Court doubles down on owners for liability over dangerous dogs

Updated: Feb 6, 2024 China Daily Print
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Cases of prohibited animals hurting people raise concerns among public

China's top court reiterated that if dangerous animals — which are not allowed to be kept as pets — injure others, the owners or breeders should be held liable regardless of whether the victims are at fault.

The Supreme People's Court made the reiteration on Monday by introducing a series of concluded cases, calling for people to strictly abide by laws to raise pets in a civilized manner.

Among the cases, in August 2019, a 7-year-old child surnamed Xu was scratched in the face by an Alaskan Malamute he was playing with in a residential area.

Xu's family later initiated a lawsuit against the dog's owner, surnamed Liu, after they failed to reach an agreement on compensation.

The local court eventually ruled in favor of Xu's family, ordering Liu to pay more than 30,000 yuan ($4,200) in compensation, because the local dog management regulation stipulates that Alaskan Malamutes are classified as large and aggressive dogs that are prohibited from being raised within the city.

"The ruling means that if prohibited animals such as fierce dogs that are dangerous injure people, the owners or breeders must bear responsibility, no matter whether the victims make mistakes or not," Chen Yifang, chief judge of the top court's No 1 Civil Adjudication Tribunal, told a news conference.

A similar stipulation in the local regulation has also been written into the Civil Code, the country's fundamental law regulating civil activities, she said.

But she admitted that whether that liability can be reduced or exempted when victims are to blame is still being disputed in some regions, "so we're planning to formulate a judicial interpretation on how to handle cases in which people are harmed by dangerous animals", she said.

She highlighted the significance of the interpretation, "as the number and variety of dogs being raised in the nation have continuously increased over the past few years, leading to frequent disputes involving dog-inflicted injuries, especially those caused by aggressive dogs".

"While helping judges solve such lawsuits more efficiently and unify standards in case handling, the interpretation will also guide residents in keeping pets in a civilized and safe manner," she added.

On Monday, the top court also disclosed five other concluded cases concerning pets to stress that people under the age of 18 are prohibited from taking dogs out alone, and residents should put their dogs on leashes when walking them.

Last year, a distressing incident in Chongzhou, a county-level city of Chengdu, Sichuan province, where a 2-year-old child fell victim to a vicious Rottweiler attack, aroused intense attention among the public. It triggered several cities across the country to strengthen their dog management policies.

The case occurred on Oct 16, when a mother and her daughter came across two dogs in their neighborhood. The Rottweiler attacked them, leaving the girl with multiple injuries including a damaged kidney and a rib fracture.

The Rottweiler is a strong and fierce dog that is not allowed to be kept in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing.

However, when the case happened, the dog was not included on the list of 22 prohibited breeds in Chengdu.

To curb such incidents and enhance public security, Rottweilers have been put on the prohibited list, with numerous regions rolling out stringent dog management regulations.

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