One for the dog lovers among you. This matter came before Lord Malcolm at the Court of Session recently.
While out walking her own dog, Cava, the Pursuer, Mrs. Welsh tripped over / was knocked over by the Defender’s dog, Ebony. Having sustained serious injury to her knee, Mrs. Welsh sued Ebony’s owner for £160,000.
As well as claiming liability on the grounds of common law negligence, Mrs. Welsh claimed that Ebony’s owner was under the strict liability imposed by the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987. Specifically, she claimed that the natural attribute or habits of black Labradors (i.e. they are are “biddable, people confident, easy to train, exuberant and lively sporting dogs, who are full of energy”) meant that they were likely to kill or seriously injure people if not controlled or restrained.
In the words of Lord Malcolm:
“I suspect that for the general population this proposition would cause much incredulity.”
The judge concluded that the collision had been a pure accident, but in concluding had some words of warning for dog owners:
“For the avoidance of doubt it should be understood that this decision does not give all dog owners free rein to let their dogs off the lead, whatever the circumstances, so long as there has been no previous evidence of vicious or dangerous behaviour. My decision relates to the particular circumstances of the present case. Thus, for example, to allow a black Labrador to run around in a public place close to young children may well be very different.”