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    China’s Top Court Takes Aim at Owners of Aggressive Dogs

    Dog owners can be held liable even in cases where their dogs do not make contact with injured parties.

    Following a series of high-profile dog attacks on humans, China’s top court has called for owners of banned dogs to be held responsible for attacks in most instances, regardless of the circumstances of the attack.

    In a batch of “model cases” involving pet attacks released on Monday, the Supreme People’s Court affirmed the application of strict “no-fault liability” to cases of attacks by banned dogs, whereby their owners will be deemed liable even if they were not negligent per se. 

    The Supreme People’s Court regularly publishes model cases for lower courts to refer to, although they are not binding. 

    In one of the six model cases, a person surnamed Liu was ordered to pay compensation of more than 30,000 yuan ($4,183) in 2019 after his Alaskan Malamute, a banned breed in the unspecified city, injured a 7-year-old child’s face. 

    The local court found Liu liable for the injury even though the child had initiated contact by playing with the dog. 

    At a press conference on Monday, a Supreme People’s Court judge said that owners can only be exempt from liability if their dogs were raised in accordance with local laws and regulations, and evidence is provided showing the victim alone provoked the attack. 

    The principle can apply even in cases of “non-contact harm.” In one of the model cases, a person surnamed Zhang was injured after an unleashed dog frightened him and caused him to fall from an electric motorcycle. The local court ordered the dog owner to pay Zhang more than 210,000 yuan in compensation. 

    The Supreme People’s Court did not say whether the dog was a banned breed. In China, each city has its own regulations surrounding banned or restricted breeds. 

    The management of dogs has been a heated subject of debate in China in recent years as conflicts between dog owners, other residents, and city officials have proliferated.

    In October, a widely circulated video showing a Rottweiler attack on a 2-year-old child in Chengdu, southwest Sichuan province, sparked a public backlash and prompted the city to add the breed to its list of banned breeds.

    According to a pet industry white paper, the number of pet dogs in China’s urban areas reached 51.19 million in 2022.

    Editor: Vincent Chow. 

    (Header image: VCG)