(Picture: Getty)
  • You can sue the owner for damages, if you get bitten by a dog in South Africa.
  • Those damages can include pain, damage to property, future medical expenses, disability, disfigurement, and nervous shock.
  • But you need to be able to prove a few things in court, including that you didn't accept the risk.
  • For more stories, visit Business Insider South Africa.


If you get bitten and injured by a dog in South Africa, you can sue the owner for damages, which can include direct injury, pain, damage to property, future medical expenses, disability, disfigurement, and nervous shock.

But you may need to show that you didn't place yourself in danger while knowing the risk.

When someone assumes control of a potentially dangerous animal, the onus is on them to make sure that third parties are safe, according to Roy Bregman, director at Bregman Moodley attorneys.

See also | 9 signs your dog doesn't really like you, even if you think they do.

When you claim damages for patrimonial loss (expressed in money) from a dog owner, two Latin principals apply according to Bregman.

One is the actio de pauperie, the legal remedy that can be brought against the owner of a domesticated animal that has caused damage when it was acting contrary to the nature of its species - that is, from "inward excitement or vice".

The other is the actio legis aquiliae, an action used to claim for financial loss.

Here’s what you, as the person on the wrong end of the bite, will need to show a South African court to claim money.

A successful claim in a South African court after a dog bites you may need these elements:

  • The person in question owned the dog, and that it was under the owner’s control at the time of the incident.
  • You were present at the location.
  • You were injured.
  • The dog attacked and bit you without any apparent reason.
  • The dog owner could have foreseen the possibility of an attack.


Here’s what the dog-owner could use as a defence if you sue:

  • You knew the dog was vicious, and there was a risk, but chose to place yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • You did so willingly.
  • You were on the premises unlawfully. 

Bregman advises that dog-owners take reasonable steps to protect against possible claims and consider taking out personable liability insurance.

(Compiled by Estrelita Moses)

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