THE DOG CONTROL ACT 2014: INSURING THE LIABILITY
PROCLAMATION OF SECTIONS OF THE ACT
After proclamation by the President of Trinidad and Tobago certain sections of the Dog Control Act, 2013 (as amended by the Dog Control (Amendment) Act, 2014 came into force on June 02, 2014. It is only those sections of the law that do not require supporting regulations which have been proclaimed.
Under the legislation dogs are categorised into Class A (dogs known to display dangerous behaviour and Class B (dogs which are not known to pose any threat). Six breeds of dogs are listed as dangerous (or class A) breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Bully, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa and the Fila Brasileiro.
Of significance among the Sections of the Act which have been proclaimed are the following:
a) No dog be allowed to enter a public space where a notice is displayed prohibiting entry to dogs unless the dog is an assistance dog, the dog is being used to secure the location or the dog is being used by a person in the service of the State. (Section 5)
b) Every person who owns or keeps a dog shall provide it with adequate and appropriate care, food, water, shelter, exercise, attention and veterinary care. (Section 5A)
c) The owner or keeper of a Class A dog who is unable to fulfil the requirements of the act may inform the Ministry of Local Government of such and the Ministry of Local Government will take possession of the dog. (Section 8)
d) Class A dogs must be kept in the enclosed premises of its owner or keeper and cannot be kept in premises, either indoors or outdoors, that accommodate more than one household. (Section 14)
e) Any owner or keeper of a Class A dog who abandons their dog is liable to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for two years. (Section 15)
f) The owner or keeper of a Class A dog can be found liable in civil proceedings for any death, injury or damage caused by that dog. (Section 17)
g) A person who owns a Class A dog must display a notice in a prominent place on his property warning of a dangerous dog. (Section 18)
h) The owner or keeper of a Class A dog is liable to a fine of $100,000 and to five years’ imprisonment if their dog unreasonably injures someone and to a fine of $200,000 and to ten years’ imprisonment if their dog unreasonably kills someone. (Section 19)
i) It shall be a criminal offence for a person to incite their dog to cause grievous bodily harm or death to another person. (Section 20)
j) A police constable or officer of the local authority is empowered to seize and impound a Class A dog which is in a public place in breach of Section 5 or is on any premises without the consent of the owner or occupier of those premises. (Section 22)
k) Empowers a magistrate to issue a warrant to enter and search premises under certain circumstances concerning the Act. (Section 23)
l) Empowers the local authority to issue notices to owners of keepers of class A dogs for non-compliance with the provisions of the Act. Where these notices are not complied with the local authority is empowered to put down the class A dog.
n) Empowers the minister to declare any other type of dog to be subject to the same restrictions as a Class A dog. (Section 26A)
Section 11 creates an obligation on the owner or keeper of a class A dog to obtain a policy of insurance of not less than $250,000.00. Section 12 creates obligations on the owner or keeper of a class A dog with regards to the cancellation or lapse of a provides requirements for the joinder of an insurer as a co-defendant in civil proceedings.
None of the above the above sections dealing with insurance have been proclaimed Under Section 11 of the Act Class A dogs will require liability insurance of up to $250,000 per dog. The insurance policy must provide coverage in respect of each claim for injury or death caused by that dog in the said sum of $250,000.
Most local household policies contain a public/personal liability section that excludes claims in respect of the ownership, possession or use of animals other than horses, dogs and cats. Therefore, liability arising from ownership, possession or use of a dog is covered. This position is unlikely to change in respect of Class B dogs (dogs whichare not known to pose any threat).
It must be appreciated that the cover mentioned above has been in existence for a number of years before this legislation was passed. Despite the legislation, most insurers did not change the wording of their policies and currently most household policies would still provide coverage in the event of a claim. This situation may change when the compulsory insurance is proclaimed or in the light of actual claims RMS contacted various insurers on the issue of coverage for Class A dogs and based on the responses we got, the following should be noted:
Most insurers are prepared to offer the required amount of cover under the liability section of their household policies without extra cost for up to two dogs. Insurers will charge an extra premium if more than two dogs are to be covered. Premiums quoted by insurers range from $150.00 to $250.00 per dog.
Insurers will only provide insurance if the building and/or contents are insured. The cover will be provided under the liability section of the household policies. Insurers are not prepared at this time to offer stand alone ‘dog liability’ policies.
Insurers require clients to declare the number and type of Class A dogs they have.
The client must fulfil the requirements of the Act insofar as it is applicable. Ofparticular importance is that the property must be fully fenced or the dog must be kept in a fully fenced enclosure.
Commercial clients must have a public liability policy in place. The dogs will be covered by an extension under the policy and an extra premium will be charged. The amount of premium will depend on such factors as the number of dogs, the use of handlers, where and how the dogs are housed. It will be a requirement that the owner is in full compliance with the Act.
LIABILITY OF DOG OWNERS UNDER THE ACT
Section 17 of the Act states: Where a class A dog escapes from any premises, the owner or keeper of that dog shall be liable in civil proceedings for any death, injury or damage caused by that dog.
It is important to note that while the Act requires liability insurance of $250,000 per dog, Section 17 makes the owner liable in civil proceedings without a limit. In other words, in a successful civil action brought by a plaintiff (may be the person bitten or the dependants of someone who has been killed by a dangerous dog) the judgement may require the defendant (owner or keeper of the dog) to pay compensation well in excess of $250,000 and if the policy issued only covers $250,000 the defendant will be personally liable to pay the difference to the plaintiff. In the light of the above, owners of dangerous dogs need to pay attention to the limit of liability under their policies. Some insurers are prepared to grant cover up to the usual policy limit, which may be $500,000 or $750,000 in some cases.