33595 (FB)

Facts: Whilst cycling on a suburban road, the plaintiff encountered two dogs which exited their property and one of them bit him. The dogs had managed to get out of their owner’s property because the gate had been left partially open. The plaintiff received medical attention from a doctor living next door to the property where the dogs lived. As a result of his injury, the plaintiff sued the defendant for damages.
The defendant could not dispute the version of the plaintiff and the doctor. He contended that he had secured the gate, but could not dispute that the dogs had gotten out of the property. As he was not home at the time of the incident, he could not deny that the dogs went out of the premises.

Held that where a person has assumed control over potentially dangerous animal which may cause harm unless preventative measures are taken, he is under a legal duty to act in protection of third parties.

At common law, the defendant ordinarily would be required to take steps to protect others against harm flowing from the conduct of the dog.  The defendant should have ensured that his dogs did not escape onto the street. Whatever means he alleged he had taken, if any, were clearly inadequate and insufficient.

The plaintiff had discharged the onus of proof on both action de pauperie and actio legis aquiliae. The grounds of negligence were that the defendant had not properly controlled the dogs and taken reasonable measures or sufficient precautions at all relevant times so that they did not escape and cause harm to others.

The defendant was therefore liable for plaintiffs proven damages arising out of the incident.


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