South Africa has a high prevalence of dog attacks with many fatalities occurring as a result. In 2017, ER24 responded to a total of 103 dog attacks, with many of the victims being children.

If you have been injured as the result of a dog attack, you may be able to sue the owner of the dog for damages such as hospital and other medical expenses, as well as general damages for shock, pain and suffering.

Who is responsible?

South African law is very clear about dog bite injuries and dog owners are subject to the action known as ‘actio de pauperie’. This applies the principle of strict liability on the dog owner and means that there is no need to prove negligence.

Ultimately, if a dog bites you or a family member, the owner of the dog is liable to pay you compensation. A victim does not need to prove that the owner was at fault or careless – the dog owner is legally responsible for the damage or any loss caused by the dog.

Mitigating factors in dog bite claims

Even though the law applies strict liability to dog bite claims, certain conditions may exist which would deem the owner not liable for the attack and subsequent injuries.

It is assumed that the victim acted in a reasonable manner and was entitled to be in the area where the attack took place. Reasonable manner means that the dog was not provoked or if the victim was warned that the dog was dangerous but did not listen. Also, if the dog acted “contrary to its nature” meaning that the owner could not have predicted or avoided the attack, then liability may fall away.

However, even in these circumstances, a dog owner may still be held liable for damages if it can be shown that his or her behaviour was negligent.

What to do if you have been attacked by a dog

If you have been attacked, immediately seek medical care. Collect as much information as you can about the incident – if you are seriously injured, get a friend or family member to help you.

Details that will help your case:

  • Dog owner’s name and contact details.
  • Contact details of any witnesses to the attack.
  • Take photos of all the evidence, including the injury, the dog and the scene of the incident.
  • Copies of all medical reports and payments made.
  • If the attack was severe, report to the police and get a case number.

Speak to a personal injury expert

Claiming damages for injury due to a dog attack is a relatively simple process as a victim does not have to prove negligence as you do with most other personal injury claims. It is always advisable to get expert legal assistance to assist you with your claim.

Elmarié de Vos Inc is a specialised personal injury South African law firm that has nearly two decades of experience in dealing with dog bite injury cases. We can help you get fair and reasonable compensation for your dog bite injury. Fill in our easy form here and tell us your story:

We operate on a contingency basis which means that if there is no win for you, there is no fee from us. Contact us today on 0861 338 529, SMS or WhatsApp 071 112 2007 or email:



The information on these web pages is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be stand-alone legal advice. Always consult a suitably qualified attorney for individual advice regarding your legal matter.