Should owners of 'deadly' dogs be held liable?

Posted at 01/30/2013 11:39 PM | Updated as of 02/04/2013 11:11 AM

Owner of Belgian Malinois criminally liable for 9-year-old girl's death, says PAWS lawyer

MANILA, Philippines -- The owner of the dog which attacked a 9-year-old girl in Zamboanga City may be held criminally liable for the girl's death, a legal counsel of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) said Wednesday.

The victim, Marian Gonzales, on Monday was on her way home from school when she was bitten in the face by a Belgian Malinois dog owned by Barangay Pasonanca chairman Jun Julian.

The man watching over the dog said it broke its leash when it attacked the 9-year-old girl.

In an interview with "Umagang Kay Ganda", Atty. Roy Kayaban, legal counsel of PAWS, said the owner of the dog may be held liable for criminal negligence, as stated in Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code.

"Meron po dahil 'yan ay nakasaad sa batas," he told UKG host Anthony Taberna Wednesday.

Kayaban said the dog owner may be charged with either reckless imprudence or simple imprudence.

"Yung reckless imprudence ay kapabayaan na halatang-halata...and yet ginawa pa rin ng tao at ito ay nagresulta sa isang 'di magandang pangyayari," he said.

"'Yung simple imprudence naman ay kapabayaan ngunit 'yung danger ay hindi naman po halata. But nevertheless meron pa rin pong kapabayaan 'yung tao," Kayaban added.

He said if proven guilty of committing reckless imprudence, Julian may face up to four years and two months in prison. The dog owner may also face six months imprisonment if proven guilty of simple imprudence.

Kayaban also noted that even if only Julian's helper was present when the incident happened, he still bears liability for his employee.

"Kung 'yun pong gumawa ng kasalanan ay katulong o empleyado, may vicarious liabilty sa batas... Ang kasalanan ng isang empleyado o tauhan ay pananagutan ng kanyang amo," Kayaban said.

Pursuing the case vs settling with dog owner

Ryan, the father of the victim, said the family really wants to file a case against the dog owner.

However, he said Julian only promised to give them financial assistance if they decide to drop the case against him.

"Kagabi nagkausap kami. Gusto nila i-settle na lang daw," Ryan said.

"Wala akong magawa. Sabi nila, pag magsampa ako sa kanila, 'di naman sila gagastos sa nangyayari na wala naman akong makunan," he added.

But during the interview, Kayaban still advised Ryan to pursue the case.

"Kung kumpleto naman po ang mga ebidensiya, dapat ho siyang magsampa ng kaukulang demanda," he said.

Responsible pet ownership

Meanwhile, PO3 Lloyd Omictin, a chief instructor in the Philippine Coast Guard K-9 school, said the behavior of a dog usually reflects the way it is being handled by its owner.

Omictin also noted that a dog such as a Belgian Malinois requires good training.

"May negligence ang may-ari niyan... Kung ikaw na handler wala kang alam sa aso, 'di mo siya na-expose sa training, wala kang oras sa kanya, magiging destructive siya," he said.

"Ibig sabihin nagiging bored to the extent na ilalabas niya 'yun sa ibang paraan," Omictin addded.

Likewise, Kayaban said: "Nasa pagaalaga po 'yan... Kung atin pong minamahal ang aso ay 'yung aso din ay magmamahal."

"Kung responsable ho kayo, 'di ho magiging mabangis 'yung aso," he added.