Dogs are potentially dangerous animals and being bitten by a dog is a serious matter that can have lasting effects.
There are statutory provisions in place to ensure that an owner of a dog is found responsible in the event of a bite or attack by dogs. These rules are found in the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987.
The Act works on a ‘strict liability’ basis, which means that if the Act is found to apply the defender will be held liable to pay compensation without your having to prove that he was negligent. In most cases, the defender will be the keeper of the animal, who is either:
- the owner of the animal - even if the animal has been abandoned or has escaped
- the person in possession of the animal - again even if the animal has been abandoned or has escaped, or
- a person with actual care and control of a child under the age of 16 who is the owner or has possession of the animal.
For an animal to fall under the scope of the Act, it must be of a species whose members generally are by virtue of their physical attributes or habits likely (unless controlled or restrained) to injure severely or kill persons or animals, or damage property to a material extent.
Dogs come under this definition and the Act therefore imposes strict liability on keepers even where the dog has never displayed violent tendencies before. However, the injury from a dog must be through a bite or attack - so you cannot claim compensation if you fall over one!
Remember, if you are bitten or attacked by a dog, it helps to find out who the owner is, or who is in possession of the dog. In most cases, the owner will have household insurance to cover any compensation claim.