Arroyos propose liability of pet owners for dog bites

REP. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga) and Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo (2nd District, Camarines Sur) have proposed that dog owners be liable for damages suffered by a person bitten by the animal while in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the pet owner.

According to the lawmakers, subjecting dog owners to damages will encourage them to act responsibly in taking their pets out in public and in allowing interactions between their dogs and people on their property.

Mrs. Arroyo said House Bill 6604 will reduce the number of serious injuries resulting from dog bites and also prevent the spread of rabies.

Citing recent data from the Department of Health’s National Center for Disease Prevention Control, the former President said the Philippines ranks 6th among countries with the highest reported incidence of rabies in the world.

“Despite this being an improvement from 2000 figures which ranked the country in 3rd place, statistics show that this translates to 350 to 400 Filipinos dying due to rabies annually. These are alarming figures given that rabies is 100 percent fatal once neglected. But it is also 100 percent preventable if treated immediately,” said Mrs. Arroyo.

The younger Arroyo, meanwhile, said while Republic Act 9482, otherwise known as the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007, was enacted to help prevent the spread of rabies, it, however, does not focus on promoting responsible ownership of dogs.

“What the law mandated is that dogs must be vaccinated annually and registered with the local government units. It also prohibited pet owners from allowing their dogs to roam outside their house. Our proposal encourages pet owners to act responsibly in taking their dogs out in public and in allowing interactions between their dogs and people on their property,” he said.

Section 1 of House Bill 6604 or the proposed “Act Providing the Liability of Owners for Dog Bites” provides that the owner of any dog shall be liable for damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of such dog.

It further provides that a person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by law, or when he or she is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, by the owner.

Section 2 provides that nothing in the proposed Act shall authorize the bringing of an action against any government entity or instrumentality using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the entity or locality in any of the following:

• In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of a suspect’s involvement in criminal activity;
• In the investigation of a crime or a possible crime;
• In the search for Dangerous Drugs and Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals;
• In the execution of a warrant; and
• In the defense of a peace officer or another person.

Section 2 of the measure shall not apply in any case where the person who sustained the bite or bites was not a party to, nor suspected to be a party in the act or acts that prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work. The owner of the dog shall not be liable if the dog was coming to the aid or defense of a person during the commission or attempted commission of a crime or offense upon the owner or custodian or upon the property of the owner or custodian of the dog.

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