Dog owners can be held liable for damages caused by a dog bite from a domesticated pet on a lawful visitor. Photo: Matthew Jordaan/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – While many homeowners and tenants keep dogs on their properties, it is important to know that they are likely to be held liable if their animals attack a third party. 

This is according to Johannes du Plessis, legal adviser at RBS (Risk Benefit Solutions), a Financial Services Provider, who says that both lawful visitors and unlawful trespassers have the right to claim damages from homeowners or tenants if they are injured by a guard dog on the property. 

“Owners and occupiers of properties or buildings where dangerous conditions exist have a legal duty to prevent injury to anyone who enters the premises. 

They can be held liable for damages caused by a dog bite from a domesticated pet on a lawful visitor if it behaved in a manner that is contrary to what may be expected of a well-behaved dog. In other words, if they attack without provocation. 

This also means that fault, intent or negligence on the part of the owner of the dog is not required for liability to a lawful visitor.” 

Du Plessis adds that if it can be reasonably expected of the owner or tenant to anticipate the presence of an unlawful trespasser, they are also legally required to take precautions to prevent injury to the unlawful trespasser. 

“According to legal precedent, owners and tenants in areas not desolate and properties in densely populated districts are expected to anticipate the presence of an unlawful trespasser. 

“Precautions would include the owner or tenant affixing a clearly visible warning notice at the entrance, and that any dogs are kept in such a way that trespassers are able to keep out of their way.” 

The owner or tenant could be held civilly liable to repay damages to the lawful visitor or unlawful trespasser and even be criminally liable if in an extreme case the animal kills a person. 

– BR MONEY