Published Date: November 8, 2021

Dog bites incidents are a frequent occurrence in society. Sadly, many people have been bitten by dogs roaming around freely outside or whilst visiting a premises.

Who is liable for the injuries sustained from a dog bite or from other domesticated animals?


For liability (to succeed with an action) under the actio de pauperie, the animal must have acted contra naturam sui generis. In plain English this means that the animal must have acted against its nature. The rationale is that domestic animals have been under the influence of man for such a long time that a minimum standard of good behaviour can be expected from them. Thus, it is considered contra naturam for a dog to bite, an ox to gore or a horse to kick or to bolt spontaneously when harnessed to a cart or with a rider on its back.

Certain kinds of behaviour are considered secundam naturam sui generis (according to its nature). The following examples are provided by case law: where a ram which is attacked defends itself; where a horse kicks out while in pain; where a ram jumps a fence to cover the neighbour’s ewes; where a hungry dog satisfies its hunger by devouring a chicken; where a cow wanders across the road in front of traffic; or where a bull breaks through an adjoining fence and strays onto a public road.


For liability under the lex aquilia, fault (negligence) needs to be attributed to the owner or householder in causing the incident. Acts of negligence may include the following:

  • The owner lets the dog off its leash in a public place;
  • The owner fails to repair a gaping hole in his / her fence at home;
  • The dog wanders off private premises and bites an individual in a public area, for example, in the neighborhood.


You need evidence of the injury. In most cases, medical reports or photos of the actual injury should suffice.

Evidence should be documented whilst the injuries are still fresh, failing which you may struggle to prove that the injuries you sustained were caused by the incident concerned.

It is, therefore, advisable to seek medical attention immediately after the incident, both for your health and to document your injuries.


You may need a witness to corroborate your version of the events.

If anyone was present at the scene, it is advisable to take down their contacts details if they are required to testify on your behalf in court.


A court will endeavour to place you in the position you were had the incident not occurred.

Damages include the following:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Past and future loss of income;
  • General damages for pain and suffering, lost of amenities of life, etc.


If you have sustained injuries from a dog bite or other domesticated animal, it is advisable to consult an attorney as soon as possible, to establish whether you may have a claim for damages.

Jean-Paul Rudd
Partner | Attorney