When Dogs Attack: Torts, Crimes, and Property
The dog chased him and bit him in the back of the leg
There is a growing number of dog owners in Thailand. These pet owners treat their animals like their children, prized possessions, and members of the family. With the growing number of pet owners, there have been an increased number of disputes involving domesticated animals. Our office has recently been contacted in regards to two dog biting cases.
A Kiwi Bite
The first case was a man from New Zealand who was in the process of applying for a retirement visa in Thailand. He was in Pattaya looking for a condominium to rent. In one of the condos that he was looking to rent, the owner had a medium brown sized dog. While in the condominium, the dog became agitated and growled at the man.
The man deciding that it was better to leave. He turned around and began to leave the condo. The dog came after him. The man ran. The dog chased him and bit him in the back of the leg. The dogís teeth punctured the manís skin and began to bleed.
The man was taken to the hospital where he was given stitches and shots. According to the owner, this was the first time that the dog has ever attacked or bitten anyone. The owner believed that the dog was agitated because there was a stranger in the home.
What can the man from New Zealand do?
Section 433 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code states that the owner of an animal is bound to compensate an injured party for any damages caused by the animal. Thailand is a civil law country based on the German Civil and Commercial Code so the New Zealand man can only file a claim for any actual compensation arising from the incident such as medical expenses and loss of property.
In this case, the property ownerís dog chased the man and bit him in the leg. Unless the dog owner could prove that the man intentionally provoked the dog, the pet owner will be strictly liable to compensate the man for his medical bills and any other costs directly attributable to the attack.
Furthermore, the New Zealand man can possibly file criminal charges against the dog owner under section 300 of the Penal Code for being negligent in not exercising proper restraint on their dog. The dog was agitated by having a stranger in the condominium. If it could be proved that the dog owner knew about this and did not restrain the animal, she could be found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm on another. The potential penalty for a guilty verdict is imprisonment for up to three years and a 6000 baht fine.
Death of a Toy Dog
The second case involved a Thai national with an expensive small purebred toy dog. She lives in a wealthy gated community with large homes and many foreigners. As part of her daily exercise routine, she likes to take her dog for a morning walk around the neighborhood.
One of her neighbors was a British man who had taken in two large street dogs as pets. The British man use the dogs to guard his home and the dogs stayed outside the home but within his gated property. Whenever anyone walked by the gated home, the dogs would bark and make a lot of commotion. The guard dogs would regularly escape and terrorize the neighborhood whenever the British manís gate was left open.
The Thai national would sometimes see the British manís dogs run free in the neighborhood. His dogs never attacked the woman but would bark and attempt to bite her small dog. The woman was always able to grab her little dog to protect him until last month. The British manís servant left the gate open and the dogs escaped. They entered the Thai womanís property and attacked her little dog. Before the woman was able to rescue her little dog, her dog was grabbed and shaken profusely for several minutes. Her dog died at the vet hospital from injuries as a result of the attack about 14 hours later.
What can the Thai woman do?
Under section 433 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code, the British man is responsible to compensate the injured party for damage caused by his dogs. The damage in the above case is to the Thai womanís property which is her toy dog. The Thai woman can file a lawsuit against the British man for the dogís medical expenses and the replacement cost of a new purebred toy dog. Even though the attack was vicious, Thailand places restrictions on monetary claims for emotional distress. So she would probably not be able to receive any compensation for emotional distress.
If the British man was negligent in allowing his dogs escape and the dogs were known to have been of a vicious nature, the British man can be sued for criminal actions. He can be found guilty under section 358 of the Thai Penal Code, for damaging, destroying, or for causing destruction of the property of another as a result of negligent actions. In addition, under Section 377 of the Thai Penal Code states that the owner is responsible for a vicious animal if they are allowed to wander freely and is likely to cause injury to persons or property. Both crimes provide for imprisonment and/or a fine.
When someone takes possession of an animal, that person can become legally liable for torts caused by the animal. And while most pet owners treat their cats or dogs like their children, in the eyes of the law, they are only property. For most pet owners, the replacement value is not enough to relieve the suffering of caused by the loss of their pet.
By Robert Virasin and Yutthachai Sangsirisap
Mr. Robert R. Virasin is a licensed U.S. Attorney and managing director of Virasin & Partners. Mr. Yutthachai Sangsirisap is a licensed Thai Attorney at Virasin & Partners. They can be reached at email@example.com or at www.virasin.com.
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